Special Feature: “Photographers That Inspires”
– An Exclusive Interview with “The LEE Photographers”
12th May 2014, Singapore – As I was preparing and planning the articles/ reviews line-up for the next few months, many readers had requested to me that I should try to do an interview article that will inspires photographers from all levels and from all walks of life.
So I started scribbling names of photographers that had inspired me with their photos & their incredible works. As fate had it – and after I had the all names written out, I (almost) fell off my chair. All the photographers that I had selected has 1 thing in common – their first name (surname) are all “LEE”. Much coincidence it may be, but these are the photographers that had not just inspired me, they had inspired many people in their respective circles and have used photography creatively to express themselves, to bring people closer together and promoted the art of photography meaningfully.
After much deliberation, instead of running a series of interview articles, I’ve decided to make this into one super mega interview as the Featured Article for Q2 2014.
So, off I went to gathered everyone on the list and conducted an interesting “one-of-its-kind” interview. I hope you will be inspired by their sharing, their stories and learn something from this bunch of awesome photographers! Check out their works too which I’ve slotted them all over this article. Here we go!
“Photographers That Inspires” – An Exclusive Interview with “The LEE Photographers
– Moderated & Edited By Allan LEE
– Featuring Crispin LEE, Jino LEE, LEE Siew Yan, Michael LEE, Peter LEE & Ronnie LEE.
Allan LEE: I know this is too much of an unbelievable coincidence that all of us happened to carry the same surname, but you guys had inspired me & people around you and I hope that by doing this special interview, we can collectively inspire more photographers & our readers with your stories & experiences. All of you have been doing photography for a while, some for ages, will you please share with me what keeps you going in Photography?
Jino LEE: I love traveling and I do a lot of travel photography. What keeps me going all these years are the opportunities to meet new people from all over the world and my love for experiencing different cultures in different countries of the world. Not to forget, the vast new concepts, techniques and technologies in today’s photography that’s keeping me on my toes which push me on.
Ronnie LEE: To me, the single most important factor has to be my group of photography-passionate friends that keeps me going. In Singapore, it’s a closely knitted community (photography) whereby everyone (somehow) knows each other. Having this group of friends, it created an impactful motivation for me to continue my photography journey. And being able to make friends from all over the region is also an encouraging factor for me to pursue Photography. I find myself constantly motivated to try out new things, and this is something I know many fellow photographers struggles with.
Crispin LEE: Today, almost everyone owns a camera – be it the cell phone, a digital compact or a DSLR. Personally I feel that by taking a selfie or snapshots of your friends, or the food in front of you at every meal – is not knowing photography at all. You need to develop a passion in what you want to do and these pictures should carry a message that best represent you or serve you a meaningful way.
I started to take photography seriously as I am fuelled by my desire to shoot photos of beautiful underwater marine life. And this desire grew stronger in me everyday especially when I already took passion in scuba diving few years ago. I was fascinated by the colorful corals and fishes during many of my diving trips and I told myself that I need to master the skill of photography so that I am able to capture those beautiful scenes under the sea so that I can share with my friends and family. Soon after, from underwater to land, and from land to the skies, I started to shoot everything under the stars and the sun. To me, Photography is a passion, an art, or even a lifestyle – this keeps me going.
Peter LEE: It is my love for nature, which captivates me. With photography, I get to catch the moment and stay in the moment. It can be the sunrise, the sunset, landscape or the sceneries. Recalling the days in the past, I used to ride the waves on an outboard motor rubber boat with my friends to other islands – simply to soak in nature for 3 days 2 nights.
Not only does nature keeps me going in photography, the ‘humane’ part in photography further colors my journey. This hobby has found me friends who walk the same “walks of life” in photography. To be able to engage in exchanges about our interests towards photography and to share our experiences is liken to a syncing port for all photographers-alike. This has been a great joy to me! This is a hobby that fosters long-lasting friendships and igniting passion in each other.
Michael LEE: Travelling to explore the beauty of the earth, and the imaginations to pursue that perfect shot (knowing that there is no perfect shot).This is what leads me & pushes me on.
