Photography Chat With Lance Vun

To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” – Elliott Erwitt

Photography is a powerful form of storytelling. It encapsulates time and preserves memory. Other than that, it is also a means to express and reflect one’s feelings. However, apart from personal uses, photography can also document formal occasions and events one would like to look back to. Graduation concerts and weddings, for example.

Today, with good smartphone cameras and a mobile photo-sharing application called Instagram, everyone – young and old – have turned into photographers. And whether it is important or insignificant, (or selfies), we capture and share everything on Instagram. It is relatively simple and fun. However, not everyone has the eye.

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Lance Vun is a photographer born and raised in Kuching. He has been shooting professionally for over eight years. He first started as a photojournalist who then chose to make a living off of weddings. As a wedding photographer, he has had the opportunities to photograph countless weddings across the state. Other than that, he is also a passionate street photographer who has taken photos not only in the gritty streets of Kuching and some other parts of Malaysia but also in the brassy streets of Australia.

Prompted by a friend, Lance, along with a group of photographers have decided to organise a photo exhibition called Streets of Kuching. The exhibition is now live at Art Space, ChinaHouse, Kuching.

Here, the young lad talked about his passion and journey as a photographer.

How long have you been a photographer?
I was 19 when I first dabbled with DSLRs. I’m 28 right now so this year would be my ninth year doing photography. But I feel like I’ve not done enough. I know people who have been around for a shorter period and they’re doing pretty well. They’ve done more than me. I feel like I could’ve done more but everyone has got their own pace. I need to push myself because I feel that my photos are still nowhere near the top. But I dare say that my standard is above average.

What or who got you started in photography?
I was not into photography in the beginning. It was my friends who kickstarted the transition. I was in the middle of my diploma that I got influenced by them. I tried my hands on it and not too long after that, I found interest in capturing images. I was studying business in Swinburne at that time. So after I was done with that, I took another diploma in photography. I started building my career from there.

Who are some of you favourite photographers who has influenced your work? And how do they inspire you?
You see, inspiration is all around. It could be from the books I read to the films I watch. But my main source of inspiration would be Joe McNally – a New York-based photographer who used to shoot for LIFE Magazine. Right after 9/11, he did this huge project called ‘Faces of Ground Zero’. I was truly inspired by that. And the other one is Zack Arias – he’s an Atlanta-based photographer.

What sort of work do you specialise in?
I’m a wedding photographer by profession and I photograph mainly weddings and event coverage. That’s what I’ve been doing most. Because I’m very much into stories. So weddings and events can give you that. Sometimes I do basic portraits. I used to do press work. I used to work as a photojournalist for United Daily News and took photos for the newspapers. Now, I also run a studio under PhotoBorneo as part of the community project called HAUS.

What intrigued you most about your subjects?
Emotions… And moments that you can’t stage and don’t get to capture twice. Moments where you just have to be there because you don’t want to miss the emotions.

Exactly what do you want to say with your photos, and how do you actually get them to do that?
Well, I like to tell stories through my photos. I want to express how I feel about what I see at that time. But specifically, in weddings, I want to capture priceless moments. Moments that can’t be staged. There is something special about photographing couples who are crazy in love. But it’s not just about two people, it’s also about the people around them who are there to celebrate that special day with them. And every wedding is different. Every wedding is an exciting adventure. So, you’ll see a lot of different things happening at the wedding. Many that you can’t replay.

Like candids?
Not really. Some, maybe. But these are the stories, and kind of a life history that you want to share with people. There are so many opportunities for beautiful photos throughout a wedding day. And for me, those photos carry more weights because those are the photos which the future generation who were not there can see. So, I’m honoured to be hired as a wedding photographer. And I have been very fortunate in undertaking multiple weddings since after my initial work was well received.

Right. So what do you think makes you different from the other photographers that you know?
I think I see things on a deeper level. I photograph the essence of the soul, of the subject. My style is quite documentary with a focus on real moments and emotion. I don’t stage my photos. I watch events unfold naturally. It’s not just about the visual aesthetics but it’s more about the life. 

