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Thread: John Clang Interview - ST Life! 25-06-2007

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    Default John Clang Interview - ST Life! 25-06-2007

    Check out the full page interview with him today in the papers. Interesting read.

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    Default Re: John Clang Interview - ST Life! 25-06-2007

    Interesting...
    Quote Originally Posted by straitstimes.com

    June 25, 2007 the monday interview
    Colour of money
    He may be colour blind, but that didn't stop Singaporean John Clang from becoming a rich and successful photographer in New York. In fact, it helped.
    By Michelle Tay



    SINGAPOREAN photographer John Clang has a birth defect that is also his gift - he is colour blind.
    He can't tell red from green, yet regularly produces photos of such uncommon beauty that they have propelled him to New York where he makes US$700,000 (S$1.08 million) to US$2.4 million a year taking pictures for clients like Godiva, Nike, IBM and Levi's.
    His colour prints have a muted, slightly antique mood where the wash can sometimes look too blue or too magenta, and there is not much contrast between light and dark colours.
    But it was this trait which caught the attention of the New York fashion scene when he moved there in 1999.
    'Everyone liked my colour prints because they looked different, but I couldn't let anyone know I was colour blind,' he reveals at an interview at Royal Copenhagen Tea Lounge in Takashimaya last Thursday.
    He adds: 'I didn't want them to feel stupid because they kept saying they liked my colour, while I didn't even know what colour it was.'
    The 34-year-old Bedok-born boy is arguably Singapore's hottest photographic export ever. But lest you think his success is accidental, Clang will have you know that colour per se does not make or break a picture.
    'I use colour to evoke a mood that is basically very calm and it feels good. The tonality of my prints is always very accurate. That's why I'm extremely good with black and white pictures, which I did a lot of in my early days.'
    Another hallmark is his fetish for capturing a person's back on film. 'It's like I'm a voyeur, looking at them without them knowing I'm looking,' says Clang, adding that, as a child, he tailed attractive girls home just to gain a peek into their daily lives as he was too shy to talk to them.
    Simply put, his images are often simple, sometimes awkward and, like his series of transposed images currently on show at The Substation, make one pause and stare in wonderment.
    It comes as no surprise then that he is represented by Art and Commerce - the dream agency for all photographers, he says - which also represents big names like Annie Leibowitz and Steven Meisel.
    Says Theseus Chan, 45, founder of Work Advertising and Clang's collaborator on Werk, a fashion and graphic design magazine: 'What came through from the beginning was John's uncompromising quality and vision. His success is a by-product of his talent and unyielding character, which are a lot more appreciated in a place like New York.'
    Boy from Bedok

