Apparently Wesley Kow became a fashion photographer because he lost his first camera. In a long, rambling and detailed explanation the camera loss turns out to have been the reason he was kicked into actually charging for his work, which eventually led  to the world of fashion photography.

Underlying this self-deprecating explanation, however, is the truth of a naturally good eye and artistic talent that began as a hobby and was honed during the completion of a Diploma in Moving Images at Temasek Polytechnic Design School. He’s currently enrolled in a Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing/Management under Murdoch University at Kaplan.

Add to these skills an abiding fascination with people, parties, fashion as self-definition and another odd hobby – performing magic shows – and you have the beginnings of what makes Wesley Kow someone to watch out for in the Singapore fashion industry in 2013.

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The photographer as subject: Wesley Kow

“When I was studying film I got got very exposed to the whole design world; it really got me started on what I wanted to do,” explains Wesley. “After a while I realised that in film you need a lot of people – so I decided to focus on photography; and now I prefer it because it’s easier to start up on your own. Right from the beginning I was thinking of turning it into a freelance job – I always turn my hobbies into jobs,” he says with a grin.

After losing his camera and having to pay for a new one, Wesley started looking for jobs. He got a few “here and there” and started being more exposed to fashion. “Back then I wasn’t really interested in dressing up,” he laughs. This really is funny considering those who know him, know him as very much a young fashionista in development.

He’s been photographed himself by other shooters for his sometimes crazy outfits that can include anything from punk studded boots and belts, to suits, hairpieces and even chrome shin-guards reminiscent of Michael Jackson.

“I’m kind of a ‘fashionista photographer’,” Wesley laughingly admits. “Maybe it’s because I really like acting as well; it’s about being in ‘character’. But also if you’re in the mindset of being a ‘fashionista’ you look at things differently; you see things with a fashion ‘eye’ rather than with a ‘portraiture’ eye.”

“I think fashion is very important, everyone needs to wear clothes, [but] fashion is one way to create a particular identity,” says Wesley. “When I shot my first fashion runway – the Orchard fashion runway in 2010 – I decided then that I would shoot fashion.

“When I shoot fashion, I feel … whoa … it’s an ego-boost, I suppose, it’s about feeling part of the event rather than just watching it. Shooting for the Singapore fashion weeks – AFF (Audi Fashion Festival), Men’s Fashion week, Couture fashion week – has been the most exciting for me. I get dressed up, there’s lots of hype.”

According to Wesley, the fashion industry in Singapore is definitely growing. Even at the tender age of 24, he says he has seen huge changes in the grow of fashion in Singapore.

“There’s also a rise in more local fashion brands, like Depression, previously they didn’t get a lot of attention. Now you can see that there really is [fashion] talent in Singapore. I think Singaporeans are more proud now of local design; they’re not ‘cheap’; they’re affordable. I [also] find that the people supporting Singapore design are the ‘heartlanders’ … they’re more supportive of local stuff.”

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The photographer at work: Wesley Kow on an editorial shoot (above top) and working at a fashion event (above). Image: Nicole Kow

Wesley puts his camera where his heart is too focusing on shooting Singapore fashion events, labels, stars and preferring to work with Asian models. He admits that he’s got a long way to go but has already racked up shoots with former MTV host Utt, emerging Singapore male model Ian Luah and shot all of the major Singapore fashion events.

Heading into 2013 Wesley has plans to broaden his horizon when it comes to regional fashion events, heading to Hong Kong for its fashion week, and possibly to Tokyo and Seoul fashion weeks as well. He also wants to do more editorial work.

“I’ve focused a lot on events for the past few years so I want to focus on doing more editorial work. I’ve never studied photography, so I’m following my own vision of how to do an editorial shoot. I’m not following a mentor for example.”

This lack of education could be seen as a drawback, but actually allows Wesley to come to a typical editorial shoot from a completely new angle. He also says it’s helped that he’s mostly worked with Asian models.

“I had to teach myself how to get the best out of them, since they often don’t have a lot of experience; and also, by mixing it up I don’t stay complacent. Also, why would I want to support westerners when I’m an Asian photographer? If you do that you’re not creating a market for your ‘own people’.”

As for drawbacks, Wesley says there are none when it comes to enjoying the actual work and events but that it’s been difficult to find support in the industry in Singapore.

“The reason I’ve been learning by myself is that it’s been really hard to get anyone to help me so I’d like to see the industry be more ‘helpful’ to each other,” he explains.

“Even if you help someone out, they’re not going to take your jobs – everyone has a different style so there’s room for everyone. If people ask me how I do certain things, I’ll just share my knowledge; it’s not such a big deal to help out. I find this is lacking, especially in more established photographers.

“It’s actually about how the market will grow, if we help each other out and expand the market then there’s more jobs for everyone.”

With such passionate young photographers emerging onto the Singapore fashion scene, one can only hope the prediction comes true.

Wesley Kow shoots under the narcissisthephotographer label. He can be contacted at wesleykow@gmail.com or via mobile 9710 9113. For more information and to see more of Wesley’s work, go to www.facebook.com/narcissisthephotographer.

Check out some examples of Wesley’s photography in the gallery below: