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Sunday January 20, 2008

The kid grows up


You really wouldn’t expect to find someone like Kid Chan to say that he hasn’t achieved much in life. Particularly since he is someone that seems to have it all.

The well-known photographer has an established business and has had the privilege of capturing some of our most prominent people on film. Plus he is happily married and a father of two daughters. And he has done all this before turning 30.

But perhaps it is because he was about to hit that milestone during the time of interview that Kid was in a reflective mood.

“Till today I feel that I haven’t done much with my life,” he says. “But I look at the past 30 years as like going to school. And it has been in preparation of bigger and better things to come.”

It may surprise many to know that Kid didn’t begin his career in the creative arena. Instead the International Business graduate began working in the corporate world. But after two years in the corporate sector, he decided that that wasn’t the life he wanted.

He then decided to take up photography. Photography was something that he was always interested in and today, he enjoys the prospect of combining his work with his passion.

Though he is a noted wedding photographer today, Kid originally intended to focus on corporate photography. “Nobody wanted to do wedding photography,” he says. “It was at the bottom of the food chain.”

And so corporate photography was what he focussed on. But he explains that when some of these corporate clients began asking him to photograph their children's wedding, “you just don’t say no.”

After photographing a couple of weddings, he decided to try a different approach. His motivation was to do something interesting rather than stick with the norm of what wedding photography was supposed to be.

Kid decided that he would take a photojournalistic approach, something that was already big in the West. At subsequent weddings, he decided to try and experiment.

Instead of sticking to the typical shots, he tried to tell a story about the couple and of how their romance blossomed.

“These were quite captivating and eventually I was given more and more freedom by the clients,” he says.

Today, Kid is known not as wedding photographer but as a wedding photojournalist and people secure his for services for the unique way he is able to capture special moments. He was the first Malaysian to be accepted into the American based Wedding Photojournalist Association (WPJA). Malaysian Tatler named him as one of the 100 people you must know in Asia while Prestige included him in their top 40 under 40 list.

“Today people come to us because they expect us to know what to do,” he says. “It’s like being a surgeon but in this case you are actually paying for a whole life time of memories,” he adds. To date, Kid has photographed numerous high profile weddings including Datuk Siti Nurhaliza’s and television personality Paula Malai Ali's. While weddings may not have been his initial choice for his photography, Kid has begun to appreciate it, particularly since it is something that suits his personality.

“I am a very people person and I find that I cannot shoot things that do not respond to me. I find that this is a nice thing to do because your clients become your friends and you become a part of their happiest moments.”

That philosophy carries through into the way he manages his business. His strategy for expanding his business seems deceivingly simple. For him, it’s all about being pleasant and often that tends to build relationships that turn into business opportunities.

“It’s like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get,” he says. “Being pleasant can go a long way.”

But over the years his name has also become synonymous with perfection. People know that when they utilize the services of Kid Chan Studios, there is a commitment to delivering good work, which means 16-hour days are normal for him and contrary to popular perception, the work doesn’t end when the function ends. He usually has to go back to edit and touch up and so on.

As his studio celebrates his eight anniversary, however, Kid is now contemplating a change in focus. Since the beginning of the month, his studio has shot 18 weddings and he figures it is time for him to do more corporate work.

The studio already does a fair bit but as corporate work doesn’t generate much publicity, it is an aspect of his work that not many people are aware of.

“But that is what I started from so I am actually coming into a full cycle,” he says.

As he enters his 30s, Kid does acknowledge that he went into the business at the right time. If he had decided to do it now, he doubts he would have been able to achieve as much, even if he had the same level of perseverance.

When he first ventured into the industry, things were different. Before the digital age, photographers could not afford to make a mistake. Now the learning curve has been shortened, which means the competition has increased.

“It's a different ball game now,” he explains. “There so much knowledge out there that your competitor can learn at the same pace as you. So you can't just sit assume that you at the top of your game. If you get too comfortable, the only way to go is down.”

While he takes a creative approach to photography, Kid describes himself as “half an artist”, the other half, he adds, is very much aware of the need to pay the bills. And if he gets carried away, he is quickly brought down to earth by his chartered accountant wife, he says with a laugh.

He however stresses that his foray into photography isn't about the money. “There are easier ways to make money but in professions like this you have the opportunity to make a lot friends. It would take the average individual a lifetime to meet the people that we can meet in two days.”


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