LEE Siew Yan: At the beginning, as a budding photographer, I shared my photos on Facebook and found excitement whenever my photos received many likes and comments. Time passed & the excitement over the “Likes” and comments wears off and I asked myself; “What is my purpose? What real good can I do with my photos?” – I wanted to instill a purpose into my photography. So I decided to use my photography as a channel of positive messages about “Faith, Hope and Love”.
As a photographer, what keeps me going is knowing that my photos inspires and motivates other people, and ultimately, is able to instill compassion among the viewers. I want to showcase the remote corners of the world that they are not able to see. Rather than to show what the place is like, I want them to also understand the spirit and the soul of what is happening in these far-off places. Right now, I find my greatest joy in hearing words such as these from my viewers: “Thanks for the inspiration, through your photos, I travel the world, I see poverty, I see the beautiful places, I see love, I see truth and I see humanity.” I am going to continue working hard to photograph to inspire and this keeps me going.
Allan LEE: Wow, each of you has something unique that keeps you guys going and going! It is certainly not easy to stay focused but the passion has to lead you on and the interest has to find you new paths along the way. Please share with me, what is the most interesting experience you’ve had encountered in photography?
Jino LEE: Winning international photography awards! (Grins.)
Ronnie LEE: When I was still pretty new to photography back in 2011, I went on a photography trip with just a basic DSLR equipped with a zoom lens. I shot the entire trip in Automatic mode and JPG format. During that time, I knew nothing about camera settings and I was amazed with other photographer’s camera gears. It was a totally different experience from other sightseeing trips. It was my most memorable and interesting experience till today. I’m proud to share that I’ve gained a lot of self-found knowledge and experience since that trip.
Crispin LEE: I was on a family holiday’s trip to Yosemite National Park (USA) last year to shoot some beautiful late autumn scenery and landscapes. We stayed in a hotel few hundred miles away from the park and we travelled to and fore during our two days visit to the valley of the national park. Fortunately or unfortunately, we were caught in the first snow fall of the year in that area while on our way to the park on the 2nd morning. We were stopped halfway while journeying to the valley by the park rangers. We were asked by the rangers to return to town so that we can install wheel chains on our car before we are allowed to enter the park again due to safety reasons. A good 5-6 hours were wasted because of the snow fall and the route was covered with wet snow and freezing ice at different part of our journey.
We experienced the unexpected changed of weather and witnessed a colorful autumn that turned into a white winter in just 24 hours at the same viewpoints on our way to the park. It was a very dangerous driving experience – but an interesting photography experience. Many beautiful pictures were taken.
Peter LEE: Well, I believe ‘interesting’ means differently to different people. Personally, I find that the “subjects” are what makes my every encounter interesting. Whenever I am out for shoots, I always meet new subjects pretty often such as rare insects in the rainforests of Singapore. There will always be something new out there waiting to be discovered through my lenses – ‘”Subjects” excites me in this manner. It is akin to meeting a new “somebody” around the block who looks stunning and it stirs up curiosity within me at the same time.
Michael LEE: I was wandering around the slums at Cebu, Philippines when I came face to face with a mother carrying her baby that is about 8 months old. I took a few photos of her and her baby, while listening to her stories. And when I put my down my camera, she (the mother) passed her child to me and asked me to take the baby with me. She was crying but later I came to understand that she believed that by passing her baby to me, her baby may have a better chance of survival as she struggled to make ends meet.
LEE Siew Yan: Life always takes me by surprise. And I love every moment of it. Once I was in Sapa, I entered a shabby house to take photos of a group of children. I found the children were sitting around & warming themselves by the fire. There were very few things inside the house. I felt an instant sense of loss and sympathy for their poor living condition. However, to my surprise, the children gave me the most beautiful smiles. They are happy. They have nothing yet they have everything.
Photography had me going places and left me with many beautiful, interesting and unforgettable encounters. Photojournalism helps me to see the beauty beyond the surface. My lens allows me to see the beautiful souls in people. And I want the world to see them too.
Allan LEE: Very interesting share of encounters and experiences. Photography today is really all about individuality but certainly, all of us have to seek inspiration from somewhere. Please tell me, is there a person that inspires you in your photography works?
Jino LEE: Yes, in fact quite a few of them. My list will include Steve McCurry, Raghu Rai and David Alan Harvey. I had personally met Steve McCurry, he‘s a great guy and I hope I will be able to meet the rest of these great guys in the near future.
