Sunday, June 13, 2010
Once again, I find myself returning to Kuala Lumpur, a city that never really felt like home to me, but for the sake of advancing your career, you have just got to seek out what you've come here for.
You find yourself once again out of your comfort zone. Having no car, you ride public buses that take ages to reach their destination or taxis that slowly drain your wallet. Grocery shopping gets expensive, and the slightly foul odour of supposedly fresh chicken from Carrefour at Tropicana City Mall turns me away. You share a room with a housemate in a very spartan terrace house built in the 70s, where the fan doesn't really cool down your room (you don't use the aircond because it will increase your electricity bill). Hawker food (eg. Cantonese kueh tiaw, hokkien mee) isn't bad if you can find the right stall to be at, but its two times more pricey than kuching hawker food, and you have to wait for ages if the stall is very popular.
Starting out is indeed tough. Facing the possibility of being alienated because of a less than satisfactory portfolio, you end up being treated like a donkey by your employer at the local bridal houses for a meagre salary considering the number of hours you have to put in holding reflectors, arranging cutlery and glasses, and post processing photos 'asian' style. Salary-wise, its a little disconcerting considering that your other housemate who is only a diploma holder is earning 4 grand at a telecommunications company. Freelance jobs are sparse if you're not very well known, even though the quality of work you're producing is on par with the more established companies in the area. Assisting an existing photographer is hard if they're very established and have very high standards. Finding yourself having only 100 acceptable shots out even though you think have 800 useable ones can be very likely if you're at the mercy of a seasoned pro. If you think you're (one of) the best photographer(s) in East Malaysia, you're nothing over here.
Despite of all of this, I feel encouraged to meet many people who've been supportive of my decisions. I've met them over the past week and am glad to renew our friendships and talk things over. Some have managed to find some way into the business, while some are facing tough times.
Its time to eat humble pie and to forgo any fairy tale preconceptions that I've had before about this career. Its a marathon, and I'm going to be in the school of hard knocks for the long haul.
Wish me luck.
Posted by brandon at 11:33 pm