This post might sound a bit random, very long winded. Hope no one is confused. I just wanted to jot it down like a diary so I could have remembered them before forgotten as time goes by. Now, let's talk about who I am. My name is Milan TEH. Initially, Milan was just a nickname I used in the online world, not knowing I would go into the wedding photography field (if not mistaken, there are 3 bridal shops in West Malaysia starting with the name Milan too, with different bosses). People eventually address me as Milan and I noticed it's much memory friendly to others compared to my real name. I think I could be tagged as a very active amateur musician in Penang few years back, playing the flute for 8 years and learnt by self taught basis majority of time since high school.
Just to share with you a clip I recorded in 2007 by my mobile phone while I was warming up. Please excuse my coconut hair style. Mind you, it's very popular for poor students like me in 2007 :p
It's a little blurry to me, but somewhere in 2006, me and another 4 friends formed a group called "Penang Wind Quintet" to participate in a classical music competition sponsored by HSBC held at KLPAC. We've practiced real hard for months for the preliminary round of the competition and finally shortlisted to the final round. Of course, we joined the competition because we'd like to win but out of our expectation, we have beaten the strongest group of 3 which played really well and most of them are full time musicians that are few years more experienced than many of us in the quintet.
I still remember the feeling when we were called upon as the winner of the competition! I thought the organizers might have announced wrongly but they were not. Man, the heart beat was real fast that time and I just don't know how to explain the mind blowing feel at that instant with words!
Other than the prize and trophy, we are awarded with having a concert of our own at KLPAC fully sponsored by HSBC. Nevertheless, the competition has influenced most of us in the quintet having stronger interests in going deeper towards classical music. For an instance, the result of the competition gave me great confident about being a classical musician as my career. I simply love performing and I felt like I see hope that is awaiting for me to explore.
Then, I set a target that I wanted to study music in National University of Singapore(NUS) which possesses one of the top music conservatory in Asia. Entry to the university needs to undergo a very competitive audition that is open to musicians worldwide. Countries like US, Europe, China etc produce A LOT of music students of professional level yearly and same goes to the people over there who could not get a place in the music school of their country. Therefore, a lot of them would opt for alternatives like NUS.
To prepare myself for the audition, I found myself a professional flute teacher to drill my skills further. On a side note, just to share with everyone the rates a professional classical musician is paid in a professional orchestra. In Malaysia, it would be an up to 5 figures pay monthly in Malaysia Ringgit currency. If it's at western country, where the people there value classical music, it's a 6 figures pay, monthly in Malaysia Ringgit currency. So, parents that are reading this... If your child is gifted, by all means let them learn music as early as you could!
At this time line, I actually just finished my STPM but the government decided not to give me any slot in the local university even that I have chosen some very uncommon courses. One of my eight choices actually consists of a Music degree programme. I don't blame them, this would be due to my result isn't that fantastic. I put many of the time in school band and orchestra I joined and somehow this affected my academic result as I missed class often, eventually lost interest in academic and I find it a little hard to cope.
Therefore while I'm preparing myself for the audition, I can't just live like that by doing nothing other than practicing the flute. I have a girlfriend that time, my first one and spent 5 years together. If you are the girl's parents I'm sure you'd be worried that her other half has no 'paper qualification', don't you? So, I enrolled an ICT course with an Open University in Penang as my backup plan should the NUS audition went hay wire.
At the same time, I worked as a part time tuition tutor for a few months then changed to becoming a computer teacher, teaching children from 5 to 12 years old in a kindergarten and primary school as I could save more money like this - practice, work, study. I were teaching flute too, to 3 students at that time being. Below, some cupcakes received from the parents during teachers day, it's definitely a heart warming gift.
I love to make things beautiful. Always wanted to buy a digital camera during high school days but I couldn't afford it, my drawing skills sucked too. After some time pooling enough of money, I invested in a Nikon D60 with a kit lens on April 2008, shooting my mother's plants most of the time with a +5 macro filter, having photography as a hobby. Sorry for the 'unusual' watermark I had few years back below. I actually afraid that people will steal my image and so all my 2008 photos are imprinted with these marks, flattened, and saved. *slaps on forehead*
Around May 2008, I bumped to a magazine in a bookstore, with a very artistic picture of a bride putting on a red shoe. The photos inside are very attractive, I bought it right away and this is an encounter that change my life ever. After reading, knew that the photo was taken by someone called Louis Pang and this is my first encounter on professional wedding photos. I Googled this guy and I was stunned by all his work. I've never seen photos like that and they are so nice, special and so comfortable to view at!
I almost spent everyday going through his website. Became a HUGE fan of him. I'm so embarrassed to say that I even save down or print screen the photos he put up in the website so that I could view faster without needing to wait for them to load! hehe... Louis's blog also shows that there will be a workshop at June 2008 in Penang, but the cost would be near to the cost of the camera I have just bought. I felt the urge to attend it but heck I'm only 2 months using the DSLR and I couldn't afford the workshop. I said to myself..... next year.
Gladly, Louis is coming to Penang again for a workshop on March 2009. I make myself brave and clear away part of my savings for an investment of good knowledge. My decision has proven me right. I love every bits of the 3 days workshop. I learned A LOT.
Below, this is the only shot I took in Louis's workshop as most of the time I'm observing how he shoots. The shot below was took during the session he challenged us to shoot and he will observe close from us! I'm sure everyone is darn nervous that a master is observing every right and wrong move we make.
Louis is a great teacher and his words are very encouraging, inspiring and some how, he lits the spark in us to achieve in something and believing in ourselves. I have attended a few workshop and seminars Louis organized. I would say that the experience is always pleasing, enjoyable and you will love it.
A note from Louis with his signature, "Milan, Pursue your dream. Never let it go!".