Why do you like street photography?
See, for me, photos that really stand out are the one where a street moment is captured to show a unique story. With street photography, you get more freedom. You don’t have to give instructions to your subjects or annoy them. Anything from candid shots to perhaps portraits, none of them is staged. I also like the challenge. People don’t usually realise that they are being photographed. You need to have an eye for detail and finding something worth telling through the photos you take.

What are the other challenges of street photography?
Well, unlike wedding photography, one thing that will always hold me back is the fear of shooting strangers. If I publish it, I might get in trouble. You will need their permission. But street photography is my passion. It’s probably the best way to show my way of viewing things and I’m determined to keep developing my eye for street photography.

I can say that you’re enjoying a pretty stellar career as a photographer now. What are the best and worst experiences you have ever had to go through to get the shots you deemed as perfect?
There are many. But I can’t pinpoint one at the moment. However, I would say it’s probably the one that got me the Kenyalang Press Awards. It was a random photo that I took from the bridge but I was fortunate enough to win that award. It’s not my greatest photographic accomplishment, but it kind of motivates me. I still have a long way to go.

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Of course. Now, comparing where you are at the moment, with where you were when you first started, what do you think you could have done differently to get to where you are sooner?
I don’t know. But nothing, maybe. I may have screwed up many times. Many of my photos didn’t work. But I won’t say that I regret them. I learn from them. That’s how we learn and polish our skills. Only from mistakes and flaws will I know what to focus on in the future. That’s how we progress. Making better, more compelling art is addictive. So I guess, I wouldn’t change anything. In fact, I still have more to learn.

Do you create personal work often?
If you’re talking about street photography, I do it here and there, every now and then. Whenever I have the time and opportunity, I’d take my camera around and start taking photos. I do it mainly in Kenyalang. It’s a place that is close to my heart. And I like to do it alone and take my time to blend into the street scene.

Do you want viewers to recognise the symbols or messages in your photos and be subconsciously affected?
Of course. Not subconsciously. I want my photos to affect people. That’s what it’s all about. Especially the scenes of urban life through my street photos. This photo of these two uncles for example. They may look like they are only two old men having drinks. But it’s more than that. I want to show our culture here on Sunday mornings.

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Of course. Let’s get to the technical part. What cameras and lighting gear did you start with and what are you currently using?
I started with Canon 1000D that my dad bought for me. At the moment I’m using two Canon 5D MKIII. And I mainly shoot with a 16-35mm lens, 50mm, 100mm, and a few lights here and there. But I rely on natural light as a preference, though. It’s the best.

And if you had to choose one lens which one would it be and why?
At the moment I guess it’s the 16-25mm because I like wide stuff. With a wider angle, you get more drama in. But with wide angle, you need to also handle the distortions. So, I kind of have this love-hate relationship with that lens. You have to be able to master that characteristic of a wide angle lens.

What technology or software do you use to keep focused on what you do best, as you photograph?
It depends on the tasks or the photos. I use 70% Photoshop Lightroom, 30% Photoshop CS6.

How much time do you spend taking photos, versus retouching photos?
Two-third of the time, shooting. One-third, editing. Not to say editing, but processing and delivering what’s best for my clients.

More and more iPhone photographers are coming out of their boxes now. They take good photos too. Soon, people may not need professional photographers anymore. What motivates you to continue taking photos?
Well, everyone can take good photos. No doubt. But many do it for fun. They don’t plan to become a professional photographer. And there’s no versatility. Versatility is important to photographers. And photographers are compelled to push themselves further in the pursuit of creative excellence. So, adding creativity to compositions and looking to achieve something different is something I am constantly striving to achieve in my work.

