Learning “Shooting From the Heart” with Tay Kay Chin

There is a personal mantra, my personal philosophy that I set for myself, it’s about lifelong continuous learning, a field of personal development, growth and expansion that I strongly believe in. Quoting from the great Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955) Physicist & Nobel Laureate

Learning is not a product of schooling but the lifelong attempt to acquire it” 

The art of learning is applied to my photography too, while I have been shooting many years since my film days when I was a young kid to the digital era today, there are still many skills, knowledge, experiences that I have not reached or learned yet. Learning from great photography masters is one of the methods that a photographer can seek to learn from and improve.

Photograph courtesy of Singtel & Ogilvy Public Relations

Singtel organised a sharing session “Shooting From the Heart” with Tay Kay Chin, a renowned documentary photographer, in conjunction with the the launch of the photography contest “Home Without Walls” campaign. This campaign is about inspiring Singaporeans to use the power of photography, to create powerful, real and meaningful connections with the people that matters most to them, the aim to create homes with no communication barriers, straight from the heart, both online and offline. More details on Singtel “Home Without Walls” photography contest can be found here.

During the sharing session, I was back to be a student in learning photography, it was a very insightful, meaningful and inspiring sharing by Kay Chin, where his photographs speak enormous volume about his style, ideologies, perspective, love for photography, capturing the moments, the essence of “Home Without Walls”.

Photograph courtesy of Singtel & Ogilvy Public Relations

Here’s some of the tips shared by Kay Chin during his sharing session

(1) “… The most ordinary things are the things that we always take for granted …” By Tay Kay Chin

This hit me very deeply, this applies to us everyday, every step of the way, in our life journey from young to old. We only start to miss the things/stuff/buildings/culture once it is on its way out / disappear from our life, then we start to complain about the demise and loss, yet we never fail to appreciate its presence, history, heritage, culture when it was still there.

Kay Chin’s masterpieces of photographing Singapore as his home when he was moving away to Missouri, thinking that he will not be back, venturing into the heartlands of Singapore to take photos of people and surroundings, that he wanted to keep as memories. Kay Chin’s masterpieces collection titled “Panoramic Singapore” were to him the most ordinary things we take for granted.

(2) “… Taking photographs of my family has proven to be the most difficult thing …” By Tay Kay Chin

I asked myself, how difficult can it be taking photographs of your own family ? Yes and No, it can be difficult if family ties are strained and not in harmony, a challenge that might not be easy to overcome. It could also be sticky situations such as sickness or accidents that had happened and how would you go about covering and photographing it ?

During Kay Chin’s sharing, there were some photographs and sharing that were very personal to the master photographer himself, that I also asked myself how to overcome it too. It’s about dealing with bereavement, photographing and documenting the final days/moments of someone on Earth, this leads me to remembering being asked by my Dad to take photographs at one of my Uncle’s funeral a few years back. I just can’t do it and I refused to do it, simply because I can’t overcome this first big major obstacle and the emotions inside me at that time. From Kay Chin’s sharing and my own personal experience, it dawned upon me the point that taking photographs of family, can be one of the most difficult thing (if not the most difficult thing).

From Kay Chin’s sharing, taking photographs of family members requires learning how to be objective behind the lens and trying not to be too intrusive. No amount of money and commercial value can be placed on family photographs, they are priceless. Photographing family members is simply Shooting From The Heart, as the sharing session suggests, it’s the genuine desire to capture moments and stories of your family members, passing it down to your younger and future generations and beyond.

After reading fellow photographer Andy Lee (of Sengkangbabies) post on Kay Chin’s sharing, I missed out on another story shared by Kay Chin, photographing and documenting the final days/months of his nephew with his terminally-ill dad together in outings and activities, we felt the emotions, the sadness, the pain from Kay Chin’s sharing, (it’s heart-wrenching to be honest), the photography and photographs are priceless, it’s very noble, heartwarming and filled with love from his dad to his son, via Kay Chin’s photographs, that in the future when Kay Chin’s nephew is grown up, the photographs taken by Kay Chin will help his nephew remember his father, just exactly what the father wanted.

Kay Chin shared on a point, reminding us not to assume human beings don’t want to remember those sad times, sometimes, human beings wanted it to be documented in their memories, which leads me remembering photographs of funeral procession corteges (from Bukit Brown archives), the funerals of my maternal grandmother, paternal great-grandmother, the sad moments/times are captured down in photographs for their future generations.

This is a reminder to myself, I have not been documenting and capturing many photographs of my family, it’s time to be more pro-active in taking photographs of everybody (as many as possible), from young to old before it becomes from the most difficult thing to impossible thing (when they are no longer around for me to photograph).

(3) “…When I looked at that picture, I wanted to be a father. That to me, is how powerful photography is and it became one of my goal in life – to make people want to do something…” By Tay Kay Chin

One of the most recognisable quote “A picture speaks a thousand words” amplify Kay Chin’s words of sharing, the photograph can be the best motivational tool to getting people into action and doing something that they really wanted to do, from the bottom of their heart, with the use of photography, to help other people out there. Kay Chin’s philosophy in photography is to be close to his heart, shooting from the heart, being original, true to your heart and not following blindly, not copying winning trend styles.

Some wise photography tips from the master photographer Kay Chin himself ~ Honest and Real expression of family / people. In my opinion, that’s a level that all photographers should try to strive and achieve, regardless of the level of expertise and experience that they are in currently.

Photograph courtesy of Singtel & Ogilvy Public Relations

This wonderful inspiring sharing event was conducted with the “Home Without Walls” campaign by Singtel, a photo contest aimed at the professional photography community, with the aim to inspire Singaporeans to make real and meaningful connections with the people who matter, with the aim of creating homes where there are no communication barriers and connect from the heart, both online and offline. I would like to thank Singtel and Ogilvy Public Relations for this invitation, it was indeed an enriching and great learning photography lesson.

Do check out fellow photographers friends sharing on Tay Kay Chin’s “Shooting From The Heart” Sharing

Andy Lee of Sengkangbabies


  1. Thank you for sharing this. Your post together with Andy’s have made me come up from the bed to turn on my computer to read it better at 0220hrs in the night. LOL.

    Taking photographs of the final moments or even of death of someone you know is the most difficult thing to do. I shared on Andy’s post on how I still could not fathom people armed with cameras documenting the whole funeral and even taking portraits of the dead person himself. This I still do not think I am able to do it yet.

  2. Author

    Hi Andy

    Thanks for your sharing, I missed out some points by Kay Chin and read them from your post, added it into my post above! Great post you have there!

  3. Author

    Hi Kelvin

    Thanks for dropping by and reading our posts, at quite a late time at night!

    I agreed with you on taking photographs of the final moments in a person’s life or the bereavement, is a very difficult thing to do. Even for me, I am not too sure whether I am ready yet too.

    Maybe some day, I will be ready to document and photograph such moments.

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