Ronnie LEE: No one as of now. But I would like to acknowledge the countless encouragements given to me by my photography peers. Personally I evaluate each photographer’s work and their style carefully as creativity comes from individual observations.
Crispin LEE: I have always been attracted to incredible photos from travel & fashion magazines and photography websites such as 500px, flicker, pixoto, viewbug, instagram, etc. Photographers such as Joe McNally, Steve McCurry, Michael Yamashita, Manny Librodo and others played a large part in influencing my photography path too. Among those that I had mentioned, Master Manny Librodo has inspired me greatly in wanting to be a better photographer.
Peter LEE: Not exactly a person in my context. I would say that National Geographic played a significant role in introducing me to the insect world. It was year 2011 & my family started our subscription to the National Geographic Channel on cable. Needless to say, I got hooked to NGC instantly as the documentaries are mostly about nature and the animal world. That formed part of my inspirational source.
Michael LEE: For me, I am inspired and influenced by Elliott Erwitte. (grins)
LEE Siew Yan: Every photographer has his/her moments. They have the privileges to capture the time and space, with their own skills. Any photo that shed the beautiful or ugly truth – these inspires me. Any photographs that evoke emotions, inspires me. Any photographs which show the wonder of nature, inspires me. I learn and grow from studying photographs by many different photographers.
Allan LEE: The source of influence & inspirations are so diversified among you people. So what kind of inspirations does this person(s) /channel/ source give you?
Jino LEE: Their outstanding works speaks for itself, it’s beyond description.
Ronnie LEE: As mentioned earlier, there is no such person (yet) in my life. But it is my wish to inspire others instead. Each individual sees thing in their own unique way & the way a person envisions subjects and how it’s evolves in their mind are different.
Crispin LEE: He (Master Manny Librodo) is very humble, willing to share and learn from students (photographers). He continues to work hard on perfecting his skills and developing his passion in photography are what inspired me most. On shooting, Master Manny Librodo possess the gift of using “available light” (mostly nature light) creatively – to capture the right moment with amazing emotions. I am also inspired by his use of colors tones artistically to enhance and create that “perfect image” with a dramatic impact. To me, this is not just photography (with the press of the camera shutter) but an art of free expression blending with your life experiences, ideas, and passions.
Peter LEE: The way National Geographic presented the insect world, it inspired me. It revealed a world that the naked human eyes could not see; a world that is so animated & delicate. And every detail of the insects presented magnified, revealing the beauty of this creation. Through this, I found new insights into photography where I can lay my ‘photography-hands’ on! The images on National Geographic also stirred up an aspiration in me: wanting to learn to shoot pictures like that (those that I saw on my TV screen). My interests and love for macro photography ignited like wildfire from then on.
Michael LEE: Master Elliott is known for his black and white candid shots and absurd situation of daily life. His pictures are strong story telling messages, yet sometimes could be just a funny capture. His sense of humor embedded into street photography had inspired me to becoming a “storyteller with camera” to capture the happy moments of life.
LEE Siew Yan: As for me, I draw different inspirations through different photographers. Their unique perspective tells the viewers (& me) different stories and even life lessons.
Allan LEE: Apart from these photographers & sources that all of you had mentioned, is there like an everyday person who/that is not related to photography that you also draw inspirations or support from? If there is, who is this person and how has this person helped you in your pursue in photography?
Jino LEE: None for me.
Ronnie LEE: The love for photography comes from within oneself. I see my own world with my own eyes. My self-motivation is more important.
Crispin LEE: “There is always a woman behind every successfully man” – this is especially true when it comes to photography for me. Without the understanding and support from my family, particularly my loving wife, and in view of my busy business schedules, I would not be able to accomplish much during such a short period of time. For example, we were able to mix our family holidays in line with some awesome photography locations I had always wanted to visit. In other cases, I was able to backpack and travel, alone or with photography pals, to remote places with extreme conditions knowing that everything at home is well taken care of. This allows me to pursue my passion with a peace in mind and I am grateful for the sacrifices and support she is giving me.
Peter LEE: The many moments when my family became ‘test subjects’ of my photography trial sessions.(Laugh). My family supported me in their special ways. Their presence helped me to calibrate and recalibrate my photography skills in terms of managing the gear and capturing the right moment.
