Born and based in Toronto, photographer Mandy Sham’s practice originated as a by-product of her interest in visual culture and storytelling. After her dad, at the time the existing amateur photographer of the family, gave her a Nikon J1 while she was at university, it opened up a new path for Mandy: “I took it with me on a summer sojourn in Hong Kong, the place of my roots and heritage,” she tells It’s Nice That. “As such, it represented a rebirth in many ways – a call to home, creatively and spiritually.”
Working across a variety of projects, from conceptual portraits to gastronomy to travel, it’s the latter that comprises the bulk of Mandy’s oeuvre. With recent ventures around Africa, shooting on a Fujifilm XT-10 and stopping off in countries such as Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, she has presented her explorations as a photographic reimagining of society.
These new interpretations inform a worldview “that tends to gravitate toward ideas of nostalgia, ephemerality, and the opposing forces of loneliness and belonging,” explains Mandy. But her photography isn’t purely cerebral, it’s also a meditative process: “I use composition and colour to capture what’s personally most evocative – an emotional blueprint of that moment in time,” she says. “The fact that photos are artefacts of a singular experience also imbues them with an air of appreciative melancholy.”
Bouncing between city scenes and sweeping landscapes, human bustle and solitary wildlife, Mandy’s photos depict the African continent through multiple lenses. Modern architecture also features heavily in her series which she says, as an admirer of designers and architects such as Le Corbusier and Ricardo Bofill, fascinates her with its “seamless integration of outside and inside realms”. But even in urban environments, Mandy says she’s constantly “finding parallels to the natural world.”
Though, the true focus of her work is people – whether they occupy a physical presence in the image or not. She studies their relation to the spaces they occupy, to others and to themselves. “It’s about crystallising the human experience in an unconventional way,” she explains. “It’s about how we almost appear to become more than ourselves when we think nobody’s watching, the parallels we make between nature and modernity, the cynicism and optimism and often sheer mundanity of everyday life.”
About the Author
Daniel joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in February 2019 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. He graduated from Kingston University with a degree in Journalism in 2015. He is also co-founder and editor of SWIM, an annual art and photography publication.