    CLANG is a classic rags-to-riches story.
    Raised in an HDB flat in Bedok, he now owns three apartments in downtown Manhattan, totalling US$3.2 million.
    The Soho loft in which he lives screams minimalist chic. His soon-to-be upstairs neighbour is American hip-hop superstar Kanye West.
    So influential is Clang in the New York fashion and design scene that when West asked for advice on how to furnish his new apartment, their landlord reportedly recommended that West check out Clang's classy pad. Clang ordered him to sack his interior designer and hire one from London. And West did just that.
    But for all his high-living lifestyle, in person Clang is a down-to-earth guy, hardly the reticent or eccentric diva some have made him out to be.
    Dressed in a nondescript grey T-shirt, blue jeans and sneakers, the 'New Yorker' looks more like he belongs in the gritty Bowery than on posh Madison Avenue.
    Throughout the three-hour interview, he is easy-going, gentlemanly, flirtatious and forthcoming with stories.
    With a still-distinct Singaporean accent, he tells you with childlike delight that he relies on his wife Elin so much that he never travels anywhere without her, lets her hold the purse strings and that he does not even know how to write a cheque.
    He says 'bless you' when you sneeze, compliments you on your 'nice shoulders' and readily reveals that he takes on seven or eight commercial projects a year, earning US$100,000 to US$300,000 for each.
    But one thing is for sure: He is cocky. He is not afraid to tell you how good he is at his craft and boasts that he once walked out on an editor of a Singapore arm of a foreign magazine because she disapproved of him shooting for a local fashion title.
    He also takes credit for finding a wife for a close friend. In 2002, he photographed a pal, known as Beon, for Chinese fashion magazine Nu You.
    'Beon is short, ugly and works as a cobbler,' says Clang, who hired Singaporean model Jessie Leong to pose opposite Beon as his girlfriend, making him look like 'a sexy stud'.
    'I projected my own sexiness onto him, and showed how even an ugly man can be charming and make women want him. Not only has he since found a girlfriend, he also just got married last week to a Taiwanese university lecturer.'
    Clang was born Ang Choon Leng. His father serves food at a hawker centre and his mother, now retired, worked in a restaurant as a waitress. His brother Joe, 32, is a primary school teacher. He got his moniker while serving national service, where his name badge read C L Ang.
    People started to call him Clang and it stuck. It 'sounds German', he admits, and helped get him noticed in his early days in the Big Apple.
    He knew he wanted to be a photographer when he was 15 and an above-average student in Anglican High School.
    At 17, he enrolled in a fine art and photography course at Lasalle College of the Arts. To pay the monthly $350 fee, he worked as an odd-job assistant at a wedding studio.
    'Sometimes, I would go without lunch for days. I saved the money to take my girlfriend out.'
    Today, she is his wife. He met Elin, 34, when they were both in Anglican High and they married when they were 23. She works as his full-time print producer and they have no children.
    Clang stayed only six months at Lasalle as he found it slow-going. He became a photographic assistant for Chua Soo Bin, a fine-art photographer who now owns an art gallery featuring contemporary Chinese artists. Later, he joined Willie Tang, whom he calls 'the most famous Singaporean photographer before me', at The Picture Farm.
    In 1994, he set up his first studio, John Clang's Place, in King George's Avenue near Lavender Street and furnished it with furniture that people had discarded. He worked with a $2,000 second-hand Toyo 4.5 camera and a low-powered $200 Bowen 200D light.
    His first break was a commercial shoot for Singapore Airlines and, after that, jobs poured in from fashion magazines and commercial clients.
    But Clang, being embarrassed of his minimal resources, was reluctant to let anyone see his set: 'I had to mark the floor with lots of masking tape and shift the light around, double-exposing the film. If they still insisted on seeing the set, I would open all the windows to let the light in and say, 'This shoot doesn't require any additional light, we'll use the sunlight'.'
    He admits that he wanted people to think he was wealthy: 'I did not come from a rich family. That was my insecurity and why I had to build a facade. When I made my first pile at 23, I rented a condo in Paterson Road in the heart of town. I wanted to be a part of that elite society and understand what it felt like to live rich, even though I was not.'
    In building the impression that he was 'a great artist who needed to work alone in his space', he also gained a reputation for being a prima donna. And that, in the world of fashion and celebrity, makes one even more sought after.
    As he puts it: 'I was the hot new young photographer who wouldn't let anyone near my studio.'

    .......
    Sony Alpha 700 hobbyist

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    Default Re: John Clang Interview - ST Life! 25-06-2007

    continue
    ......
    Cantopop fan

    CLANG is certain he will never move back to Singapore as he thinks the photography scene here is too small for him.
    'But I'll always be a Singaporean,' he says, adding the 'embarrassing' tidbit that his taste in music is 'horrible, worse than my (sense of) colour' because he listens only to Cantopop.
    He calls his family, now living in a flat in Sembawang, often and stays with his in-laws in Toa Payoh whenever he and Elin come home.
    Despite working with famous models such as Sophie Dahl and Anouck Lepere, and R&B group Destiny's Child, he remains completely unfazed by fame.
    He may shoot beautiful pictures for a living but he much prefers to focus on his personal work.
    Asked how he would like to be remembered, he replies: 'A great photographer. I understand fashion but I don't like being a fashion photographer because it's not me. I'm much more than that.'
    He says he reached the peak of his success two years ago, and attributes this to a newfound maturity and understanding of his unique identity as a photographer - he calls this 'sensibility'.
    He has also mellowed considerably, and is less idealistic than in his younger days. 'In the past, it was my way or the highway. Now, I'm more accommodating. If I can give you 200 per cent of what you want, I'll take the job because I know you'll be happy and I like to see a happy client.'
    Truth be told, Clang is a study in contrasts. He is at once down to earth yet acutely aware of his millionaire status, flying first class whenever he travels.
    He seems like an eager teenager but indulges in less-frenetic pastimes, like cooping up at home for a quiet Saturday night and collecting exquisite watches from F.P. Journe and Philippe Dufour.
    But he is practical about retirement and takes his wealth in his stride. 'In 10 years, I might stop whatever I'm doing and be a full-time fine artist and that won't be lucrative,' he says.
    And, of course, he is a smooth operator.
    As we stand up to air-kiss goodbye, Clang tells me to turn around so he can see my back. I half-expect him to pick up a camera and shoot.
    But he says simply: 'Nice.'
    michtay@sph.com.sg
    Clang: A White Book is on show at The Substation, 45 Armenian Street till July 6. Series to look out for include Beijing NYC, 5 Minute Soul and NYC 64.1�n 21.9�w.



