As an inspiration to anyone who might want to become a photographer one day, here's my story of how I got here..
I came to England when I was 12 years old from Hong Kong. At first, I couldn’t speak English or understand the language very well at all. I had great difficulities learning in class and was playing catching up all of the time, but one thing I found myself quite capable of doing was drawing and painting in Art. My love for photography first started when I was at school back in 1977. I joined the school's camera club at Sir Charles Lucas in Colchester, and was fascinated with the first black & white picture that I ever printed from a darkroom.
It was just amazing to see an image appearing before your very eyes as it developed from the developing tray. From that magical moment , I kind of fell in love with photography and wanted to explore further. Due to difficulties with the English language, I never did catch up, and understandably was failing my examinations badly. In 1978, I decided that I would like to develop photography as my future career, so I went to The Colchester Institute to study photography for 2 years to further my horizons and get further experience.
To cut the story short: the plan was to find a job after leaving college, but this proved very difficult as no one was prepared to give me a chance. Everytime, I was being rejected because I had no experience, but how would I gain that experience if nobody give me that chance in the first place?.
Eventually I was out of pocket looking for jobs in London and then I ended up working in a restaurant, as I desperately needed some money to survive. My dream shattered for the time being, but I never thought of giving up at all. In 1981, I left the job in London as I didn't really enjoy it at all, and I started to work at my Father's take away business and became the Manager there. I carried on with my photography whilst I was working and in my spare time I would go out and take pictures. Sometime during the day and a lot of occasions even after working late at night. I started to buy photo magazines and entered the competitions that were advertised. They normally set out a theme or motif matter, where there was a specific deadline and at the time, I thought it would be a good way to learn and improve my skills. In the beginning, I received many rejection letters from Editors, to say that I hadn't won. It was admittedly very disappointing, but it spurred me on even more, and I wanted to do well, so with each failure I tried a little harder and try to see where I was going wrong. In 1982, after trying for over one year, I finally won my first major award! I will never forget the great sense of hope that it gave me as I felt that my effort had finally been rewarded. It gave me lots of charisma and energy to go on. It was a fantastic beginning to my dream and passion. I wanted to become a professional photographer so badly.
By the year of 1986, my name was spreading all across the National photographic Magazines as I was winning everything in sight. During that period, I have managed to achieve over 40 accolades & awards, including 11 first places in some major awards. The turning point of my life was when I won Britian’s most prestigious award and that is The Kodak/Amateur Photographer of the year in 1986. The Prize was a holiday for two in Rio De Janerio in Brazil. At that moment in time, I felt that I have achieved so much and proved to myself and others that I was good enough to become a professional. Despite no one giving me the opportunity to succeed, I made it on my own.
By 1990, I had built up a small but regular client list, and so I decided to turn part-time Professional photographer and I rented my first studio space. I didn’t give up the Take Away business at the time as I wasn’t reallly earning enough from photography to live. In 1995, my parents had decided to retire after working for all their lives. My Dad had offered to give me his business if I wanted to , but in the end I decided to dedicate to photography full time. It was the biggest and hardest decision that I had ever made and to date, I am so glad that I have made the right choice. I must admit though, everything wasn’t all roses in the beginning and it certainly was tough and a struggle to get a business running. But I came through it at the final hurdle. I’m glad to say that I now run a sucessful business doing something I really love and enjoy. My work varies so much and I feel that I can just about take pictures of anything. Everyday is different, fresh and challenging. But the challenge is with pleasure and control. All the techniques and knowledges that I learnt from college in early years are still invaluable.
Special thanks to a few people:
My Dad: God bless my Dad, who is no longer with us. I am grateful for his love and support even through very difficult time in our lives.
John Potter: My Best School friend who had inspired and helped me with my portfolio to get into college.
Bob Cathmoir : My College Tutor who gave me the opportunity to study at Colchester Institute, despite of my qualifications
Candy Wong : My dear wife for the caring, support, hard work and understanding over the years.