The very first wedding dinner that I have shot in 2008 with a D60 and 50mm f/1.8. I'm shooting with manual focus as D60 has no internal focusing motor drive on the body to use with the lens. The experience shooting this wedding is a little intimidating although I'm just a second shooter, because the limitation of my camera gears, I have only an old flash with manual flash power control and I have totally no idea what to shoot! But, we'll need to start from somewhere...
After some months getting involved with shoots like event, wedding, portrait, together with new friends I made through the internet, I started to like photography very much and I get good compliments on the photos I'm shooting and moreover, I am commissioned on the shoot I do too. I could see a better prospect for my future being a photographer compared to what I was aiming for which is becoming a professional musician.
One day, I started to consult my flute teacher regarding of her view on my future path as a performing musician. She told me that keep playing is good but she does not recommend her students to go professional in this field as job offering is scarce. She said that out of very very good luck, she get this job in an orchestra. Else, she would turn out to be like many professionals out there who graduate from music school but having hard time finding a job. For example in Malaysia, we have Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra(MPO), National Symphonic Orchestra(NSO), and maybe... RTM orchestra that offers job where the full time musicians will get a monthly pay. With no doubt, MPO offers the dream job every Malaysian musician would lust for. But as we could see, 90% or even more musicians in MPO are from foreign country - musicians with very good musical qualifications and virtuosity. If I were to analyze by the number of offering... alright, say, one orchestra would hire 5 flautists. Then, my competition is world wide, that makes a 5 offering over 10th of thousands of musicians? And, I do have another factor to consider, which is whether the musicians already there will be retiring? If not, I'll have to think of my way to survive. I don't really want to teach music as a living, I'd love performing much more.
With all the these concerns, music vs money came into mind. I started began to worry about money since 16, you know, a man's thing... Maybe I pressured myself too early. Remember my quintet friends above? Three of them have successfully got a place to study in NUS, I am extremely happy for them and envious towards them too as they have the determination to pursue what they wanted. Another friend opt for an alternative which is enjoy performing when he has the time while getting himself a good academic degree. After some long considerations, I realized that I like to play music and enjoy listening to good ones, maybe not study it, the history of it or having as a profession. I don't really find my passion on practicing 8 hours a day(yes, it's a daily routine for professional classical musicians), perhaps playing weekly or occasionally with a good tone then I'm happy. I believe I don't have the enthusiasm to pursue music, I don't have what it takes too.
June 2009, my first love broken. Maybe it's due to the heavy pressure I'm facing that moment - working, studying, practicing. Our mindset starts to deviate and love eventually fades. I was really not happy with what I do, not satisfied and tired. After the broke up, I told myself... "Since I'm single and has no commitment, why not have a try on something adventurous? If failed, I could have find other things to do. Nothing to lose and I won't have regrets in my life." So this little inner voice sparks off my will to free myself to be a happy man. I wanted to convert myself to a full time photographer. Yes, from very very less wedding shoot, to a full time photographer that makes a living by shooting. Luckily this is not totally impossible as at my age, I don't have commitments like car installment or mortgage. I don't drink, I don't smoke. I could have saved every cent I earn from being a computer tutor. I told my parents I wanted to quit my studies that I have just been through two semesters with. They were not sure if I'm doing the right thing. I felt that they are worried. But this time, I am firmed, I went to fill in withdrawal form from University.
I think of my change and start planning stuff like name card, meeting vendors and people and looking for a suitable type of blog etc. Coincidentally, my mother saw an advertisement in the newspaper that a local bridal house is hiring an assistant photographer. I was delighted with this as I could have try the kind of life doing this while being paid monthly to see if this is the kind of life I enjoyed. I interviewed, got the job and the boss asks me to shoot after I worked a month there. The experience was good, I learned a lot of things book cannot teach me and I enjoy working with a job that is photography related. However, the working environment is not ideal and I decided to try my luck setting up my own business.
I've got my website up on 1st Jan 2010, registered a business name and start the process of converting myself to a full time photographer with limited savings. I could share with you it's about 2000 Ringgit only. I spent the rest on upgrading gears, buying necessities I needed to run the business etc. Slowly, inquiries came in and I get a bit of job here and there, there are a few months I have no job at all but I am proud to say that I survived 2010! This is possible due to my family members who provides shelter, food for me and not forgetting the moral support. Also, friends that refer clients to me, encouraged me I could make it and helped me when I faced bottle neck. Clients that refer friends to us. Blog readers who share our website with their friends. Without all you, I believe I might be facing financial problem now.
Anyhow, if you see www.milanteh.com is still running, that means I get to eat bread as breakfast, rice for lunch and dinner. :) I would like to thank everyone who helped and supported me directly or indirectly from the bottom of my heart as I'm writing. My life has changed to a new direction, totally. A must thank person would be Louis, if not because of him, I'd be a grumpy computer tutor, doing assignments during weekend and practice my flute one hour a day wishing good things drop from the sky to me. Just at the end of my 22 years old, I am happy that one of my work get international level of recognition which is the accolade of excellence I earned recently in WPPI. Competition is not on the ego part for me, it's a driving power that helps me to keep moving forward and improve in what I do at that particular instant.
Sorry that I have tortured everyone to read such a long post. To balance up, I'm sharing with all of you some of my shots in 2008 shot with an entry level DSLR, Nikon D60. I really love beautiful things. What I shot could attest to that.
This no peeing sign is shot at Pudu bus station at Kuala Lumpur.
My mum's everyday sandals.
You! I thank you for reading until here. Truly appreciate that. I hope that everyone has a healthy and prosperous new year in 2011! See you next year. Now please, leave a comment, so that I know who are the good people that finishes this post with their heart :) . Thank you!