Reflections by Shiow Mei, courageous victim of breast cancer and counsellor to fellow survivors)
By chance, I was invited to participate in a photo shooting session.
On the very day, my husband and I turned out at the studio and I rang the doorbell. A middle age gentlemen received us at the doorway and introduced himself as the photographer.
We were led to a sofa and comfortably seated in the studio just like any other studio that you could image. The photographer was sitting in his director chair across the room.
We started off with some light conversation before I know I have already engaged into stories recapturing my encounters and life experience with the life threatening disease.
Through a magical combination of similarities and differences, the photographer open out an unknown which offered us as a couple the opportunity to surface what we have been doing and yet was not talked about.
I received lots of unconditional acceptance of me and my husband as a couple for who we are and the commitment we have put into each other, to provide the quality life which I wish to have. It helped to reconnect our relationship.
This very special photographer possesses qualities of a counsellor. He was like a mirror, reflecting back to me. And the differences allow us as couple to see other options and make choices about who we want to be as a couple. We learn to accept the parts of each other we love and the parts of each other that don’t resonate with us. To me it is a valuable learning experience.
It is true that, by understanding when someone’s life differs from our own, we can learn about ourselves in contrast. That mirror reflection may be hard to take, but a good listener helps us find ways we can change and supports us in that choice.
Many times we say “good friends enrich our lives”. Now I will add another dimension to it. “People who cares to listen and understand enrich our Lives”
Thank you Kelvin and Elaine for the wonderful and memorable photographing session.
Hemka – Sensual Portraits
Getting good pictures of us, now, while we might never look better — and treasure them as keepsake when we grow old. Probably that was the original thought idea. J turns 40 at Christmas, and we are all together turning an important page for the family as for the first time in thirty odd years, we are deciding where we want to live next. So, something simple and great was needed. And I needed a present for our wedding anniversary too. We kissed, then got together some 14 years ago. That day, we realized that we just fit each other neatly. We are one of this couple where the other one is obviously the missing piece. Forever.
So, I went on the internet, “couples pictures Singapore”, and found the “top 10” — like you would do nowadays for anything you want to buy or do, and don’t know where to start. Most sites on the list were offering great shots, where a lot of the essence of the couples seemed to have been captured right by the photographer.
And then I found Kelvin’s website, and I was in a different dimension. That of an artist. It really felt like suddenly, love, energy, beauty of the people I could discover on his website was couple orders of magnitude above and beyond any of the other ones. Simple yet beautiful. Touching but technically perfect. With lights, shadows, smiles. Capturing the curves, the tenderness, the love, of these couples who seemed accomplice on a journey, and that had a stop at the studio of this artist.
But I quickly developed another feeling. In awe with the art, I was feeling we could not be part of it. That we were simply not worthy. I felt like a was trying to find someone to repaint the bathroom ceiling, and I came across Michelangelo on a quattrocento internet. We could not afford it — money wise, and most importantly from a worthiness point of view. The respectful thing was to forget about it.
So, I booked a session with someone else, a nice photographers’ agency, that I had interactions with through the internet too. It was easy enough — they knew what we wanted, and there was a price displayed on the website for the session. And how much they would charge for another person, or a pet.
But I did not want at that time nice family pictures, because when I saw Kelvin’s art, I knew what I wanted — and they said they could do it. Nude photographs of us.
I gave this voucher to her our anniversary date. I was impatient and excited, so did not wait long.
I was nervous to explain the process that led me to suggest we would do these pictures together, “normal” pictures with both of us dressed, but that the session could evolve more towards “boudoir” photography, mostly practiced by women in lingerie. I was extremely anxious about how she would react — I do not think we had ever really talked about such a thing.
But she smiled, and I could see in her eyes that “spark” — there was, right in front of me that night, over champagne, one of the reasons why I love her the way I do. She wanted to try, she could sense the beauty and the togetherness of the act. We talked a bit about it during the dinner, getting the warm feeling it would be a great experience — and a great excuse to buy lingerie at least. We would remember the experience, and we would have the memories. And we were fully confident that we would just consensually go as far the other one would feel comfortable to go. And that regardless of how far we went, we would treasure this.