For your commercial work, how important is your website or social media accounts? Do you bother making a hard copy portfolio?
Well, yes. It’s very important. Otherwise, how would people reach me? Everything is through social media nowadays. And yes, I do make a hard copy. I need to bring something to show my clients to convince them.

As for this exhibition, is this your first or have you had many prior to this?
I have participated in a few but this is the first one with me being one of the organisers. It was a friend’s idea. And it was just a matter of realising it. Most photo exhibitions here focuses on landscapes and vibrant photos. So, I thought why not do something different this time.

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What are you trying to achieve from this exhibition and why?
As organisers and speakers for this exhibition, we hope to educate, guide and motivate people. We want to give them tips on street photography, of course. Other than that, we want to provide a platform for other photographers to exhibit their work. As far as I know, in Kuching, we don’t have exhibitions for street photography. So this is the first and we have a lot of participants. Some of the participants are relatively new in this field. But I can tell you that the level of skill from the newcomers is astonishing. So we kind of want to set up a community where photographers – old and new – can learn from each other. This is the chance for everyone to learn and evolve.

Are you planning to make this is a yearly thing?
Well, we’ll see how it goes. I mean, I received good comments and positive feedbacks. They did suggest to me to do it a yearly thing, but you know, we need the budget as well. If need be, I don’t see why not.

Which photo in this exhibition are you currently most proud of?
The boat. I was at Waterfront. I saw the boat coming towards me. Something about it intrigued me so I took the photo from the top. I thought it was going to stop there. But it went to the corner. I went to take a look and saw the uncle counting his money. It wouldn’t be appropriate to take a photo of that. So, I left.

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You’re born and raised in Kuching and spent some time in Australia. What is home to you?
Home is where I can just be myself. Without having the fear of how other people would think of me. Without anyone judging me. Home is where I feel joy naturally. When I’m home, at the dining table, I’d automatically lift up one of my legs on the chair. But that never happened when I was in Australia. I don’t feel comfortable doing that anywhere else. And when I do street photography in Kuching, I feel more of myself. When I do it in Australia, it didn’t feel like home.

If you could live anywhere on this awesome planet, where would you build your dream home?
I have not travelled and seen enough. So, at the moment, I can’t really say where I would want to build this so-called dream home.

Check out Lance Vun’s photos here!

PS: All photos are courtesy of Lance Vun.

A Chat With Music Producer Galvin Patrick

With the growth of home recording technology (made affordable to everybody), many homosapiens find themselves venturing into music production. While some eventually pull multiple duties as studio owners, sound engineers, and even vocal coaches, the rest went on to work as music producers, producing award-winning songs.

Galvin Patrick is a Simanggang-based music producer. His passion for music developed at a very early age, from watching his mother playing the keyboard and eventually learned from her. In his teen, he picked up the guitar and thereon mastered the art of playing the keytar.

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The 30-year-old is also part of a church choir as a singer and a keyboardist. In his college days back in 2007, he actively performed in the local music scene as the keyboardist for independent bands like ‘Lateral Faction’ and ‘Solemn’.

Over the years, he naturally gravitated to compositions and has come to specialise in producing music, which he does in his bedroom using mainly FL Studio 12.

Galvin does not want to have a signature sound. He wants to be viewed as a more versatile music producer. On that ground, he has collaborated with and produced for a number of local and international artists on different music genres. This includes Paulo Santos, a singer from Brazil, Masia One, a rapper from Singapore and Melissa Francis, an Iban songstress from Sri Aman, Sarawak.

The music business is a nasty, cutthroat environment that will chew up and spit out those who are not well-ordered. And Galvin’s journey is also a rocky one. However, he is not allowing anything to slow him down. In fact, through his music, the producer has helped made the world a little better.

In 2011, he contributed one of his songs called Try To Save The World to  help the victims of earthquake and tsunami in Japan through ‘Indie Aid Japan’, a compilation album of 28 digital tracks.

