What do you love?
I love things that celebrate life. Good company with friends, beautiful designs and visuals, great music, clever concepts, good food, humour...
What hobbies do you have?
I wish I could have more hobbies, but everyone is constrained by time. At the current moment, I love photography, watch collecting and cars.
Your hobbies sound pretty expensive...
It may seem that way, but there are ways to get around it. If you purchase pre-owned watches at the right price, you can basically wear the watches for free and resell them at the same price you bought them, if you know what you are doing. Cars are altogether story altogether - in Singapore they are so expensive and they depreciate so quickly. I buy my cars preowned to bring down the cost of ownership and enjoy them for what they are.
What are you driving now?
I'm driving a MINI Cooper S Cabrio Sidewalk now. It's not the ideal car for everyone - it's small, and it's not a fuel-sipper. But it's a fun car! It's nippy in the city, easy to park, has a nice exterior and interior, and lets me drive around with the wind in my hair when I want to. And the look from the drivers in their Mercedes E-Class and 5-series when they see me driving with the top down without a care in the world? Priceless...
You mentioned you like music. Any favourite artistes or bands?
I usually like songs rather than artistes or bands. But if I were to list artistes and bands behind my favourite songs, then the list would include U2, Cranberries, Michael Jackson, Annie Lennox, Bon Jovi, Frank Sinatra and Madonna.
What photo equipment do you use?
An assortment. I have a collection of 35mm and medium format equipment, from SLRs to rangefinders, from film to digital. I use whatever I need to get the shot I want. But sometimes having too much gear puts me in a position where I'm spoilt for choice. So there are times which I try to simplify by forcing myself to use only limited gear.
Why did you take up photography?
Because I can't draw even if my life depended on it.
So when did you start photography?
If you consider snapping swans at the Botanic Gardens with a toy 110 camera photography, then I started when I was 9. Graduated to autofocus compact camera when I was 11, and finally a true SLR when I was 13.
Tell me more about your photography style.
My philosophy when shooting is to keep it simple. There's nothing wrong with complexity, it is just personal preference that I have for classy yet simple and powerful designs.
Is there anybody whom you want to take a picture of now?
Nicholas Cage. He has such a powerful glaze...
Any advice for beginning photographers?
Yes. Stop whinning and start shooting. Quit complaining about not having the best or latest equipment and making yourself miserable. Buy your camera and start shooting, then evaluate to see how you can improve. Spend the money to buy books instead. Watch and observe what works and what doesn't. If you find yourself more at camera shops than outside shooting, you're a camera collector not a photographer.
Any photographers that you really admire?
Ansel Adams for his mule-like determination in lugging his glass plates and 8X10 view cameras around National Parks. Annie Leibovitz, Herb Ritts and Patrick Demarchelier for their unique portrayal of stars. Robert Capa for his courage and bravery. Irving Penn for his deceptively simple and extremely sharp portraits and still-life. And of course, Henri Cartier Bresson for his decisive moments in street photography.
Is there anything you wish you can do?
You mean like superhuman skills like teleport anywhere, go back in time or read people's thoughts?
I was hoping the answer would be something more mundane and human...
Well... I was hoping I could play musical instruments... something like the piano or guitar or something. I tried learning to play the piano but it was hopeless. I was struggling to make sense of the symbols on the page, and my hands would just freeze on the keys. Either that or I can only play with one hand... the other hand would just stay paralyzed.
What is your most treasured possession?
Anything that money cannot buy. For example, old photographs and memories.
What would you like to do in the future?
Retire early. Not that I wouldn't want to work anymore, but I'd like to be able to choose the work I do without worrying about paying the bills.
What do you think of modern society's approach to life?
I think people are too concerned about the ends, rather than the means. Life is a journey, but the destination is always the same - you die! It's more about how you live and enjoy life, rather than rushing to your desired stage in life. Too many people say, "I'd be happy when I retire" or "I can't wait till my children grow up!". Why can't you enjoy the moments in-between while that happens?
You have to enjoy every moment in life - it is never about postphoning your happiness. You will never be happy that way.
You say you'd be happy when you get your promotion, or when you buy your Porsche. When that happens, you'd be too busy setting a new goal to be happy for long. Enjoy the journey, and see the beautiful things in life! Of course Ferrari and Alfa Romeo would like to make the fastest cars, but they understand the car must be beautiful and soulful. That is what makes the Italian cars desirable. There're always faster cars, but you just feel so happy to be in a Ferrari or Alfa Romeo.
So you think we are moving too fast?
It is difficult to enjoy life if all you see is the future. People always know they should stop and smell the roses, but it is difficult when people along the road behind you are hustling you to move along. People are always in a hurry to grow up, or to reach a stage in life. They think that they can enjoy the fruits by then, without realizing that such an outlook in life is a curse to forever look ahead without the ability to stop. Look at the richest people in the world - they spent the best part of their lives accumulating billions of dollars, only to realize that there is such a thing as "too much money" with which they cannot buy any more practical things to enjoy. They spend too much time and energy to accumulate assets, and sacrificed so much of their lives for it. In their late age, they realize they cannot bring the money with them, and gave away their fortunes to charity instead. Rather than hoarding to give away later, why not live your life at a slower pace and be happier instead?
Are you saying that the rich aren't truly happy?
Certainly not. The rich derive happiness from achieving certain goals, like being top in business or attaining certain financial gains. But those goals are not for everyone, and you have to be sure you want those goals, and that you are prepared to sacrifice and risk everything. You have to relook at your own life priorities - do not let society set your goals for you. The problem is the prevailing notion of happiness and satisfaction seem to rest too much on simplistic and singular forms of success.