I told her I would send her some examples of what the studio picked had done in that style of intimate shoot of couples. And, that I would share with her the work of Kelvin, the one website that pushed me to dare offering that present to her — to us. And unsurprisingly, whilst finding the work of the studio we had that voucher with quite pleasant, she had the same vibration I had for Kelvin’s work — how he magnified love, relationship, couple, women. Also, his pregnancy work caught her eye. Exploring his work in the community, in nursing homes, also with cancer survivor, added to the picture of the nice individual he seemed to be. The kind of humble hero we would all dream of being. Kelvin is a league of his own. Checking his website was actually a bit sad, like being in a restaurant where you really like something on the “a la carte” menu, but your wallet or your diet keeps you limits you to the “lunch special”.
I had to do something. And then I dared try to reach out to Kelvin. A “contact me” email on his site — like a message in a bottle. I was ready to stomach a no reply, a rebuff — that it was unaffordable, that we had to wait for months to get a chance to meet him, that he would tell us we were not worth it. But I did not want to digest the regret of having settled for something that was not the real thing without having tried.
And from the first message back it was clear. A great sense of humor (assuming I was not Singaporean because I was trying to apologize for reaching out to me, while locals would just have said “how much????”). A simple and warm welcome into his artistic world — I was proud, glad, humbled at the same time. We would do it with him. Interestingly, not charging more than the regular photographers we had approached — if you needed more proof that talent, passion, love and monetary compensations for all of that are practically unrelated, that is a solid evidence.
We agreed enthusiastically to meet on the Monday 12th of October, in his studio, for the shoot. J would be treated like a queen — with hair do and make up. Elaine would be there too — she shares his life, and his work. We exchanged texts in the next following days, about how far we were ready to go, and if we had any plan in mind. We answered sincerely that we had no clue about that, and truly little ideas about what we wanted to do — which was absolutely fine for Kelvin. We talked about what to bring, what to wear, practical details. But we really started to bond during these conversations. Some things are intangible yet fully real. This simple bond between us felt like one of those. And we also said we would bring J’s cello, which is clearly one of the most sensual musical instruments in the world. So close to womanly curved it inspired this famous art from Man Ray, with a lady whose back bears marks resembling the f-holes. Integral parts of the alchemy the whole instrument resonate beautifully.
The Monday morning was busy. Things to do and prepare for the shoot. What shall we bring? What shall we wear? The nervousness of the preparation was palpable — we were like kids, that would go and face a huge challenge for the first time.
We arrived at the parking lot after lunch. Everything took more time than we would have thought. We texted Kelvin that we would be late, and he said that we should simply take our time. Like good friends do. The building is a modern industrial building, the studio sits on the top floor. Far from view. It’s quite weird to walk through these corridors of sterile, industrial environment with a suitcase, a duffle bag, a costume bag and a cello, looking for a sign on the door. And there it is. Suddenly, we are in a professional photograph studio, in an artist’s den. Whilst walls are neat concrete, Elaine and Kelvin have managed to create a warm a cozy corner, nearly as a watch station over the studio on the other side, minimalist with couple of chairs, pieces of furniture, and the last two rolls of background left. It is clear we are not here for the things, but for the human beings.
The make-up artist is already here, waiting, but there is no rush. We have first to talk about a bit of everything, from the practical details to our family, to why we are here to what Elaine and Kelvin like and do not like in the world they live in. It is clear all along: there is passion and art floating around. Looking at them one thing is obvious too: they have found their missing part in the other.
Tea, coffee, J gets her hair done, and some make up. I even get some make up to reduce the shine of my head. We chat, like old acquaintances, with Elaine and Kelvin. Kelvin is already in his shoot though; you can feel some tension built up. He is going through the stuff we brought. He is impressed by the cello, the more than 100 years of history it carries. He selects the clothes for the shoot — we have been through what we had brought, and told him the reasons, what we liked, the history behind some of the items. He starts to arrange the lights. Make up is done, and we have some snacks. We have been there just two hours maybe… and time is not of essence here, it is experience that counts. It went so quickly, but we talked so much! About what we like about Singapore, about our life experience and the big leap we are making into our future. About Elaine and Kelvin’s life too, and how they see the society they live in — as outcasts at time. A tension which only those who love and live intensely can understand, the difficulty of a love-hate relationship with certain things that only passion fuels.
Kelvin suggests what we should wear as a start. My green Z&V jacket I bought more than 10 years ago; she has a blouse. And we take positions in the light. Kelvin’s voice is dissipating anxiety and empowering us. “You are beautiful! You are natural, you do not need directions”. He is perfect. He is the artist and has his artistic vision meeting who we are. Magnifying our intimacy, not directing a fashion show. We look relaxed, even though we feel tension inside. He does not take many pictures, at the beginning, which I internalize at that moment as a sign he likes what he sees. We are moving through the motion, changing clothes, on the bed, sitting, standing up, on the floor. Each break for a change is an opportunity to pick up the conversation where we left it. It is a flow. A voyage.
