Diamond in the rough
Article from the Sun daily by Peony Chin (posted on 10 March 2016)
PERHAPS to a lot of people, Jewel Ling's life of rotating around her home, studio and boyfriend's cafe may seem mundane. But it's a routine that she treasures, simply because it took her years of hardship to achieve.
"Many people wouldn't understand because they have been experiencing that comfort for most of their lives. For me, I had to go through so much to get to this point right now," explained the 25-year-old.
Indeed, Ling's story is a complicated one. The Penang-born photographer left the island to pursue photography in Kuala Lumpur, and experienced a whirlwind for the next five years. She worked as an assistant photographer in major studios, slept on friends' couches, fell into debt due to a failed studio partnership, and paid if off by working at an art gallery.
She reckons she is in a good place now. She's aiming to open her very own studio Prounited, to impart knowledge to aspiring photographers in Malaysia.
You charge a lot more than most photographers – why is that?
I know it's pricey, but with my resources and the kind of equipment I use, I cannot go below a certain price. I have nearly the whole set of Profoto lights which is valued at approximately RM60,000, and three cameras which cost another RM200,000.
It's difficult getting work in, but you have to keep pushing your boundaries. When clients realise that paying a cheaper price elsewhere will return bad results, they would see the value in paying a little more for good quality work.
Tell us more about your partnership with (photography lighting brand) Profoto.
Before my trip to Sweden last year, I emailed Profoto with a proposal, asking to meet its regional manager regarding a partnership to conduct workshops in Malaysia about lighting in photography.
Lighting is very sacred in the photography community. If you don't have proper knowledge or the right people to teach you, you may struggle for a long time. Nobody actually knows what to do with the lighting they have, unless they went through all the training to get to that point at which I already am. Hence I wanted to share my knowledge.
I ended up meeting with the president of Profoto, who agreed to the partnership.
What do you aim to achieve with your studio, Prounited?
I aim to create the awareness that you can get photography knowledge here in Malaysia, because there's none. I'm the only one who has had a few workshops for lighting. When people come for my workshops, I don't hold back – I tell them everything. Because I know that even if they know the technicalities of it, it will take them awhile before they can actually understand what I'm talking about. Education will give growth to a new generation of photographers. I always tell my students, "If you can photograph as well as I do, please do better."
How would you describe your signature photography style?
My signature style is very bright, sharp, and properly lit – you can see every detail in the picture. It's clean and properly framed, so you can print it without cropping. It's dynamic; there's movement and there's light.
What inspires you?
It has to capture the soul of the subject, and really speak to me. It doesn't have to be a beautiful model or a luxurious looking space. It's giving life to something ordinary. I don't look at pretty pictures; I try not to. I don't really find pretty pictures pretty – it's just the idea of it that's pretty. But maybe I'm a little weird like that. I support a lot of local artists by buying their art. There are no words to express what I think beauty is.
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