By : FRANCIS DASS
AS a child, Kid Chan recalls that he had always loved looking at photographs.
Even then, Chan had discovered that photos, be they of Princess Diana Spencer (1961-1997) or Mother Teresa (1910-1997), could be powerful and impactful.
It is not surprising then that, though his path towards a career in photography has been a wee bit circuitous, he has managed to make this port of call (career-wise, anyway!) on what surely looks like his calling.
Born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, his childhood was an ordinary one, with the possible exception of his fascination with photographs (he would go to bookshops and look at photographs in magazines).
The 30-year old wunderkind went to the Sri Cempaka School in Kuala Lumpur before furthering his studies at Curtin University of Technology in Australia, where he got his Bachelor of Commerce degree in International Business.
When he returned to Kuala Lumpur after graduation, he worked as a personal assistant to Datuk M.S. Tan, founder of the Metropolitan College Group.
In this position, at age 22, Chan interacted with high-flying business figures and members of society.
Reflecting on those good old days, he says: “I learnt a lot about how one should carry oneself when meeting VIPs.”
He learnt plenty about how to manage a business, and gleaned sartorial acumen, from Tan.
After spending two years as a PA, Chan decided to join a photo studio and worked as an apprentice there.
“I worked there long enough to wash their toilet and paint the wall,” he says cryptically.
Now, Chan is an established name in the Malaysian photography scene, in wedding and corporate photography.
Just last month alone, he travelled to Singapore, Bangkok, Kuching and Sydney for photo shoots, mostly weddings.
And the months ahead are looking busy too. He has a very important wedding shoot coming up in Italy in August.
During the interview, Chan refused to reveal whose wedding it will be (because of the non-disclosure agreement he’d signed with the parties), but there have been news reports in the local dailies that celebrity Maya Karin will marry Englishman Steven David Shorthose in Italy in August. Ahem.
Of his early days as a photographer, Chan recalls that he started out using a manual camera.
“My first camera was a Nikon F90X. Today, I am using a Leica M8 digital camera,” he says.
And he has never stopped learning about his craft. He still consults his sifu T.S. Lim, an avid photographer, who is an expert on Leica.
Besides a technical mastery of the camera and a highly-honed sense of aesthetics, Chan also possesses the precious ability to adapt to any situation.
He recounts his recent experience in Sydney: “It was the first time I was shooting in Sydney’s winter and the weather changed every two minutes. It went from cloudy to sunny, or you’d have a perfect blue sky with a dark cloud in the middle. So, I improvised according to the weather conditions,” he says.
On his foray into wedding photography — he is most famous for having shot singer Siti Nurhaliza’s wedding — he says it was a happy accident.
“I first started out doing corporate jobs. I went into wedding photography by accident, when I was asked by a friend to shoot a Malay wedding. One thing led to another and soon I found myself doing lots of wedding photography too.”
The studio he was with was initially called Portrait One; its name then changed to Kid Chan Studio.
An astute observer of society and trends, Chan makes some pretty interesting observations when prodded.
“Couples who are getting married are often very anxious. I always tell them that anyone who is getting married must not expect a perfect wedding. They are only setting themselves up for disappointment.
“I point out to them that it is the little unexpected or anticipated things that make their wedding experience rich and poignant. My philosophy which I share with them is to take things easy and smile more — that is what a wedding is all about,” says Chan.
He is in such a privileged position to calm the nerves of newlyweds because, as he rightly says, “a wedding photographer is the “vendor” couples spend the most time with on their wedding day.”
As to why every couple should invest in a wedding photographer, the pragmatic Chan says frankly: “Photos last as long as the marriage. So much time and effort are put into a wedding and so preserving the wedding memories is worth its weight in gold. A wedding is part of one’s personal history.”
His observations of the nature of people who engage him are also rich.
“Lawyers usually sign the (wedding photography) contract the fastest”, because they know exactly what they want and they would have covered all their interests well in the contract.
Accountants, meanwhile, are the most careful but Chan loves accountants because he can talk about things like the photographs’ return on investment and amortisation with these money men and women.
It comes as no surprise then that a lot of his clients end up becoming his good friends.
That facility for numbers is also why Chan’s business is very successful. He has seven support staff and five photographers.
He concedes that aside from going out to shoot weddings with his trusted Leica, the bulk of his time is spent doing paperwork.
When not out on assignment or travelling, Chan, who is a doting father to two young daughters aged 31/2 and 11/2 years, spends his time with his family.
• Kid Chan was named one of “100 people you must know in Asia” by Malaysian Tatler magazine. He has taken portrait photographs of esteemed Malaysians like Bank Negara Malaysia Governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz and Minister of Finance II Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop. Chan’s studio can be located online at www.kidchan.com.