Michael LEE: Michael Jackson, his passion and love to the music. He basically lives in the music in every second. It is not often we seen someone is dedicated doing what he loves and being talented with.
LEE Siew Yan: This person has to be my Uncle. Photography is not a cheap hobby when I was still a teenager & I have no means to buy an SLR. My Uncle lent me his SLR and I used it to cover sports events at school. That was the first time I felt the passion for photography ignited in me. Back then, photography was known as a hobby for ‘man or for-boys only’. Undeterred by the general statement, my uncle encouraged me to pursue my interest and also gave me some books on photography.
He even spoke to the owner of the camera shop in our neighborhood to give me discount for film purchase and for printing. If not for my Uncle, I would not have the chance to discover my interest and pursue photography till today.
Allan LEE: OK, again, that was very diversified sources we are talking about here. But some of your sharing really warms my heart. Let’s share a bit with the readers about that moment before you take a shot, what exactly goes through your mind?
Jino LEE: I hardly think and therefore nothing much goes through my mind. I shoot with my heart instead of my head; I basically use my “feel” and follow my emotions. If I have to say something about thinking, then it’s about ideas. It’s important to have ideas, visualization and imagination.
Ronnie LEE: What appears in front of me is likely the creation of mankind or nature. I will think to myself on how do I capture that moment/ scene to present it to my viewers that best depicts what I wanted to express through my photo.
Crispin LEE: It all depends on what genre of photography I am doing during that moment. The emphasis might be different among landscapes, portraitures, street photography, etc. But one thing is universal – composition. That is, “How to capture the best picture or composition given the current constraints and available tools and still be different from others at the same time?” For example, the keys to a good landscape composition, in my view, are timing (sunset, sunrise, or different seasons), location, camera settings, and the use of different available filters or equipment.
For my portrait shots, depending on indoor or outdoor, the use of available light sources (nature lights, flashlights, strobes, LEDs, etc.) and light modifiers, models and poses, outfits, make-up artists, and the concept/theme of the shot are critical for a great portrait. In the case of street photography, the understanding of the local context, the approach to the subject, the techniques to capture motions, quick observation and anticipation of subject actions and emotion, are necessary skills to master to produce an awesome picture.
Peter LEE: It is something like shooting in a studio. Instead of the four white walls surrounding the set, I see the greenery and mud/soil. Many thoughts will come into my mind before I press the shutter: “I need to get the angle. An angle that will inspire others, an angle that others have not (yet) seen before of this subject. An angle that would instantly convinced others of the beauty of this subject.”
Well, sometimes I tend to have a mental conversation with my subject, “Look at me! Look here, c’mon.” So, if you happen to see me mumbling, I’m actually ‘coaxing’ the subject! (Laughing).
Michael LEE: A story. The photographer ought to have the story untold by himself, and capture the image to deliver the message. A good picture should tell always tell a story.
LEE Siew Yan: I keep asking myself “What is the story behind the photos?”, “What messages can I share with my photos?” “What do I want to tell people and the world from my photos?” It is instinctive and it slowly becomes my second nature.
I want to spread positivity and inspirations through my photos. Fortunately or unfortunately, street photography and social documentary photography (under certain circumstances) do not offer the luxury of time to think and plan. A second too late and the moment will be gone forever. Having a sense of purpose helps me to react quickly when the `right moment’ or ‘magic’ appears. Almost instinctively, I quickly lift my camera up and press the shutter. CLICK!
Allan LEE: Wow, you guys are complicated yet simple, decisive yet calculated, no wonder all of you has such excellent photography sense! Now, please share with us on what sort of photos that you would like to take but has not attempted till today?
Jino LEE: Astronomy.
Ronnie LEE: I would like to take up underwater photography to appreciate & understand marine life.
Crispin LEE: I always wanted to take a time-lapse composition and a complete clear image of our universe (Milky Way) with an interesting subject such as a model or an animal, or a volcano. Hopefully, my upcoming trip to Mt. Bromo, Indonesia can help to fulfill one of my dreams.
Peter LEE: It’s definitely the time lapse of star trail. I find star trails really amazing. It brings you out of this world, into another dimension. They speak of God’s magnificent creation, the universe out there that is so vast and seems to bring you through a timeless journey. It is like nature’s mystery. Given the chance, I would love to travel to somewhere & capture this beauty of creation.
