It is going to be a long post… but bear with me as I would like to share this unique experience…

As I read through my daily emails and reply all the enquiries, one email stand out.. CK email me to ask for a possibility to have a session done for his family.

It reads “… indoor photoshoot for my 6 year old son Ryan, my wife and I. Ryan has global developmental delay, cannot sit unsupported, and may have to either lie down, be carried, or propped up.

1. Do you have any experience with such children? If not, are you game to take up this challenge?

2. can you please send me info on your packages? I would like to keep some of the hi-res edited digital images (suitable for enlargement to > 8R)”

My heart sink and I just froze in front of the screen and my eyes are watery… It reminds me of my late mother whose great soul was trap in a body…

I pick up the pieces and decide to do the session for them… As much as I would like to control the release of the high res images, I will make exception.

Here is my email to CK:

“Hi CK,

Thanks for your email and the introduction.

I am happy to do the session for you and offer you the high res images free of charge.

I have not photograph a child with global development delay but my purpose is to preserve memory for people. It means something for me to be able to help you guys with small part of memory preservation for your child. I will do within my capacity to give you the best images that I could produce.

If you insist of paying me for my work, you can take the amount of money that you want to pay and donate it to any charity that you support in exchange.

Let me know when you can do that, I will check my schedule and arrange a suitable time.

Thank you for contacting me.”

So I am glad that CK took the offer and it was a profound experience when they arrived in the studio. However, I treat it is like any other studio session… I learn to formulate what I could photograph through observation and digging out information from clients when we meet. It is the body language, the way people connect, etc gives me the ideas what to capture. So I love to give time to understand the family if I meet them for the first time.

CK told me, Ryan didn’t smile once a shoot that they did some years ago. So I understand where i stand.

To me, Ryan, child being a child, is a cheeky boy who is happy but has a very strong personality… though limited in what he can communicate. The gaze in the eye contact is intense, the smile makes me feels like we are out in the open field, so spacious, so free. These are what touches my heart when I saw him. The connection of the parents with the child is natural and beautiful… it reminds me LOVE is an universal language and connection is how we communicate the Love.

So keep my lighting really simple, something more or less offer flexibility to everyone to move around my studio.

I am surprise that Ryan was rather open with some minor nervousness and I am happy to be able to use my gift to preserve part of their memories for them.

To me, it is a pat on my back knowing I have done well.

To the Songs, here is what CK wrote me on email:

Dear Hart

Thank you very much for doing the shoot for my family yesterday. It was a radical departure from our stereotype of what we thought a studio shoot should be.

In spite of being a pro-bono shoot, there was no sense of rush as you chatted with us and we fed Ryan in your living room. And no, it was not contrived small talk and gossip, but an open sharing of your experiences and the philosophy behind your work. Your words clearly reflected the deep passion that you have for your art, and your conviction to preserve memories. We also noticed you listening intently as we shared our experiences in bringing up and living with Ryan. I feel that the rapport and understanding built through this chit-chat was crucial in the success of the subsequent studio session.

The shoot itself was a whole lot of fun. My wife and I really enjoyed posing with our little prince, and look back in awe at how you managed to adapt to Ryan’s quirks on-the-fly, work around his limitations and capitalize on his idiosyncrasies to produce really beautiful and natural portraits. Without being able to speak or move much on his own, Ryan’s rich facial expressions and piercing gaze are some of the very few insights into his mind.  You have captured the best of Ryan and the innocence of his youth, from the joy of being held and loved, to the bewilderment of being kissed or chastised, to the disgust of doing something that he doesn’t want to do.

We were very surprised to receive the images today, only a day after the shoot. It was an emotional experience to see the beauty and innocence of our little prince frozen in time and captured for eternity. Many years from now, we will look back at these images and smile as the memories of Ryan’s childhood come flooding back. We once again thank you for volunteering to do this shoot.

With warmest regards

CK and PM

Here is something about Ryan:

Our 6 year old son Ryan suffers from Isolated Sulfite Oxidase Deficiency, an extremely rare and eventually fatal metabolic disorder that causes progressive brain damage and severe physical and mental disability. There is no definitive treatment that can stop or reverse the progression of this condition, and we have been advised that most children do not survive past early childhood. In spite of this rather bleak prognosis, my wife and I believe that each day with Ryan is a bonus, and are committed to giving Ryan as normal a childhood and family experience as we can. We do not shy away from exposing Ryan to the world,and we bring him along when we go shopping, watch shows, visit parks, and even on some of our overseas vacations  (So please don’t stare at Ryan if you see him in Parkway Parade, Vivocity or anywhere else…because he gets self conscious too!).  We are fortunate that Ryan is looked after by a dedicated team of doctors and nurses from NUH, and that we have excellent family support.

So I hope this post offer some awareness to Ryan’s condition.


Hart  Tan