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Below is a little bit more about the producer:

So Galvin, name 5 songs in your playlist.
The Chainsmokers & Coldplay – Something Just Like This
Ed Sheeran – The Shape of You
Major Lazer – Run Up (ft. PARTYNEXTDOOR & Nicki Minaj)
Kygo – It Ain’t Me (with Selena Gomez)
The Weeknd – Starboy (ft. Daft Punk)

Do you have a guilty music or entertainment pleasure?
I do. Mostly boy band pop songs from the 90s. I listen to the Spice Girls, Aqua and Madonna as well.

You play the keys, you write and sing a little bit, and you produce. But you consider yourself more of a producer, correct?
Yeah. But I have trouble defining myself actually, including my genres. I also do a little bit of this and that. What I do love is, capturing ideas and turning them into songs.

A lot of people have the notion of producers as self-taught, bedroom musicians. Are you one of those and do you have a formal musical education?
I never took any professional training or classes. Most of the time, DIY or self-studied. Although I wish I had taken a formal musical education or any sound engineering courses. It was a tough call due to a tight budget. Most of the courses were in KL or overseas during that time.

I see. Shall we talk about your journey of becoming a self-taught producer then?
Sure. Let me begin with that time when I asked my uncle to get me a pirated software CD. I was looking for the best audio converter, for ringtones – the one that can chop the audio and have all the basic functions. Then I saw the ‘Magix Music Maker’ software in that CD, tried it out and was amazed by the functions. I thought to myself that ‘this is a hidden gem’. I started using it, and get to know the basics from the HELP file. There was no YouTube tutorial during that time. A few years later, I discovered Sony Acid Music, then shifted to Reason, Cubase, Ableton Live, and finally using FL Studio till now. It is the best DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) so far for me! I bought the original copy a few years back.

How did your family react to the idea of you producing music?
All parents want the best for their children. For me, it was quite tough. They were not keen on the idea. But so far, they have been showing great support and help to get my music going.

Tell us about your studio. What DAW and some of the plug-ins that you use?
I have a small bedroom studio with MSI GE 2PE Apache Pro, installed with FL Studio 12.4, M-Audio USB interface, A Samson CO3U mic, Kurzweil monitors. I use some hardware instruments like Korg Electribe Music Production, Korg Kross Workstation keyboard, Korg RK-100s keytar, alongside some midi controllers like Akai MPK mini and M-Audio Trigger Finger Pro. Most of the plug-ins I use are from FL Studio itself, with Airdrums, Hybrid3 and my favourite plugin, Harmor VST.

Do you prefer analogue or digital sound production?
Both. But it depends on what kind of music I want to produce. I did record some guitars on some of my tracks.

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Your musical style has been defined as pop, hip hop and electronic dance. However, you probably listen to all kinds of music, correct? So what influences you to create your beats?
I listen to all, I love universal music. I would Google a song and find out who the producer is. I like producers like Kanye West, RedOne, Norman Cook, Max Martin, Diplo, Afrojack, Zedd, etc. But, overall, I love a mix of genres and experimenting them. That is one of the reasons I love to collaborate with everybody.

I see. Now, you were actively performing in the local music scene in 2007. Could you tell me more about how that started and your experience working with other musicians/bands?
I shared a demo I recorded back home with a friend (Bernie) in college. He then introduced me to his sister (Carrie) and talked about auditioning at ‘Rentak Juara RTM’. I was thrilled after listening to her voice during our band practice but we did not make it through. It was probably because she was way too young during that time. She was 14! Amazing talent with a BIG voice! But later, we performed together in metal-synth-rock bands called ‘Lateral Faction’ and ‘Solemn’. It was a great experience. I got to expose my talents to many different audiences in Kuching back then.

Besides that, you also formed your own project band – The 14th Project – in 2008 and released a demo with singles like ‘Goodbye to You’ and ‘Kesempurnaan Cinta’. Could you tell me more about that?
It was actually my project band before I proceed as a solo artist. I used Sony Acid Music to produce our tracks at that time. There were a lot of versions and demos of our songs. Maybe you can Google them. It was my earliest works that sounded really bad. I was so noob while producing those songs during that time!

