Chow's calm behind the lens

We're all familiar with the Chow Yun Fat in front of the camera. But the internationally-acclaimed movie star's real passion lies behind it.

In black and white photography.

The Hong Kong actor was in town last Saturday to help launch the new Louis Vuitton Maison.

Chow, 56, had previously released a black and white photo collection entitled Moving Pictures, published by Louis Vuitton.

The photographs included still shots from the sets of his movies such as Pirates Of The Caribbean and Curse Of The Golden Flower.

Chow revealed in a group interview that his interest in photography had been sparked while filming the 2000 martial arts movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

He told The New Paper in Mandarin: "Someone had to teach me (how to handle the camera) at first...it was inconvenient, but very fun," he recalled.

"After taking the pictures, I would go home, wash and develop the film."

Chow's Singaporean wife of 24 years, Jasmine, was also at the interview, but remained silent throughout.

Nevertheless, he has referred to her in the past as a great stabilising influence in his life. Though she does not often follow him to his photo shoots , Chow cherishes her input.

He said: "She will critique my photographs and if she dislikes them, I will have to reshoot."

The fengshui in Singapore is one thing Chow admires, calling it "impressive".

The veteran actor revealed he had previously visited Singapore for photographic purposes, focusing on the "island" concept also championed by Louis Vuitton for the local Maison.

"I shot a picture at Bugis Junction at night, at the busy traffic junction outside...I found that all the pedestrians would gather on one side while waiting to cross, like that side represented a refuge of sorts."

Chow also sees a connection between his day job of movie-making and his hobby.

"I try to use my vision to make pictures tell a story all by themselves.

"Still shots are difficult because there is no introduction, music or speech.

"Landscape pictures are particularly challenging. If you photograph someone, it's relatively simple - the person will have their own story to tell. If you shoot a landscape (picture), it must be relevant and emotionally meaningful for the viewer."

But Chow's hobby has also given him a calm outlook in life.

When asked how photography has influenced him, he said: "I speak less!"

Chow added: "In nature, there are the sounds of wildlife and rivers all around. But in autumn or winter, there is no sound...everything is magnified.

"When I walk through the winter landscape, I feel more comfortable, more relaxed. I have a greater sense of clarity."

Chow feels that no particular moment in photography stands. Rather, every moment is special to him.

"Every sunrise, every sunset...the most beautiful photographs have to be seen with your eyes." As if to illustrate his point, Chow borrowed a digital camera from one of the photographers at the conference.

Asking all the media to flash their pearly whites, Chow used its panoramic function to slowly fashion a wide shot of the group of journalists and reporters who were happy to oblige. Then he viewed his handiwork and gave his verdict - "Beautiful!"

ggerald@sph.com.sg

This article was first published in The New Paper.