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- Tan Chee Hon
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Tan Chee Hon
Born in Muar, Malaysia, in 1975, Tan Chee Hon graduated from the art school in Kuala Lumpur in 1997 and now teaches visual arts while also working as a painter and photographer. Since 1996 he has been exhibiting in Malaysia, South-East Asia, Japan and China.
His work has not readily found a niche for itself in his home country. His street images remain unacknowledged by the street photography clan, and although his snapshots of Kuala Lumpur were published every week for a year in the daily China Press, he is not considered a photojournalist either. He himself is not desperate to find a label: rather, he is determined to retain his dual status as painter (his initial training) and photographer, a stance that complicates things for the gallerists and exhibition curators who would like to pigeonhole him as one or the other.
His images, he says, are "just snapshots", and he is fond of quoting Jean Baudrillard: "My photos are not thematic: and they are neither very sophisticated nor overly technical." A firm believer in Henri Cartier-Bresson's cherished "decisive moment", Tan Chee Hon also works in the same vein as André Kertész, who used to say he never needed to go further than his front doorstep to find his material. In Tan's case this means Kuala Lumpur. Roving the streets every morning has made him a marvellous chronicler of the city: "I don’t shoot with big topics in mind. I just shoot. And then I classify the photos into different themes. Kuala Lumpur is a strange and funny place. Little 'accidents' happen every day. Things change fairly quickly. If you miss something today, it will be gone by next week. Somehow, I feel called on to document these things. Maybe it’s not very meaningful to people. But it's something that keeps me shooting."
His Nostalgia series was produced using an old Yashica Mat-124G. The lens has fogged, but the focus still works. Mixing several processes, he succeeds in producing unpredictable, flawed images that match his way of seeing, feeling and thinking about his environment.