And it continues, we do nothing but being natural. Being real.
Very naturally Kelvin invites J to move on, and suggests we go to lingerie shoot. Interestingly we “hide” from view in changing room to swap clothes between the sessions. She comes back, looks gorgeous, and we continue. There is a kind assertiveness in the way Kelvin directs us from now on and invites us to take poses. And I think we need this confidence. It is not anymore anything we’ve experience before. He is here to help reveal our intimacy, bring it to visible life, and we need his help. His invitations are pretty direct and prevent us from thinking too much about it. The session goes, I am now bare chest and J is on a piece of furniture that magnifies her beauty. We are chatting, joking, touching each other, kissing. Like we would do in a moment of intense love and care for each other. There it comes — “can you undress her please”. No time to think — a deep breath, eye contact with J, in which I can read “I’m reasonably emotional but fine”. I struggle to undress her — a new piece of lingerie, and probably some awkward moves too. She is so beautiful. Kelvin invites us to continue, while he takes pictures — many more than while we were standing up in our full clothing. Probably the moment is more intense, more fugacious, and need more care to be captured by the camera. Also, there is more to see — clothes hide a lot of what is underneath. I do my best to act beautifully, graciously, respectfully. I hope this care will be captured by the lens.
Next comes the time for me:
– Can you take your pants off, please?
– Sure, shall I keep my underwear?
Kelvin says, and I can hear he is smiling:
– J is naked, that would not be fair.
So here we are, the two of us. I do not remember exactly how long it lasted. I do not know. It is a beautiful moment. Kelvin asks us to change positions many times, to move around. I think we are probably more than three hours into this, as I realize it feels gradually darker. He moves many times the lights around us, I suppose to reveal and hide the shapes as he sees it with his eyes. I remember a moment of intense intimacy, of anxious love. The remembrance of a first kiss, nearly fifteen years ago, in every caress I make. It makes me think about the writing at the bottom of a cross marking the top of Klein Matterhorn in Switzerland, 3800 meters summit… “mehr mensch sein”. It is perhaps what this nude session is all about: be more human.
And it is over, or so we thought. “We forgot the cello!”, says Kelvin anxiously. So, we go again. I do not remember if I stand naked when she started to play, maybe I had a gown on. What I remember vividly is that the scene is surreal. It is now dark outside so the whole light is Kelvin’s creation. J and her cello, playing sitting on this little white box, against this concrete wall, is for what seems ages, the center of the universe. For a little while — and the time seems to have slowed down all around her — her bow dictates the pace using some insane magic. Nothing on earth matters more than her. Nudity sublimes the relationship between her, the instrument, and the air around her that vibrates to the music. Elaine suggests that I take videos — I am glad she did.
Kelvin is in an intense moment of creation — running like an electron around the nucleus of our atom. It is magic. He asks me to join, and I feel absolutely blessed to be part of this. Sitting awkwardly behind her, revealing my body too. We are one, and we are the world at that moment. “Look at those curves”, Kelvin says, “He is beautiful too”. I did not cry but was overwhelmed.
That was our climax. Elaine asked me very tactfully whether we had enough “intimate pictures”. I spoke for us two saying that we went as far as we could and were over the moon with where they both took us.
It is late already when we leave the studio. All awkwardness of our Covid-style introductions hours before is evaporated, and we leave Elaine and Kelvin after a long, warm hug. That was nothing compared to what they gave us, but the best we could do at that moment. Something really has happened.
I have since thought a lot about concepts that collided in my mind, before and after the shoot. About intimacy, privacy, secrecy, nudity, eroticism, pornography. These are lots of words that are overused today in our society — to the point of losing their meaning. I view intimacy as the highest expression of togetherness. It has multiple level — the couple, the family, different circle of friends shares a form of intimacy. Here, what Kelvin does is revealing the strength of the intimacy between people. Nudity helps, as when clothes are gone, we are altogether strong and vulnerable, and much less capable of lying.
Intensity of the relationship expresses itself in there. Truth is told when bodies are naked.