Michael LEE: Fashion shoot in Studio. I have watched a few episodes of America’s next top model and understand it is not easy to get a good fashion shoot. However I have not attempted even once till today because I have been trying hard to pursue the perfection (there is none) & the finer points of travel photography.
LEE Siew Yan: I have always wanted to visit a slum and photograph the children and the people living there. I want to know their life stories and photograph their lives. I have been warned about the potential danger, the stench and many other things untold, but I still want to experience this for myself. I know that my photo may not change or improve their quality of life immediately; but I believe that I can use my photo to share the unseen reality, to educate people and to instill compassion for humanity. I hope that my photos remind many ‘average’ people (in modern society standard) to realize how blessed they actually are. So be happy and grateful!
Allan LEE: That’s quite a lot of wishes! I hope all of you will be able to do what you wanted to do one day. Please share with our readers, what is the most interesting shot that you had taken since the day you started photography? Is it difficult or is it a chance of a lifetime or is it just hard to achieve such a shot? Please share with us.
Jino LEE: Hmm…this question is pretty tough to answer because I don’t think I have captured anything really that interesting until today. My “most interesting” shot has yet to come.
Ronnie LEE: I have yet to encounter any difficult (interesting) shots but to me, every single shot can be special on it’s own as each of us sees thing in our own perspectives that is unique to individuals. To take such a shot, we have to be at the right time at the right place with the right equipment.
Crispin LEE: In October 2012, I went on a photography trip with a young couple to Xin Jiang, China. We hired a local experienced driver to bring us around to special photography places that we had planned and wanted to visit. The young married couple was a pair of experienced models & wedding photographers. They had brought along wedding gowns for this trip. I was lucky enough to be able to get free photography advice and “free model shoots” during the 15-days of this trip. The two most interesting shots I have taken during the trip were the bridal shoot at 4700m above sea level at Lake Karakul in Pamir Plateau in the early morning with sub-zero (-10c) temperature. The other “once in a lifetime” shot was a bridal shoot at Taklamaran Desert a few days later with the lovely couple.
Peter LEE: I remember this shot I took at The Bird Park in Singapore 20 years ago. It was during a bird show. The main highlight was the pelican. The pelican did its performance, and flew towards the crowd of audience. I caught the moment – a panning shot: the pelican was in its flight course with wings spread out and I captured too, the awed and captivated expression of the audience. Just to add, capturing the species of birds in their natural habitat is also challenging to achieve.
Michael LEE: During a trip to Yunnan, China, we met a group of Axi minority kids who were getting ready to perform at the Fire Worship Festival. These kids were basically naked with just a small piece of decorative wooden tool to cover themselves. My friends and I were going after them to take their photo. While the kids acted “angry” and lifted the wooden weapon (for performance), their only piece of coverage dropped. We could not stop laughing and almost forget to snap a picture before they ran away again. Put aside the effort to travel to such a rural place and the fast diminishing of local cultural festival, I think it could be a once in a lifetime opportunity to take this kind of candid shot.
LEE Siew Yan: Visiting Norway to photograph the Northern Lights was an unforgettable experience. To be honest, I am really afraid of cold weather. I am the type who wears a jacket even when I visit a shopping mall in Singapore, (Laugh). So going to a sub zero environment is really a great challenge and a fear factor too!
However, I saw several photos of the Northern Lights by other photographers and it further convinced me to go for it. I remembered telling myself “If you want to see beautiful places and bring back beautiful images, you must suffer!” It was a chance of a life-time because there is no guarantee that the lights will appear. Having travelled thousands of miles from the tropical Singapore to the icy Norway just for 1 week, I could only pray really hard that a miracle or the lights would appear when I am there. I had been told that some photographers waited for many nights and saw no light. I was lucky to see strong bursts of colorful lights and illuminated patterns when I visited Norway in March 2013!
And yes, operating the camera in very low light condition with thick gloves and 5 layers of clothing was a real challenge! But the joy was tremendous when I saw the absolutely amazing dancing lights!
Allan LEE: You people are awesome, wish I have the same thinking or the opportunity to travel like some of you did. It has been argued, debated and even challenges about this statement “It is not the gear, but the photographer” – what do you think of this statement?