    'I can't do saucy images of women. The women in my images always look like my muses or my lovers. You feel like you can talk to them and you know for sure they will not disappoint you in bed, period'
    On his weakness in photography. His ads for Godiva chocolate feature supermodel Sophie Dahl



    'To photograph something beautiful is easy, but to photograph something that makes me understand more about myself and intrigues me emotionally is more important. Whether it intrigues others is not my priority'
    On not responding to critics who pan his work because they don't understand it. His shoot for Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer is pictured above
    Flashback
    'Back then, I hid a lot of things. But by being honest about things now, it gives the younger generation of photographers a perspective on what's going on in real life. By sharing this information, you can make your own judgment about what you want to do. My life is such, there's nothing to hide'
    Clang (with his wife and, right, as a child) on opening up to the public about his craft and life
    Sony Alpha 700 hobbyist

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    Default Re: John Clang Interview - ST Life! 25-06-2007

    John CLAng's an inspiration.
    You'll Never Walk Alone! - i have the best job in the world!

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    Default Re: John Clang Interview - ST Life! 25-06-2007

    He's talented and all i have an immense respect for him and his work but i don't like how the article was written. Esp with the reporter highlighting how much the man earns and his expensive hobbies. Have to wonder if the reporter was trying to promote materialism or report on the man's success... because it felt more like promoting materialism.

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    Default Re: John Clang Interview - ST Life! 25-06-2007

    Quote Originally Posted by garou12 View Post
    He's talented and all i have an immense respect for him and his work but i don't like how the article was written. Esp with the reporter highlighting how much the man earns and his expensive hobbies. Have to wonder if the reporter was trying to promote materialism or report on the man's success... because it felt more like promoting materialism.
    I thnk maybe he rubbed the journalist the wrong way.. Ego is another word used to describe him
    陳綺貞 2010 [夏季練習曲] 巡迴演唱會 Cheer Concert 13 Nov 2010 MAX Pavilion@Singapore Expo

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    Smile Re: John Clang Interview - ST Life! 25-06-2007

    i think the final bit of the interview might give a clue as to how the reporter felt. anyway, it is my observation.

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    Default Re: John Clang Interview - ST Life! 25-06-2007

    Quote Originally Posted by garou12 View Post
    He's talented and all i have an immense respect for him and his work but i don't like how the article was written. Esp with the reporter highlighting how much the man earns and his expensive hobbies. Have to wonder if the reporter was trying to promote materialism or report on the man's success... because it felt more like promoting materialism.
    Success is materialism to many. Maybe success means happiness to some, but the vast majority of people wouldn't call someone who earns 10,000 a year successful even if he were the happiest man alive. The key to good journalism is relating the article to the reader's beliefs and notions, and nothing spells success to the largest audience like multi-million dollar flats in Manhattan.

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    Default Re: John Clang Interview - ST Life! 25-06-2007

    Quote Originally Posted by reachme2003 View Post
    i think the final bit of the interview might give a clue as to how the reporter felt. anyway, it is my observation.
    maybe she sad that he decide her back not worth shooting. hell hath no fury...

    hehe joking only

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    Default Re: John Clang Interview - ST Life! 25-06-2007

    Quote Originally Posted by jmmtn4aj View Post
    Success is materialism to many. Maybe success means happiness to some, but the vast majority of people wouldn't call someone who earns 10,000 a year successful even if he were the happiest man alive. The key to good journalism is relating the article to the reader's beliefs and notions, and nothing spells success to the largest audience like multi-million dollar flats in Manhattan.
    That maybe but her choice to emphasize his material success instead of his professional success is disturbing to me. It sends the wrong message be it intentional or not.

  11. #11

    Default Re: John Clang Interview - ST Life! 25-06-2007

    ST and TNP ALWAYS emphasize the material angle. Hardly ever anything else.