But talking about how I felt during this photo shoot, just as Montaigne says, “in mine own genuine, simple, and ordinary manner” is important. Doing it in a dignified, respectful manner. I want to be able to share this experience — as I find it incredibly revealing about ourselves and amazingly empowering. It does not mean eventually flashing nude portraits of us to anybody at any time but as a beginning sharing our feelings about a fantastic experience, and what we did that afternoon in Sembawang. And I hope that our friends, and family, would be curious about it, would be happy for us, and above all — will not be judgmental. As Kelvin writes beautifully, I hope “[they] will hold no prejudice, and welcome [us] with the warmth that only genuine friendship brings”.
Needless to say, the pictures are all to die for.
~ Hemka, Singapore, October 2020.
(this is an excerpt of the full review, reproduced with the author’s kind permission)
Georgina Ama – Sensual Portraits
I cannot find the right words to describe my Boudoir photoshoot…. it was simply an experience i would treasure until i turn ‘old and grey’- mind you, im already old and grey at the time of the shoot. Leading to the day of the shoot, i was way nervous, given that i wasnt the most photogenic of person- a hit and miss, when it comes to my photos. And here i am, commisioning the ‘best photographer’ this side of the planet.
Patricia Tan – Sensual Portraits
It was a session that I had booked in mid May. For someone who had ever owned only one set of bikini, it was a big step forward. A boudoir was something that was on my mind for a few months when I chanced upon Kelvin’s Facebook page.
My pre-wedding photographer 13 years ago, Kelvin’s sense of aesthetics and eye for beauty has not changed. If anything, he has brought them to a higher level. What greeted my eyes were works of art.
The images of the soft female body are subtle, delicate and sublime, totally unlike pictures of similar genres that I have seen elsewhere. They speak of a deep appreciation for one of the finest creations in the Universe.
I told myself I wanted someone like that if I ever took such pictures.
A boudoir is nothing like other forms of photography. It’s something that is exciting to do, but could easily make one feel vulnerable at any point. Kelvin had struck me as a humble and phlegmatic person when he took my pre-wedding pictures. It was the very same disposition that put me at ease very quickly at the boudoir session. Elaine, too, has a gift in making people comfortable and uninhibited despite being new and initially nervous to such a shoot.
Kelvin’s creative use of lights and his adventurous exploration of poses and angles never ceases to amaze me. I saw myself in ways I never did.
For the first time in my life, I finally got to appreciate my own body.
I felt like a first-time reader of a Harry Potter book, full of awe and wonder at my own expressions and body I never knew.
A boudoir is an intimate experience with oneself. More than a physical experience, it is an empowerment of the female persona. Like what some say,”Every woman should do a boudoir.” And I concur, after my experience with Kelvin.
Thank you, Kelvin. Like how I had felt about you when I first met you 13 years ago, my verdict remains the same: You are. The best.
Dewi Loho, Entrepreneur, Poet, Traveling Yogi – Sensual Portraits
Some years ago, a few months before I turned 30, I decided to take a photo. Not just a regular beauty photography, I wanted an artistic photo. I wanted to freeze the time and to have something to look at a few decades down the road to remind me of who I was.
So the search for the right photographer began. I was trying to find someone suited for my vision, someone whose portfolio capture my eyes and speak to my heart. And one day he popped out of my computer screen. Simple, plain images that capture every possible human emotions in a play of monochromatic colors.
He was more than just a photographer.
He was an artist.
He was a painter.
He was a poet.
The photos were nudes.
So I thought, I have to meet this person. I wanted to know how he created those images that speak so clearly of love, passion, joy, dream, and melancholy. How can he capture those emotions so clearly? To create a poetry out of monochromatic colored images that really show the character of the object.
My first meeting with him was filled with awkward and quiet moments. He was a very reserved, quiet and shy person. He let his works do the talking for him but somehow, I felt secure. Somehow, I felt that he would be the right person to help me realized my vision.
He said to me “You can’t force a moment. You can’t force a pose. All you can do is speak from the heart and let the moment come to you. Then, sometimes, magic happens”
On the day, I was reluctant. I was a little bit scared. But the moment I stepped into the studio, my mood changed. It could be the lighting. It could be the music, but most importantly it was him. His quiet presence slowly melt the ice as I finally relaxed.
Taking off pieces of the threads covering my skin until there were none.
As I gradually emerged from the comfort of the layering garments, I felt a moment of lightness. Of liberation, of freedom. A comfortable feeling of being in your own skin without having to worry about what other people may think.
