Photographer Jayz Yong is on a mission to turn smiles into positive energy.
Founder of his studio Picture Creation, Yong realised last year that Malaysia, due to certain events and circumstances, was imbued in a state of negativity. He began to question how he could – using his skills as a photographer – contribute in generating positive energy back to the community.
With this in mind, Yong kick started a project called Endless Smile. He started by travelling to smaller towns in Eastern Malaysia with his team, setting up a simple photo booth, and offered to take a smiling picture of anyone interested. The photos would then be printed on the spot on and gifted to the person free of charge. Yong believes that what his project offered was a different experience compared to a photo shoot conducted in a studio or via the ubiquitous selfie. Endless Smile’s intrinsic motivation lies in the team’s genuine pursuit of a simple, honest smile – even though the team may be strangers to the subjects, it created a moment of joy to both parties when they see the developed photos.
Why would he do it for free? Yong thinks that making people pay for their photographs defeats the project’s purpose, as it would commercialise his cause. In order to sustain, he utilised a pay-forward method – he encouraged those who received photos to donate RM10 (USD2.37) to sponsor the next person, so that the latter could benefit from this project as well. The sponsoring person would write a simple, uplifting message on the bottom of a blank piece of photo paper which Yong and his team would use for future printings, and passed on to a random receiving person. As a result, a small yet sincere connection could be established between strangers via the photos – Yong hopes that this would inspire and touch more people to sponsor, and keep the project going.
At the recent TEDxPetalingStreet event, Yong was invited as a speaker to talk about his project, but he also set up his booth at the foyer and invited audience members to participate. Amidst the busy crowd during breaks, Yong and his team worked efficiently to coordinate, shoot and print for as many audiences as they could. The photos, printed on A4 size, were captured by Yong using his trademark gold anamorphic lens, giving the image a panoramic format with a dreamy depth-of-field. Yong hopes that Endless Smile would enable us to be touched by someone’s gesture, and channel that feeling into positive action; thus keeping the momentum and the smiles going.