I think you have gotten better. You were nominated in several music categories – ‘Lagu Borneo Paling Popular’, ‘Artis Solo / Band Borneo Paling Popular’, ‘Artis Harapan Borneo’ in Anugerah Carta Borneo Era 2011 for the song ‘Sang Mentari’, and ‘Best Electronica/Dance Song’ in VIMA 2011 music awards. And won the Anugerah Carta Borneo Era FM Sarawak (Best Lyrics) in 2012 for the song ‘Harapan’, and a Silver Award in VIMA (Voice of International Music Award) in 2014 (Best Genre Bender) for the song ‘Lagu Ini Hanya Untukmu’. How do you feel about these accomplishments?
It took me a while to believe all the hard work had paid off. I don’t really like to be praised as I don’t feel like I have achieved enough. There is more work to go for, but I do appreciate the support from everyone who has been pushing me forward.

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After the many collaborations and the awards that you have won, you stumbled into mainstream prominence which led to you being signed under Warner/Chappell Music (Malaysia) to compose original songs for other artists, globally. Are you still doing that?
Yes. I recently continued my contract for 3 more years. I am hoping to work and collaborate with more talents from around Malaysia and worldwide. WCM (Warner Chappell Music) is actually my publisher, to copyright and protect my works. That means I can still work with whoever as long as they agree to split the royalty percentage. Sulu Sarawak, a brilliant songwriter was the one who helped me to get to WCM back then, after so much struggling to look for a publisher. See, I cannot hide the truth. I have been the victim in so many stories. It is probably because they wanted money more than music, and I was tricked so many times – my music was not getting paid, worst; stolen.

That is the ugly truth. But you managed. Now, that aside, I am sure you learned a thing or two from that, like revenue and royalty statements?
Let me put it like this; imagine your music is your property with some houses on it. The houses are the radio stations. The people in them are the listeners. Do you think the houses and people are staying there for free? They will pay the rent to you if they want to stay there, and more if for a longer period. That is how it works. People pay you for ‘renting’ your music on the radio. You will get the royalties for how many times the song got played on air.

Right. This is something many must take note, indeed. So, what is your philosophy concerning your own work?
I would like to create something that I love and make you fall in love with it too. Like buying a perfect gift.

 

Do you ever find yourself struggling as a creative? In the sense of music direction.
For me, I do stuff during late nights and early in the morning where inspiration would usually come. Sometimes, I have to take a break by watching movies and play games like Dota 2. Whenever an idea pops up, I usually record it on the audio recording app on my phone. Every idea is precious. Sometimes it takes 2 years to develop a song. I had to change and update the sound every now and then to make it more complete.

Do you think about the relevance of your music before you make it?
I like to update myself with sound designing properties. It is not about the trending genre but the sound you should develop to make it ‘yours’.

Right. You have been around for a while. A decade at least. How do you see the current state of the local music industry? (Mainstream and independent.)
So far, we are still left behind with ideas. For example, vocal sampling. I did vocal sampling in my song called ‘Mencuba Lagi’ 5 years ago. Now you can listen to top radio hits with lots and lots of vocals sampling. Though digital sampling has been in existence since the 1960s.

That is very interesting. How do you feel about the popularity of your music today? 
Average. (I think) I did some pretty good songs with B-Heart and YMY, mostly well received. I did a collaboration with international artist like Masia One, on a track called Local Girls. She is an international rapper from Singapore/Canada and had collaborated with big names like Pharrell Williams and Major Lazer. I am not that popular yet. That is not really a concern. But I will get more songs out!

Do you think that social media has impacted your standing and presence within music?
I do. With today’s technology and thanks to the many smartphone users. The free marketing in promoting is a good move. Most of my songs had been downloaded and shared among friends through social media.

