He not only captures glitz and glamour with his lens but he also tells a tale. Izwan Ismail talks to Kid Chan
HE is no stranger to photography. A high society photographer, Kid Chan has covered many of the grandest events in the country involving royalty, celebrities and the rich and famous.
He is also noted for his wedding photojournalist works. His style of telling a story through images has made him one of the most sought after photographers among the the creme de la creme of society.
THE EARLY YEARS
Chan was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. In school, he mingled with kids of the rich and famous.
He sailed through his college years as a business student at Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Australia. A bright student, Chan completed his degree in just two and a half years.
Upon graduation in 1998, he worked as executive personal assistant to Tan Sri M.S. Tan, a well-known figure in the field of education. Tan owns Taylor’s College, Garden International School and Metropolitan College. He also founded Ming Institute, one of the first tuition centres in the country.
Chan considered his two-year stint as educational, as he learnt a lot from his boss, especially in the etiquette area and mixing with people. This would serve as a big plus for him in his next career choice.
Chan developed a love for photography when he was small.
“While other kids wanted to go to toy stores, I asked my parents to take me to bookshops in Sungei Wang Plaza (KL) and spent hours looking at the pictures inside the books,” he recalls.
“I remember looking at photos of the late Princess Diana with HIV kids. Those Press images had a great impact on me. It was so powerful and drove me close to tears.”
A late bloomer, Chan didn’t pursue his passion for photography until after he quit his first job.
“It was something that I’ve always loved but never had the chance to do. Eventually, I thought the moment was ripe to give it a try,” he says.
That was also when he met his first business mentor, T.S. Lim of Studio 88, a very skilled commercial photographer. One of his first projects was to shoot pictures for a hypermarket.
“It was very challenging. I even had to iron clothes used for the shoot, washed the toilet and painted the office outer walls,” he says.
After a couple of years, Chan started his own photography business, by doing freelance and helping out his sister, who owns a fashion photography studio.
He initially started out as a corporate photographer. His big break came when a regular customer, then Chief Justice Tun Mohamed Dzaiddin Abdullah, invited him to take pictures of his son’s wedding.
From one high-society wedding job, he got another, and his wedding portfolio grew. These include the weddings of television personality Paula Malai Ali and songstress Datuk Siti Nurhaliza.
Chan was also the official photographer for the royal wedding of Tengku Aslahuddin Jaa’far and Sofia Erica Lane. His photos were used in an exclusive cover story in Harper’s Bazaar.
Other notable high profile personalities he has photographed include Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz, governor of Bank Negara Malaysia, Cherie Blair, wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and actor Jackie Chan.
Chan was also commissioned to take the cover shot of Millionaire Asia, which featured business tycoon Tan Sri Francis Yeoh.
Through his study of other great photographers, Chan introduced wedding photography journalism as his style. He wanted to make a difference by being able to tell stories through his photographs, a style that has captured the attention of many.
“Those days, the Malay wedding was about who came and who did not. There was a lack of creativity. I was, at that time, very intrigued with wedding photojournalism,” he says.
The father of photojournalism at that time was Denis Reggie. He made popular this style in the 1980s.
Chan got a lot of referrals including magazines like Pesona Pengantin, which asked him to contribute.
“They also asked me to write a column, and called me the Father of Malay wedding photojournalism in 2006,” he says.
The referrals kept coming in and that really snowballed his career. With so much experience in his hands, Chan decided to publish his first book, Kid Chan’s Guide To The Business Of Photography last year.
The book contains 11 chapters, and covers topics that deal with setting up a photography business. It is the first photography business book written from a local perspective and is part of the MPH Masterclass Series.
His creativity in photography also earned him several accolades like the first Malaysian to be accepted as a member of the US based Wedding Photojournalist Association and Malaysian Tatler as “one of the 100 people you must know in Asia” in 2006.
When doing photography work, Chan says he always experiments and looks at the subject from a different perspective to make it stand out.
“A good example was Paula Malai Ali’s wedding. I took the photos in sepia mode and published them in sepia. It became an instant hit. Every couple who walked in after that wanted photos like Paula’s,” he says with a huge grin.
Chan also broke the “barrier” in taking pictures of the Ijab Kabul at Malay weddings.
“I took the picture of the bridegroom performing his prayer, with his hands raised up. That created a new genre or scene in Malay wedding photography,” he says.
His ability to mingle comfortably and professionally with high society is also a winning factor.
“When your subjects are comfortable with you and do not feel awkward, you will get the shots that you and your clients want.”
Follow Kid Chan at www.facebook.com/iamkidchan