We had the good fortune of connecting with Jaryl Lim and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jaryl, let’s start by talking about what inspires you?
I cast quite a ridiculously wide net in terms of my interests, but I think the common thread is story. Films are a major part of my life and continue to inspire me creatively. I absolutely love Roger Deakins’ cinematography in general, because it’s beautiful but always in service to the film; never calling attention to itself, never for the sake of it. Similarly, photographers like Gregory Crewdson, Steve McCurry and Henri Cartier-Bresson speak to me the most, with their ability to tell ethereal stories with just a single iconic image. Prints of Kupka’s Mme Kupka among Verticals and Monet’s Lilies hang on my walls at home, and serve as monoliths to my love of colour. Novels such as 1984 and Dune have probably done more than any other source to instill in me a lifelong love of science fiction, and the importance of story and characters in worlds imagined. On the other end of the spectrum lies Yuval Harari’s Sapiens, which in combination with Catch-22, has created in me a paradoxical blend of cynicism and genuine hope for humanity that definitely shapes my work.
I find it difficult to distill my inspirations into something digestible because they are so varied, and often it’s impossible to make any sense of how JMW Turner fits in with Cyberpunk 2077, or how gothic architecture fits with good typography, but it works for me.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
As a cinematographer, my job is to make images look beautiful with choices in lighting, lensing and myriad other micro-decisions, while working very closely with art directors, makeup artists, wardrobe designers, and a bevy of creative and technical professionals. I religiously try to tailor my work to best fit the story, and this can sometimes be at odds with an objectively beautiful scene. Some scenes need to be “ugly” to fit the tone, and what’s interesting is trying to find the perfect compromise; the beauty in the ugly. I don’t proscribe to a personal “style” per se, because I think that’s limiting. I like creating looks and defining the cinematic style in collaboration with the director, because this way we normally create something truly unique, instead of affixing preconceived notions to the project.
I honestly think the main reason I chose to become a cinematographer, or an artist in general, instead of getting “a real job” was a sort of rebellion against what I thought society expected of me in Singapore. I have no idea where this anti-authoritarian streak comes from, but somewhere along the line, I questioned rules and reflected more. I deeply disagreed with the notion that things were only ever supposed to be done a certain way. I lamented the fact that I loved the films I watched and the things I read, but would be forever consigned to only consuming, never creating.
This contrarian thinking formed the bedrock of my artistic self, which led me to move to London for a film degree. My world expanded exponentially. The confluence of cultures, people, opinions, and most of all, passion for art, cemented my desire to choose the exponentially more difficult path of pursuing cinematography as a career. I ended up living in a creative commune of sorts with some of my best friends, where discussions about film, art and the world were a daily thing. It was incredibly inspiring.
I guess you could say, I wanted to pursue an artistic career because reasons, but I could pursue an artistic career because I was fortunate enough to be able to, with support from my family, incredible friends and collaborators I’ve met along the way, and a partner who’s comfortable with the roller coaster ride.
What I truly take pride in is the fact that I get the opportunity to be involved in making images that have purpose; images that have something to say. It’s humbling and reassuring to know that all the things I experience and consume and love have a direct, unassailable outlet of expression, one that might last a little bit longer than most things in life. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My friends, regular collaborators, and people who made my London fever dream unforgettable: Kew Lin, Anni Berez, Michael Boccalini, Che Grant, Brendan Harvey, Claudia Carneiro, Greg Seago-Curl, Michael Coburn, Gabriela Ellery, Rhiannon Hopkins, Steve Hodgetts, Elliot Beach, Guy Lubin, Daniel Calladine, Lotte Fercho, Inbar Livne, Keshet Sidi, Zoey Lee.
New collaborators and friends in Vancouver: Jerome Yoo, Tesh Guttikonda, Tamara Black, Shelby Manton, Sebastian Galina, who’ve made a new city feel like home.
My family, who would support me even if I decided to descend into the pits of hell. And most of all, my partner Paula, who makes me laugh more than the rest of the world combined.
Angel Lynne Tesh Guttikonda, Mom vs Machine Red Snow Pictures, Him & Her Abigail Scollay, Return Net-a-Porter