Do you feel like there is a lack of brotherhood within the local and independent music community?
The connection within the people. Yes. It is lacking because of the negative values. People do support you, but not forever. People change from fashion to food according to their personal preferences. The community cannot cope up with their interest so they often break up into smaller groups. However, there is a lot of bias in favour of helping others throughout the music scene. The truth is yet to be told. Someday.

You have collaborated with quite a number of rappers from the East and West Malaysia. What was your first memory of hip-hop?
I fall in love with hip hop music from Dr Dre’s work in Eminem’s songs since I bought the cassettes. Later on, from Sarawak itself, when I get to know some rappers and get into their community. I had so much fun knowing their music movement and get to collaborate on some songs with them.

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To date, who did you work with the most and what is the most challenging collaboration – with who/what song?
I think to work with Paulo Santos a singer from Brazil. I had to learn some Portuguese to communicate with him and his producer. We swap files through emails and WhatsApp as usually but this time, in Brazilian Portuguese! Even foreign language can’t stop me from collaborating with anyone! There are 5 songs altogether in Portuguese. You can check them out here.

Who do you really want to work with; producer and/or artist?
I wish to work with anyone from Interscope Records, like RedOne, Zedd, The Chainsmokers, or anyone from Malaysia as well. Not just big names, but the local artist as well!

What is something you have been trying to do differently as a beat maker/producer so far?
I am trying to create a Sarawak’s style beat, as a genre originally created by me. Well, you can listen to Cantik or Local Girls to get the idea.

You were quiet for a year or two. I assume you were working on something different, something new. Mind sharing?
I isolated myself from everyone for the past 2 years and was heavily involved with church activities. The politic in the local music scene was getting a bit too much for me to handle. I went through depression, I was not getting much from my career, my songs were rejected for many times, and the local music community neglected me for being different, for looking too far ahead. I was criticised for suggesting the copyrighting of music, for collaborating with more artist from West Malaysia than the East and for focusing too much on the hip hop genre. What they do not know is, I was doing all sorts of genres, and even producing songs for Melissa Francis (a famous Iban songstress) and with other Iban bands as well. My music was also tagged as ‘western food’. Once a local producer said to me ‘People don’t eat spaghetti here in Malaysia’. It was because of my ideas of making clubby styles of genres in the Malay language that does not suit the local listeners here in Malaysia.

You had a pretty rocky journey. But the fast-paced music industry always tests the boldest of creatives. What are your music goals?
I wish to develop a dynamic platform for musicians to collaborate, from anywhere to anyone, globally.

While most musicians/producers opt for commercial names, why did you decided not to do the same and use your real name instead?
For me, finding my true identity is important. Attaching music to my name is another thing. I was impressed with so many individuals who have so many stories behind their names, from Isaac Newton, Leonardo Da Vinci, Elvis Presley to Michael Jackson. Being the person behind my own name is like standing up for what I believe in, that is my dream, my passion, the journey within every song I ever created.

Do you have advice for aspiring artists?
The more you are struggling, the more success you will find, later. Dream big and work hard!
“Cantik” OUT NOW
iTunes: https://goo.gl/p33hWI
Apple Music: https://goo.gl/OFvDvg
Spotify: https://goo.gl/hTzBbE
Google Play: https://goo.gl/H35sLJ
Amazon: https://goo.gl/ACzObV
Deezer: https://goo.gl/5vZyJ4
Tidal: https://goo.gl/nZbrkx
Microsoft Groove: https://goo.gl/II7UKW
BandCamp: https://goo.gl/UWpYRA
YouTube: https://goo.gl/U5h9LL
Website: https://goo.gl/Q9QczA

Follow Galvin Patrick:
Facebook: https://goo.gl/EMmcMj
Twitter: https://goo.gl/bgQzmZ
Instagram: https://goo.gl/Kn9J6W
Spotify: https://goo.gl/Tfeuyi
Email: gmvinster@gmail.com