Jino LEE: No, I do not agree at all. I believed both are equally important and both gears & photographer compliments each other. We need certain tools to do certain job. There is no one size fits all or one lens does all. This is technically & optically not possible.
Ronnie LEE: I disagree. Both gear and the photographer have their respective roles to play. You need the right gears to help you in producing better quality photos but you also requires the creativity of a photographer to match up & capture that moment. So I must emphasize that both gear and photographer must have that synergy and work together to produce the photo.
Crispin LEE: In a Formula 1 (F1) Racing Grand Prix, if you are driving a normal Toyota Camry against a fully equipped F1 racing car, assuming the skill of the drivers are more or less the same, it does makes a difference. On the other hand, if you were given the same brand of computer or typewriter as J. K Rowling (author of Harry Potter), it doesn’t mean that you can write the same story as good as hers. In short, I believe the gear does provide an advantage in capturing a good picture. However, I believe the most important part of capturing a great picture depended primarily on how the picture is being composed by the photographer. I believe in composition and content period. I will feel offended when someone is showing off his razor-sharp image of a coffee cup shot with a Leica camera in a nearby hawker centre. (feeling meh)
Peter LEE: I believe that it is the spirit of an individual – asking this question “What kind of spirit does he/she have towards photography?” A spirit of excellence comprising of a positive learning attitude and the skill set to capture the right timing with the right lighting at the right moment, produces a photograph that speaks a thousand words. The passion or to say the inner fire of the individual has to be ignited to engage well with the gear, to maximize the full potential of both the photographer and the gear.
Michael LEE: I could not agree more. It is the photographer who masterminded and to get round (the obstacles) to create the final image, the gear is just a tool. Having said that, on the other end of the scale, getting the right tool to do the job is also critical but that does not mean the tool has to be expensive.
LEE Siew Yan: This is absolutely true! Never judge a photographer by his/her equipment or camera bag. Buying the latest or the most expensive equipment will not improve your photography skills. A good photographer can make a better photo with his camera phone, than a bad photographer with the most expensive SLR. Whether it is a point and shoot, an entry level DSLR or a pro-level DSLR, as a photographer, we need to learn to work around their (gear) limitations.
Allan LEE: I am like sitting in between the fence now. Agreeing or disagreeing does have their points or basis when it comes to gear & equipment. After hearing from all of you, maybe I should summarized that skills & creativity is the utmost key here, then the equipment should be able to complement (match up) the skill level of the photographer in order to bring out the bests of the photographer and the equipment. I am sure all of you will agree with me.
All the LEEs: Yes!
Allan LEE: All of you had inspired (and still inspiring) lots of people in your life and people around you with your photography, how else will you inspire more people and even make a difference in others’ life with photography?
Jino LEE: Really? I did? (Laugh!) I will continue to share whatever I know with anyone who is keen to learn. Every time when I teach and share, I learn something as well.
Ronnie LEE: I always believed in giving constructive comments and encouragement to those who are new to photography. I apply the friendly approach so I can be approachable and I hope by doing that, I can influence more people to take up photography as a hobby. No one ever gets turned away by me.
Crispin LEE: Recently I went on a photography expedition to Philippines, the country where I started my photography, and I had learnt that a few of my portrait photos that I took of a young Filipina girl have helped her to secure a media contract with Sony Entertainments in Japan. It was a dream came true for her and her family. I am delighted that my photos were able to help her fulfill her dream. Likewise it’s a joy for me to be able to help and inspire other photographers through the images that I have captured in different genres.
Peter LEE: My heart has always been about sharing the ‘lenses’ (with my students) that I personally use to see the macro world, the insect world; to help equipped others in the photography field to be able to be engaged in and be passionate in macro photography. It is such a joy to be able to share and fellowship with photographers. I will continue with what I have been doing by sharing the macro photos that I shot and continues to conduct lessons to reach out more people, such as those who have not been exposed to macro photography yet! The loaning of my equipment in class such as the flash, lens, hand-made diffuser actually allows the participants to have a practical hands-on experience; rather than having to worry about purchasing/borrowing the gear before lesson. Ultimately, it would be an accomplishment for me when my humble journey in photography would ignite the inner passion in them, and to groom future masters of photography – hopefully!
