I’m currently an editor in charge with Reuters’ Global Pictures Desk so I’ve been off active shooting for over 10 years. However, I’m currently interested in underwater photography.
When I was young, my dad owned a photo studio in Penang, Malaysia. I used to hang around the shop and watch in awe as portraits were taken there.
I did my undergraduate degree at the University of British Columbia in Canada. Being a poor foreign student, I volunteered at the student paper so that I could afford to see the many shows and sporting events I wanted to go to. I had never touched a camera before, but I begged and borrowed one from my uncle, and learnt through the school of hard knocks.
Photojournalism isn’t something you can master by reading. You have to work hard, be tenacious and never take no for an answer.
My first assignment for Reuters was the 1995 Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix in Kuala Lumpur. Considering it was my first day with Reuters, it was terrifying to be asked to cover a sporting event that I had no knowledge of at all.
I covered the Indonesian riots of 1998, an assignment that really opened my eyes to the precariousness of our lives, especially for photojournalists. I vividly remember covering the unrest in Chinatown a few days after I arrived in Jakarta and hearing the chant: “Kill the Chinese, Kill the Chinese.” I suddenly realised: “What am I doing here? I am Chinese and it’s probably not a very good idea to be here right now.” All it takes is one person from a mob to initiate an attack, and the victim has no chance.
I like creating photo essays, especially on environmental and social issues. And I’m excited to shoot for Reuters Wider Image, a platform that is rare in this industry.
As photojournalists, we are extremely lucky to be paid to travel to places that most people aren’t able to visit. I see my job as simply being a messenger who observes and brings back interesting pictures for the general public.
My mantra is always find something new that the viewer hasn’t seen before.
Do what you love in life: that way you feel like you never have to work a single day.