Vincent is a celebrated and outspoken fashion photographer who heads his own successful photography studio, Studio Verve - which has covered countless fashion labels, including the Levi’s® brand. Earlier in 2012, Vincent produced the Levi’s® Spring/Summmer 2012 Digital Lookbook that used stop-motion videography, featuring DJs Davern Koh and Jee Hoe (aka HypeEmBeats). Vincent also has the distinction of serving as one of the judges for You’re Gonna Be Great, our very own kickstarter campaign, celebrating Malaysian individuals who showcase the desire to Go Forth.
Tell us a little bit about where you come from.
I came from the early administration of the Tun Mahathir-era, and my generation is set apart from those who came out from the later 1980s. I was born in Kuala Lumpur, but I grew up in a tiny town called Rahang Kechil in Seremban, Negri Sembilan. I then moved back to KL in my pre-teens to study in a national school,
where I was exposed to the wholesome Malaysian culture and learnt the true meaning of “muhibbah”. So I come from a juxtaposition of what KL is, from a “kampung” boy’s perspective.
What do you usually dress up for?
I dress up for myself most of the day. Dressing up is a daily morning ritual to me. It brings out the character in me, where I am usually quiet, shy and quaint. So dressing up sets the mood of my day. However, I do dress up for occasions - for parties, events and more.
How does dressing up play a part in what you do?
Dressing up makes me look good and it builds character. Being a fashion photographer, I’m exposed to the ever-changing fashion trends of the day. So, somehow, I get hooked on playing dress-up; it’s a part of the culture!
What did you originally envision yourself to be doing before this?
Coming from a strict Chinese family, photography never came across to me as a career path. I could still remember the day when I first got my first camera for my 11th birthday from my father, and a year later he imposed a ban on me from using it, mainly because it was rather expensive to develop films at that time and through his eyes, I was apparently abusing the camera, shooting blurred shots and photographs that made no sense to him.
I guess obvious career paths back in those days were Accounting, Engineering, Medicine and the new wave of Information Technology or computer sciences - stable careers that were able to put food on the table.
I stumbled upon my love for photography, took a leap of faith and here I am. I wouldn’t want to say that I am stuck with it. I’d say that photography and visual arts have always been a part of me.
Can you tell us more about that one moment in time that inspired you to pursue your passion?
I can still remember vividly the first time I was asked such similar question, and it came from my father. It was over dinner, and the SPM exam results were just released, in which I passed with flying colours. I told him I wanted to be a hair stylist. He broke to tears. A few years passed, and this time it was my mother who asked me such a similar question and I told her that I wanted to pursue photography full time. She kept calm and told me to do what my heart told me to.
I would say that both my parents and godparents are my inspiration.
What were the difficulties that you faced when you first started out?
There is this urban myth whereby people assume that photographers live glamorous lives. I beg to differ. The early years were tough and I could hardly make ends meet. Payment has always been slow and inconsistent, and I was living on white bread alone for most months. It was tough to make that break. I guess perseverance sustained me during those years. I wouldn’t want to put it on paper that I have made it. I would just say that I have paid my dues.
The fact that I am still struggling for perfection is proof that I am still learning. I am never satisfied and I don’t think I will ever be.
What do you feel sets you apart from everyone else?
I crave for perfection in which most people fail to understand. Allow me take an analogy of a chef: a true chef will never put a substandard dish on a plate to be served to his guests. Likewise, I don’t think I am able to “close one eye” and allow that to pass.
I am not a commercial photographer. I’m not someone who clicks the shutter and produces things, which other people want. I wish to produce things that we want. I wish things could be much simpler, where every one of us is allowed some creative space to collaborate and produce our best works. I guess I am an artist stuck in a commercial world.
But I do what I love. And I love what I do.
What's your proudest moment thus far?
Like I said, I am never satisfied. I crave perfection.
What're your upcoming projects for the future?
Work-wise, every job is a mini project. I put in my 100% into it. However, on a personal level, I am currently in the midst of pulling together an exhibition, which I have always been rambling about to myself to get done. Exhibitions to me are a personal thing. This project is like a baby - it takes time but I hope I can show something in early 2013.