Michael LEE: During my travel, I have photographed many people in rural areas and/or lives in less-privileged conditions, and these people do not have a photo of themselves. What I will usually do is to print a photo that I had shot of them and mailing the photo back to them after I am back. This may be a small effort on my end, but to the recipient(s), the only photo of themselves, actually means a lot to them. As a photographer, we shall not just shoot photos for granted, we should also give out photos.
LEE Siew Yan: Recently, I visited some remote places in Indonesia to photograph humanitarian work. It was a movement to cure avoidable blindness. The beneficiaries are from poor communities who received cataract operation free-of-charge. The patients were able to see the next day after operation. For a person who has been blind for many years, just imagine the moment he/she can see our colorful world again – priceless moments that are magical. I also posted the photographs on social media to share how lives are restored when visions are restored for these people.
Many friends who saw the photos had written to me to express their interest in taking part in this project for a good cause – so that more sights can be restored. Some others also had expressed their interest in joining me for these trips. I am planning to invite some photographers to embark on this journey with me, so that we can all be inspired. I believed that the photographs or the journey (itself) can make a difference to the lives of many people.
Allan LEE: Listening to all of you has gotten me really emotional. You people have such kind intents and very selfless. I really have a lot to learn from all of you. I hope that I can be in that position one day to inspire people like all of you.
Since all of you are famous in your own rights and well established in the industry, it is said that it is better to have more friends in photography than to have enemies – what is your take on this since the local photography market is getting more competitive and saturated by the day.
Jino LEE: Yes I agree with the statement as I am a strong advocator of partnerships instead of competition. Unfortunately, most photographers look at another photographer as a direct threat or even “enemy”, which puzzles me.
Ronnie LEE: Human behavior and sentiments are difficult to predict .It takes a lot of mutual understanding to get along well. Of course it’s good to have more friends than enemies. In every trade, there’s always competition and it is up to the individual to prove their worth. Healthy competition is good for the industry so that it can boost the quality of work. Every industry is saturated, so we have to learn the skill of survival to survive the competition.
Crispin LEE: I am a firm believer of making more photography friends rather than enemies. I have greatly benefited from many photography tricks and good pictures shared among various photography communities and friends. I welcome and encourage friendly competition as it help to promote creativity and improve our knowledge of photography to a higher level. Selfishness and backslappings will not bring your craft very far. In any real business world, collaborations and leveraging on each other’s strength is the key to success. This applies to the world of photography too.
Peter LEE: Competition is inevitable. Competition actually motivates one to improve and spurs one another to be even better, doesn’t it? See it as a friendly race, and respect others’ success. Personally, I cherish friendship more; friendship comes first. Photography has always been my hobby, like my baby to me; my motivation in photography is to share my findings of the beauty of nature.
Michael LEE: There should not be enemies even in the same industry. Competition is always good as it will improve the quality of service and also help to strategize one’s value proposition and uniqueness in the market.
LEE Siew Yan: I have made many good friends in my photography journey and I am truly grateful. The best way to learn is always to be humble and be receptive to critics. Our `enemies’ in photography should never be our fellow photographers, it should be ourselves; that thing called “pride” in us thinking that we are already good at what we do. This is the enemy that stops us from growing.
So I allow myself to be led by this quote and to keep myself happy in my photography journey “I am in competition with no one. I run my own race. I just aim to improve, to be better than I was before and I’m free.” ~ Jenny G. Perry
Allan LEE: That is pretty unified from the answers above. Yes I agree too. Why make more enemies when we can have friends in the same industry? We can all help look out for each other rather than to kill each other. This is no wonder why you guys are so well-respected by many other photographers! Lastly, before I end this mega interview, if you are to give 5 tips to others who are trying to learn photography, what would you tell them?
Jino LEE: 1) Know your camera well. 2) Learn your basics. 3) Have a Positive attitude. 4) Never stop learning and 5) Always be humble.
Ronnie LEE: 1) Be humble & sincere. 2) Have an open mind. 3) Always ready to accept new techniques. 4) Be receptive to constructive critiques and 5) Never forget that there are always better Photographers out there better than yourself.
