Translated by WINNIE CHOOI
Sin Chew Daily
PENANG -- 67-year-old Lee You Ji, owner of Alisan Photo Studio at Block J, Rifle Range Flats, has been running the studio before he was married and his eldest son is now 30 years old.
Hailing from the neighbouring state of Kedah, Lee started working in Penang since he was 18. He came to work as an apprentice for the famous Hua Fang Studio after changing several jobs.
Later Lee was promoted as the head assistant, and before Lin Qing Wen became a photojournalist for the now defunct Sin Pin Jit Poh, he was personally coached by Lee in the skills of photo shooting, film developing and photograph printing.
Adapting to changes
During an interview with Sin Chew Daily, Lee said many professional photographers had previously received their training at these photo studios.
Today, most of our reporters and photojournalists have graduated with mass communication degrees. To the surprise of many, these photo studios played the role of vocational schools grooming skilful photojournalists for the newspaper companies back in those days.
In the 1980s, cameras and films were considered luxuries beyond the reach of many. Commanding good shooting techniques and skills, most photographers either worked at photo studios or photography clubs in well-established schools.
Today, anyone in the street could own a digital camera that is way more expensive and sophisticated than the ones used by photojournalists, and often deliver the images in more professional styles too.
Film-cameras have become a thing of the past today; so have the outdated photography studios.
Lee lamented that fewer people would patronise Alisan nowadays, and to keep the business afloat, he has to adapt and switch to selling candies and other sundry goods.
The Hua Fang Photo Studio where Lee used to work was later renamed Ton Yin and relocated to Cintra Street before it was glutted in a fire.
The original site of Hua Fang at the corner of Rope Walk and Chulia Street currently houses the Fuji Image Plaza.
Strategically located near the famous chicken rice stall and the backpackers' hub, the place is a hive of activity from sunrise to sundown.
Hua Fang was one of the three most celebrated photo studios in town, the other two being Chungking and Seow Siong.
During those days, Hua Fang almost monopolised the wedding photo market on the island before any of the modern bridal galleries and studios came into existence.
Having won numerous photography awards, Hua Fang used to be the most fashionable photography studio in town from the 1950s through the 60s. Many renowned artistes from Hong Kong, Taiwan and elsewhere in the country would visit Hua Fang for advertisement and poster shooting when they came to Penang.