At that very moment, there was only me, him and the camera lens capturing every moment.
What I experienced was a mind blowingly fun, carefree and uninhibited session which lasted hours and full of laughters.
What began as a shy smile and awkward moments turned into a transformative session, and what was intended as just a photo session has transformed beyond the ordinary, allowing me to fully expressed the inner feeling and be true to myself. To bare the mask, put forward my best smile, and be the person I never thought I have inside.
Through the images, I saw a person who is so different from the one I know and I am glad that I finally get to meet her.
Sometimes it takes another person’s pair of eyes, and a couple of lenses, to become your own true mirror. To take away the fear, to infuse love, and to allow magic to happen.
After all, freedom comes when you allow yourself to be free.
You owe yourself your own freedom.
Felicia Fenner – Maternity Portraits
It’s been a real pleasure having Kelvin do my maternity photo shoot.
The entire experience has been nothing short of amazing.
The makeup artist he works with is brilliant and very accommodating too.
Kelvin was very professional throughout the shoot, and really took his time so we were very comfortable with each other. And it really shows in the photos.
I had a previous maternity shoot with another studio and despite having a female photographer last time, I felt way more at ease with Kelvin.
Also I wasn’t given any time limit – he keeps his entire day free when you book him for a shoot. And the photos turned out really amazing.
I am so glad I decided to do a maternity shoot with Kelvin this pregnancy despite having doubts because of how my previous one went. He managed to capture the beauty and the memory of this very special period of my life and for that I am so very grateful.
His name isn’t the first one which pops up when one does a google search for maternity photographers which is a shame because more people ought to know about him. He really has a great eye for beauty. Thank you so much for the stunning photos Kelvin.
Delphine Supanya, Entrepreneur, Medical Intuitive – sensual portraits
My photo session with Kelvin and Elaine was the most beautifully empowering session I have ever had. So unexpected and such a memorable experience.
Kelvin and Elaine are such kind people who created a space for me to feel safe to be myself so that I could express myself in the most natural manner.
Kelvin captured such beautiful images of me in so many angles that I did not get to see before (with my own eyes). It is interesting, we really do not know what we look like when we are ourselves.
Through this photoshoot, I got to witness today how beautiful I am and how much I have changed. I got to see what other people see and understand more about myself and how I show up in this world.
Thank you Elaine and Kelvin for this gift. We humans are all Works of Art, within and without. We see this in others but never in ourselves. I recommend such a photo session to anyone who wants to witness and/or remember just how beautiful they are. I will be forever grateful for this experience and cherish it dearly.
Anon – sensual portraits
I am 50 and decided I wanted to do a nude photoshoot to have a time capsule of this milestone jubilee, to capture images of myself physically. Kelvin and his wife Elaine made the entire process an enjoyable experience in itself, in addition to the excellent photos that were the outcome.
Kelvin is a great listener and really wants to know who you are as a person, so that the photos capture an essence and a personality that is you, apart from the physicality. The session was filled with fun and good humour, and was not the least awkward.
I would encourage anyone thinking of an unconventional way to commemorate a milestone, to consider Kelvin and his lovely wife Elaine. It’s not just a business to them, it’s art, in the best possible way.
Julie Kee, Journalist – Personal/Couples’ Portraits
My husband, Alex, and I had never taken proper studio shots before. When we got married in 1993, we were fresh grads in Perth, totally broke and could not afford fancy photoshoots. I recall flipping through a directory of photographers, making a few phone calls and choosing the cheapest one available.
This time, it was different. After I read a notice my friend forwarded, about Kelvin’s offer to shoot for charity, I checked up on Kelvin’s work. His artistic approach was exactly what I was looking for. What made it even easier to decide to take up Kelvin’s offer was knowing that my money would go to a good cause – to help the tsunami victims in Japan.
So one Sunday in December last year, we spent a delightful afternoon with Kelvin. He asked if we wanted to play our favourite tunes to set the mood. So with our favourite romantic tunes playing in the background, we went through several clothing changes over a span of three hours.
Kelvin made us feel comfortable. Throughout the session, we were joking and chatting like old friends, and sharing with him significant bits of our lives.
Ballroom dance is a large part of my life, as is aikido to Alex’s. So we incorporated these two elements to the photoshoot. Kelvin managed to include both formal and casual photos, and even something a little sexy and romantic too!
What resulted from that afternoon is a lovely album, our first professionally compiled one, a beautiful keepsake. It was the perfect way to celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary!