Purchase his prints via Objectifs
Objectifs is pleased to announce that we will be selling prints by 80-year-old Singapore photographer Mr Hor Kwok Kin. Read our interview with him to find out more about his life, his experiences as a photographer and the artists who inspire him!
Mr Hor, could you please tell us more about your childhood?
Mr Hor: I was born in 1939 in Ipoh, in Malaysia. When I was eight years old, my whole family returned to China. We lived in Panyu District, Guangzhou. A year later, my father went back to Ipoh, leaving his wife (my mother) behind with me and my siblings.
How many siblings do you have?
Mr Hor: I have an older sister, two younger brothers, and two younger sisters. My mum decided to return to Ipoh with all my siblings except me. I stayed behind in China to work with my father’s brother on the farm.
How did you return to Southeast Asia?
Mr Hor: In 1957, aged 17, I took a boat to Singapore by myself and then took a train to Ipoh to find my family. But because I couldn’t find work there, I returned to Singapore.
My first job was as a kitchen helper at a Chinese restaurant in Bugis. I worked there for 12 years, from 11am to 2am daily. I washed dishes, swept the floor and prepared ingredients.
How did you first get involved with photography?
Mr Hor: I got interested in photography through a friend from work. I am self-taught. I would look at Chinese language photography books to learn more and sought inspiration from photography magazines from Hong Kong. I earned about $100 each month and my first camera was a Leica M2 with a 50mm lens, which I purchased for $400.
When and where would you usually shoot?
I used to live at the restaurant where I worked. I didn’t have days off, so I could only rest when the restaurant was closed. I would wake up at 5am or 6am daily and go out to shoot before starting work at 11am. I used to tie a string to my ankle and ask my friend to pull it to wake me up!
I would usually shoot around the Bugis area as it was near where I worked.
Did you have a community of photographers?
I joined the Photographic Society of Singapore (PSS) in 1963, the Southeast Asian Photographic Society in 1965 (the annual membership was $24), and the Photo-Art Association of Singapore in the 1980s. I would usually go out to shoot alone, but sometimes joined the societies for shoots on Sundays.
How did you develop your work?
I created my own darkroom in the restaurant’s toilet and would use it when everyone else was asleep.
Have you exhibited your work before?
I exhibited with PSS for their annual International Salon exhibition, and their Southeast Asian biannual exhibition.
Who are some photographers you admire?
I look up to Yip Cheong Fun, Lee Lin, Guang Shan Hai, Lee Wen Zhong and Lee Shao Lin.
What about your life outside of photography during these years?
In 1970, I got married. After working at the Chinese restaurant in Bugis for 12 years, I worked at Bukit Pasoh Da Hua Jiu Jia for five years. In the 1980s to 90s, I started working as a chef at Sing Hai Shan restaurant in Tiong Bahru.
Do you continue to pursue photography?
Yes. The moment I got to know about photography, I just fell in love with it and I have been obsessed with it since. I now shoot with a digital camera: a Canon 6D with a 17-40mm lens. I am now interested in street photography and capturing the moment, inspired by Henri Cartier-Bresson.