February 2019 was set to be my last month to clear my model shootings. I was about to embark on a new journey that would drastically cut my personal photography time.
As nature have a funny way of playing tricks, I received a message on my instagram of a possible collaboration. I looked at her profile, Kisstherainne, her images are of a very young asian chinese model, i put her barely at 23 at most.
*None of the images below are edited except in tonal colors.
When we did the shoot, I only had the film camera with me, so i bought a Porta800 from BBG in Publika, Kuala Lumpur and proceeded to a nearby cafe. Minutes later, a young girl arrived with her friend. She looks exactly like the images on her instagram so I am happy that she is keeping it real.
After a short chat of the expectations (I was shooting film and didn’t want her to be surprised at the grainy results), we begin shooting.
After the shoot, we had a short coffee break where we discussed about when the files will be ready and how would I share the images to her. That is when she dropped the A bomb, she showed me her IC (she probably already knew this was the only way to convince anyone) as Malaysia’s identity card have the date of birth listed as part of its number. The format is YYMMDD-XXXXXX I read the first two digit…87.
I looked at her name card, “Dr.Teh“. It must have taken me around a full minute to process what i have just seen. That youthful looking “23” years old girl, is born in 1987. 1987! that is older than 1991 and 1991 is the milestone age i place on my mind as the year models reach a mature age of freelancing.
During our 2nd collaboration, she explained to me that looking young in fact has been a problem in her career. She started a dental clinic and graduated since 2011 yet sometimes clients would find her advice for advance treatments a bit uneasy due to her youthful looks. She has tried curling her hair, no makeup, sleep late and wearing an old spectacle frame to look older without making much progress. I couldn’t be sure whether she was joking or serious (pun intended).
On the 2nd session, I made it a point to try can capture her youthful looking appearance so I brought along the highest resolution camera I had in my inventory, the 645Z medium format. I felt that this story needs to written, this encounter, after all, I been shooting over 9 years myself and this is the first time my estimation of age is so far from right.
During my conversation with Dr. Teh Jing Ju, I realized this is a very dedicated individual to her work and cared a lot about her clients and employees. “Don’t be fooled by my looks, I am a serious person and my nurses knows I am very strict with working ethics” (I cant recalled the exact words so paraphrasing).
Looking back in the 9 years of shooting, what have photography brought me? Adventures, happiness, heartaches, knowledge, total waste of time? None of those are permanent nor matter, it boils down to whether my photography actually helped others in their lives, whether it’s adding that pinch of joy or crossing path with someone in their own personal journey, I felt that I have played a part, no matter how small and photography is meaningful in that way.
I have shared Dr. Teh’s story to a few of my friends and invited 2 of them in separate sessions to validate for themselves if I am exaggerating. Since no online feeds wanted to pick this story up, I decided to just share it here in my own blog.
Lastly, this blog was written with consent from her, including her age stated, if there is anyone who wanted the world to know that she is older than she looks, thats Dr.Teh. So the next time you are in Sunway, Subang or Puchong area and you needed to do that Dental checkup, you can go see for yourself if what i wrote here are true.