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    Default Re: John Clang Interview - ST Life! 25-06-2007

    Quote Originally Posted by swampthing View Post
    ST and TNP ALWAYS emphasize the material angle. Hardly ever anything else.
    o ok i've stopped reading the ST a long time ago so i didn't notice. thanks for pointing that out.

  13. #13

    Default Re: John Clang Interview - ST Life! 25-06-2007

    Me too. I read mainly New York Times/Guardian online. Far superior. Local news I just read Today since it's free.

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    Default Re: John Clang Interview - ST Life! 25-06-2007

    Quote Originally Posted by swampthing View Post
    ST and TNP ALWAYS emphasize the material angle. Hardly ever anything else.
    Perhaps because one of their main goals is to make a big proft by having more advertisements then news, and therefore the news inside must also feed the 'hunger' for materials, in order to 'justify' the ads.....

    The best news they have is mostly those that they buy from other newsagencies.....

    HS

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    Default Re: John Clang Interview - ST Life! 25-06-2007

    Quote Originally Posted by garou12 View Post
    That maybe but her choice to emphasize his material success instead of his professional success is disturbing to me. It sends the wrong message be it intentional or not.
    I have my personal thought on this which I think is interesting to share :-)
    The interviewer is a young, beautiful and intelligent lady who is not familiar with my work or art in general. She is no art critic or writer.
    I'm fully aware that she is interested in my rags to riches story when I was asked about my income and my properties in NYC. Knowing that I have every right to reject those questions and focus on my art, I decided to go along and let my life be an open book for whatever she is interested to know.
    Basically, I'm new to her as I 'm new to many other Singaporean.
    Personally, I want to raise the awareness of contemporary photography in Singapore.
    I allow myself to be the poster boy and be represented in any way the media wants as long it helps to spike the interest of the mass public, not just the niche group.
    I do know all these unnecssary attention do nothing to my art career and can be damaging in some way too. But from the beginning, I know the main reason for me to have my exhibition in Singapore. It is to raise the awareness of contemporary photography in Singapore.
    To do that, I strongly feel that I have to engage the mass audience who are non photographers as well.
    This will be very useful to the generation after me who may be interested to pursue this route.
    My life, my experience and my work will be a source of inspiration to these people.
    For a young country like Singapore, public may have to expose to my life and my rags to riches story first. And then, hopefully, they get to see my work and be expose to that eventually. This is my aim and my sincere effort to contribute to my country fellow man :-)
    It will be a long journey but I'm confident it will get there. It will be very fulfiling to me mentally ;-)
    Lovesss*Clang

  16. #16

    Default Re: John Clang Interview - ST Life! 25-06-2007

    Hi John,
    Really take your emphasis on contributing something to the local aspiring photograhers seriously. It would be good that you can run some kind of a talk cum workshop. Any plan for this?

  17. #17

    Default Re: John Clang Interview - ST Life! 25-06-2007

    Quote Originally Posted by dDarkroom View Post
    Hi John,
    Really take your emphasis on contributing something to the local aspiring photograhers seriously. It would be good that you can run some kind of a talk cum workshop. Any plan for this?
    I did make myself available in the gallery at certain time for people to ask me questions.
    I think it is more intimate. As for workshop...I prefer more intimate setting but may consider something of this sort in future.
    *Clang

  18. #18

    Default Re: John Clang Interview - ST Life! 25-06-2007

    Quote Originally Posted by johnclang View Post
    I did make myself available in the gallery at certain time for people to ask me questions.
    I think it is more intimate. As for workshop...I prefer more intimate setting but may consider something of this sort in future.
    *Clang
    I agree with the goal that you want to raise more awareness of contemp photog in sg. Its a noble goal shows you want to give back to the community. I'll be by the exhibition on saturday and hope to talk with you if you're there and willing. also its interesting that you mention that the reporter in question is no critic or writer...did you think that she did her proper research before going for the interview?
    Last edited by garou12; 26th June 2007 at 10:08 AM.

  19. #19

    Default Re: John Clang Interview - ST Life! 25-06-2007

    Yes now parents will send their kids to photography classes/schools so that they can make $300k a photograph.

  20. #20

    Default Re: John Clang Interview - ST Life! 25-06-2007

    What is going through the mind of the ST photographer when he has to take a photograph of a renowned photographer? Interesting thought which popped up in my mind.

    for those who don't already know, John Clang's exhibition is on at the substation currently.

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