It is an honour held by only one other Singaporean: Former Straits Times photographer How Hwee Young has been named a jury member for the 2015 edition of the prestigious World Press Photo contest.
Ms How, 36, a photo-journalist with the European Pressphoto Agency (EPA) since 2004,says: "I feel very honoured and humbled to be part of an incredibly accomplished and esteemed group of colleagues and peers in the industry."
This year's jury will be chaired by Michele McNally, the director of photography and assistant managing editor at The New York Times. Other jury members include accomplished photographers Donald Weber and Bob Martin.
The only other Singaporean to have been a jury member was Mr Wee Beng Huat, the then group picture editor of The Straits Times, in 1985.
Ms How has been based in Beijing as chief photographer of EPA for the China region since August - a job which sees her manage a team of staff photographers and stringers to cover news and feature assignments.
The Nanyang Technological University accountancy graduate says: "It is a very interesting time to document the country as it is constantly evolving, both politically and economically, while its people are just beginning to come to grips with its new global status."
Big events in Asia that Ms How has covered include the 2013 Lushan earthquake, the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and, earlier in her career, the 2004 Asian tsunami (in Thailand).
She notes: "The camera serves as a shield when covering scenes of disasters and distress, which happen very often in this job. And I don't relish these moments."
The self-professed "shy person" adds: "The camera acts as a conduit between my subjects and me and creates opportunities for me to understand them better."
As for that accountancy degree, she reveals that when she left university she joined Ernst and Young as a junior auditor. But after six months she realised she wanted to be a photographer. The Straits Times was the first to offer her a photography job, and she stayed 31/2 years. She notes: "Working in a newspaper requires one to be proficient in all genres of photography, be it documentary, portraiture, fashion or sports."
The eldest daughter of a retiree father and accountant mother then joined EPA to cover Singapore and South-east Asia in 2004. The agency had started its global operations a year earlier.
In 2010, Ms How took her career up a notch and moved to China to work in the Beijing bureau. She returned to Singapore in September 2013 before moving back to China about a year later to be chief photographer for the China region.
The soft-spoken Ms How busies herself with the daily operations of the bureau and working on long-term projects, such as covering the displacement of migrant villagers.
She also enjoys working on projects about remarkable individuals like disabled former Singapore shooter Aishah Samad and Chinese calligraphy artist Xi Fu.
She says: "These are inspirational and uplifting stories I love documenting and sharing - a reminder of the beauty of the human spirit and what pure determination and positivity can do."
Ms How will speak at a panel discussion on the role of photography in contemporary reporting today, together with other photographers.
This article was first published on January 10, 2015.
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