Many congratulations to Kalen Sheng whose image “Color of Love” has been awarded Second Prize in the Alverton Penzance “No Label” Open Theme International Photographic Competition. An interesting story lies behind the photograph in terms of its location and the couple featured in the image.
“I’ve been a full time wedding and portrait photographer for about seven years now,” Kalen explains. “Ten years ago I would’ve never thought this was possible, nor would I have even entertained the thought of having a full time career as a photographer. Growing up, I’ve always had a strong interest in arts, anime/manga, photography, but I grew up in an environment (conventional Asian upbringing) where it was never really encouraged. While I got to explore/experiment with photography during college with some classes here and there, as well as working part time at a portrait studio, it never entered my mind that I could (nor should) really pursue it as a life-long career. Eventually I took the safe route and went on to a “normal” working life as a sales rep at 2 different jobs after college. Years went by, one day I woke up in a hotel room on a business trip feeling absolutely miserable, unsure where life was going, and then I just decided right there and then that I’d quit my job and figure out what makes me happy, so I did. I quit my job two months later to take some time off to figure things out.
“The whole time I was away from photography, I couldn’t let it go completely. I’d always think back to that very first wedding I shot on my own on black and white films, how much I enjoyed knitting a story together with images, and how much fun it was going through the contact sheet on a light table with a lupe. But having not picked up a camera for so long after just a relatively short exposure to it, the possibility of becoming a photographer seemed very remote at the time. So I bought my first digital camera (canon 20D) and I travelled for about two months to see if it’ll grow on me again. After I came back from the trip, I decided to give myself two years and see if I could make photography work. I started taking classes again, worked part time under the tutelage of a seasoned wedding/portrait photographer to gain experiences and hone my skills. I started my own brand of photography business, Photo Kronology, in 2010, and then got my first physical studio in 2013.
“While I can appreciate all genres of photography on a visual sense, wedding and portrait was my first choice as a career because I wanted to connect with people on the most basic level that every single person can relate to; love, which I believe to be one of the biggest common denominators in humanity. I find a lot of meaning and pride in being able to translate the love between people into something visually beautiful (or at the very least, interesting) beyond just serving the purpose of documentation. That’s where the creative motivation comes in for me, how I shoot the same thing that other people see differently and give it meaning at the same time. And it’s the same mentality that I approach all photography with. I love travelling, and I love taking travel photos, whether it’d be urban sceneries, street photos, or landscapes. How do I shoot what I see in front of me in a way that’s visually interesting but still retain its emotional significance and integrity. This is not to say that I have a handle on it in every single situation I find myself in, but it’s always the objective, and it’s an evolving work-in-progress that requires constant refinement.
Back story behind the image “Color of Love”:
“The photo was taken during an engagement photo session a few years ago. It was shot at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California, perhaps most recently known to non-locals for being one of the shooting locations in the movie La La Land. The couple were stuck in traffic for a good while on their way to the shoot and showed up later than we planned on, and as a result, we were on a very tight race with time. I only had about maybe less than 40 minutes before sunset, so I ended up rushing through most of the session trying to take advantage of whatever available light we had before the sun went down. Towards the end of the session as we were about to wrap it up, I couldn’t shake this feeling that I still haven’t really done my job yet. Because with every photo session that I do, I’d always want to walk away with at least one signature or epic (or the lack of a better description) image that both the couple and myself can always look at and go “this was all worth it”, and up until that point I just felt like I hadn’t done that. So as we were on our way to the parking lot about to call it a day, just as the sun were barely below the horizon, I saw the gradation of colours in the sky and the contrast it had with the artificial lighting from the elevator. Just on a whim, I thought it’d make an interesting silhouette with the right exposure and a little post-editing, and I got exactly what I wanted. But aside from coming away with that image, the best thing that happened that day was the fact that the bride texted me on the way home, saying that they were ready to hire me as their wedding photographer based on their experience from the engagement session, before they even got to see any of the photos from the shoot. Since that day, I’ve had the good fortune to photograph some of their biggest major life events: wedding, maternity, and most recently, their first official family photo, as they’re now the proud parents of an adorable eight-month old boy. And while we’ve had some really good ones through it all, somehow this is perhaps still my favourite image from all those life events that I’ve had the privilege to be a part of as a photographer.”