Chong Kok Yew

2021 Professional Event Photographer Of the Year

Q: Tell us a little bit about your background!

I was born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1988. After graduating from high school, I came to Taiwan for Fu Jen Catholic University, and have lived and worked in Taiwan since then. My photography work includes fine art, commercial photography, and photojournalism.

Q: When was the moment you realized you have a passion for photography?

Actually, my major in the university was graphic design. I started photography because it is an important element for design. Originally, I aimed to create astonishing design with great photographs. However, later on I found myself enjoying photography more. I like how it allows a connection with people.

Q: Do you ever have trouble getting inspired? What do you do when moments like this arise?

Every day I wake up with this problem! If I struggle, I will try shooting with another camera or lens first. Otherwise, I will chat with my photographer friends and see what they have come up with recently. If that doesn’t work, I will give myself a break and do some gardening, which is my second passion.

Q: What would you say is the hardest thing about photography?

There are always times when you know you definitely have good skills and the best equipment in your hand, but still can’t figure out what is worth to shoot.

Q: You have been chosen Event Photographer of the Year for your work “Qingshan King Festival” – a series that allows us an amazing glimpse into this festival. Why did you decide to cover this event? Why is it meaningful to you?

Taiwan is a country with a high density of temples and religious events. In the past, people in the region of Wanhua believed that the god, Qingshan King, eliminated the pandemic in the 1850s. The Qingshan King Festival was originally formed to host important feast for the god and celebrate the god’s miracle. Nowadays, the festival is held annually. It lasts for four days and parades around the neighborhood of Wanhua. Last year in 2020, the Qingshan Temple celebrated the 165th anniversary of its establishment, so the festival was held greater than usual. Since my photography studio was just opposite the temple, I decided to pick up my camera and documented this special event. Before that, I had rarely photographed any Taiwanese religious festivals. I think that happened by serendipity!

We all know the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the world. I hope my photograph of the Qingshan King Festival spreads good luck to whom needed. Those images are my prayer.

Q: What was the most notable memory for you on that day?

I had rarely photographed religious events, I wasn’t sure what I was doing and couldn’t capture the right moment at first. Miraculously, after a sudden bursting of firecrackers, I was as if given mysterious power by the gods. I then shoot crazily for nearly eight hours.

Q: What is the hardest aspect of your work as an Event photographer?

When working for commercial events, I think the hardest part is to communicate with the clients. Likewise, if it’s my personal project, the most difficult thing is to have inner dialogues with myself – to clarify what I really want to express through the photographs.

Q: Why did you decide on entering this particular photo into the IPA?

IPA is one of the most competitive competitions among many international photography awards. Frankly speaking, I have encountered a creativity bottleneck. I thought: maybe I can challenge myself through entering this competition. So I took quite a few photographs in different genres and submitted them to different categories. I am very lucky to be chosen as the Event Photographer of the Year.

Q: What does winning this competition mean to you?

In 2011, my photograph titled “Peep” won 1st Place in the IPA Non-Pro Fine Art category. Surprisingly, 10 years later, I become the Event Photographer of the Year! This is completely unexpected.

Q: Do you primarily do Event photography, or do you enjoy other photography genres as well?

Event photography is part of my job, but I like still life and portrait photography the most. And my favorite subject is no doubt my three cats.

Q: If you could do anything or go anywhere, what would your dream photography project be?

Because I have been away from my country for a long time, I really want to do a photography project back in my hometown. Let’s call it “One Malaysia” for now. Malaysia is a multi-ethnic country, I would love to explore how people with different cultural backgrounds live and work together.

Q: What is next for you, are you working on anything right now?

I plan to buy a middle format camera for an upcoming project about family memories as well as children of single-parent households.