Crispin LEE: 1) There is no short cut in photography. You will need to take one step at a time and learn through experience or tap on others’ experience to expand your knowledge in photography. The more mistakes you made the more you will learn. The more time and effort you put in the more knowledge you will gain. 2) Learn the basics. Basics in photography are the foundations skills in composition, the understanding of exposure in relation to the shutter speed, aperture, ISO of the camera, the white balance, image enhancement and post processing, etc. The more foundation knowledge you acquired, the better you are as a photographer in handling most of the shooting situation. 3) Read more and attend training/workshops to improve your skills. Once you have acquired the basic skill in photography, the next logical step to do is to widen your knowledge of photography. This can be achieved via various ways such as reading of magazines on photography and attend some specialized training (depend on the genre you want to focus in. e.g. Macro, Landscape, Fashion, etc.) or workshops. There are many photography related websites and learning materials on the internet (such as YouTube or goggles) where you can tap on to learn tips & tricks too. 4) Practice makes perfect. As mentioned before, there is no short cut in learning photography. So the more you go out and shoot with your camera, the more you will discover the better way of handling your cameras – as well as the secret of taking good photos. Likewise, the more post-processing you work on your images, the more skilful you are in enhancing your pictures. It is through practice that you will uncover how to take good pictures and perfect your images with the help of digital imaging software. 5) Be consistent and develop your own style. This is easier said than done. But, one thing I find it very effective for me is to submit my photos for competitions. There are many online photography websites (pixoto, 500px, viewbug, etc.) that provides the ranking of the photos submitted. Through constant participation in the photo competitions, you will know how good are your photos as compared to others and how to improve your picture by looking at other better pictures. The more pictures you submitted, the more you force yourself to take better pictures and you will slowly develop your own style of photography in no time.
Peter LEE: 1) Take as many shots as you can for a subject. Seize and catch the moment. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. 2) Make use of different angles and keep exploring for the best angle. 3) Once you’re in focus, continue shooting; don’t check your earlier shots. But to do this, you must 4) get the setting right and get your gear ready in standby mode. e.g. body battery to ensure efficient photography sessions. And lastly, 5) Afford to scratch your gear, but afford not to drop your gear. Take care of your gear.
Michael LEE: 1) Get the basic techniques right before rushing to snap a picture with your camera. The fundamentals are important. 2) Learn to appreciate the art of photography, there are good photography books to read and try to attend photo exhibitions. 3) Keep shooting and look for inspirations. Force yourself to take some shots everyday. 4) Enjoy the learning process and share your work. 5) Dare to be different and lastly, be yourself.
LEE Siew Yan: 1) Start with the basics and attend a proper photography class. Going out with a few friends to shoot is different from a properly structured photography class which helps you to understand ISO, aperture and shutter speed better. 2) Buying expensive camera equipment does not improve your photography skill. 3) Go out there and shoot more photos. Keep shooting, keep learning and be receptive to critics. This is the way to grow. 4) Good photos don’t just “happen”, you need to WAIT for the moment. 5) Keep an open mind. Learn different genres of photography, pick the genre you like, focus on it and make it good.
Allan LEE: Thank you every LEE in the house for taking time to do this interview with me. You people had inspired me and I am sure this interview will inspires many more.
All the LEEs: Thank you Allan & Ourshutterjourney.com!
Jino LEE, 46, Asst. Manager/Resident Photography Instructor – Canon Imaging Academy
Years in Photography: 11 years
Specialized Genre: Travel & Documentary
Ronnie LEE, 54, Specialize Trade.
Years in Photography: 3 years
Specialized Genre: Travel Photography, Street Photography, Portraits, Land and Cityscape, Travel Journalism
Crispin LEE, 51, Director of a Professional Services Group
Years in Photography: 5 years
Specialized Genre: Portraiture, Landscape, and Travel Photography
Peter LEE Shiuh Hwa, 53, Sales
Years in Photography: 27 years
Specialized Genre: Macro-photography in Nature
Michael LEE, 40, Founder of Xing Asia Travel
Years in Photography: 12 years
Specialized Genre: Travel Photography
LEE Siew Yian, 39, Senior Account Manager
Years in Photography: 21 years
Specialized Genre: Travel photography, Photojournalism style
Allan LEE, 39, Editor, Photography Educator & Advocator, Ourshutterjourney LLP
Years in Photography: 12 years
Specialized Genre: Product Photography, Weddings & Tabletop Macro.