Foo Kok Kin and His Achievement In Photography

- The Difference Between Photography Now And Then

We are now living in advanced age of technology, almost anything is accessible, art schools and specialized academy is set up everywhere, catering for all levels of education, and photography classes are available in various categories. Unlike 50 years ago, photography was an expensive education and rare. Foo Kok Kin was born during this difficult era.

Local spectrum of photography is divided into two distinguished eras - 50s and 80s. Before the 80s, one learned photography at school. With the teacher's knowledge limited, compounding the situation was there were no photography clubs or associations for shutterbugs to share their interest and knowledge. The only way to learn professional photography was through apprenticeship in studios. However, these photographers were not keen to recruit trainees.

These photographers were not willing to pass on their skills, as they themselves had difficult masters and experienced numerous obstacles in acquiring the skills, where they learned them from scratch. It was difficult and tormenting experience, not unlike what was portrayed in martial arts movie, where an apprentice was often treated like a servant, tending to arduous task set by the master. Only when the master was pleased would he pass on his skills.

He taught by instructing one to carry out a task, with no questions ask and no theory explanation. Any mistakes made would end in beating and further tormenting. Therefore, an apprentice would have to be patient and be able to tolerate difficult tasks. In order to excel, he might had to seek more than one tutor as his original master was hesitant in teaching the novice everything, fearing he might one day pose a threat.

Moreover, during the 50s, information was rare. Therefore, every success story depended on chances and individual endeavour to seek out resources as well as the willingness to learn. Every lesson is learned through an experience in a real situation.

One success story then may take as long as ten years, which paled in comparison to the increasing rate of photography graduates today. This is the difference that makes learning photography nowadays a much more inviting and fruitful task than before.

Foo Kok Kin's Gallery

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Charter President
Society Of Photographer Malaysia


1966 - Elected Association Member of Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain [A.R.P.S]
1972 - Sole Photo Exhibition by Foo, sponsored by Kheng Chew Hooi Kuan Youth Section, Pulau Pinang
1982 - Champion of National Photography Photo Salon
1983 - Champion of World Ballentine Photo Competition
1984 - Champion of Asian Photographer Photo Competition
1991 - Champion of Asian Muhibah Photography Contest
[PPA, Certified] - Professional Photographers of America Certified
[HON.F.PSS] - Awarded Honorary Fellow of the Photography Society of Singapore
[HON.F.SCC] - Awarded Honorary Fellow of the Siam Color Slide Club
[HON.F.PSM] - Awarded Honorary Fellow of the Photographic Society of Malaysia
[HON.F.PSP] - Awarded Honorary Fellow of the Photographic Society of Penang
[HON.F.KCC] - Awarded Honorary Fellow of the Kedah Camera Club
[HON.F.FIP] - Awarded Honorary Fellow of the Foto Imej Perak
[HON.F.SPM] - Awarded Honorary Fellow of the Society of Photographer Malaysia
[HON.F.SINICA] - Awarded Honorary Fellow of the Han Xing Academy Professional Photography and Mass Communication
[HON.F.SAPS] - Awarded Honorary Fellow of Sabah Art & Photographic Society


Previous service for:
Vice President of Malaysia Photographic Association
President of Perak Photographic Association
President of Asia Photographic Recretion Centre

Foo Say Boon

Back Tracking The Journey Of A Photographer : Foo Kok Kin

If destiny is predetermined, then all the exposure and compromise that one encounters is also a predestined. Foo's father became a stroke victim he was only ten years old, resulting in him becoming the family's sole breadwinner. It was here Foo embarked on his first a step into photography.

Foo's father was a portrait painter since the 40s. He would always travel afar to collect photographs of people who wished to be painted - sometimes going as far as Pulau Pangkok. If there were no photographs, there was no business, so he started providing photography services.

Since the father suffered the stroke, the family survived on the meagre earnings of their mother doing handiwork for others. It was difficult to make ends meet, and Kok Kin's interest in photography wavered. However, as he made it to high school, he decided to join the school's photography club to learn the art, so that he could snap shots with his father's camera and earn extra income. Kok Kin began taking photography for friends and family of his schoolmates, with a roll of 120-film costing RM 0.60 during the 1950s.

So Kok Kin studied and took photos at the same time. His works won him praises and his business slowly expanded.

With the minimal basic skills he learned from his teacher at school, Kok Kin was determined to improve his photography even though information then was scarce.

He had no money to buy additional photography equipment, or build a darkroom, but he was undeterred. He manually developed his own negatives. One day, he was able to afford a small rental space in a coffee shop, where he began developing negatives. It was a modest set-up underneath the stairway of the shop, which had a black interior. All the processes were done manually.

Then, a 120-film consisted of 12 shots, and one could develop up to 4 rolls of negative at one go. He had a record of producing 8 rolls of development at one go.

Two years later, Kok Kin's father recovered and resumed his portrait painting. This time Kok Kin and his brother followed the father around Pulau Pangkok to take photographs. Then photography was not popular, so Kok Kin begun taking shots of the scenery and embarked on his creative interest in photography. He sent these shots as entries in numerous photography exhibitions, winning a silver award in an International Photography Salon in Singapore, and was interviewed by the Nanyang University (Singapore) on this feat. The visiting committees were stunned at the meagre set-up of his darkroom, and were moved by the determination of this young and talented photographer. They encouraged him, and Kok Kin continued to pursue photography with renewed fire and determination.

Spurred by the encouragement of customers, friends, colleagues and kin, Kok Kin set up KOK KIN PHOTO STUDIO in1966, which was officially launched by the then Education Minister Mr. Chang Choo Yun.

The same year, Kok Kin was rewarded with the Title of England Royal Photography (ARPS), a recognition given by photographer around the world. Kok Kin made the country proud being Malaysia's internationally acclaimed photographer.

Kok Kin's life closely traces the growing popularity of Photography in the late 60s.


符国建 回首來時路














同年,符国建考获了许多摄影者梦寐以求的英国皇家摄影荣銜 (ARPS) ,这个銜头对当时的摄影人来说是个绝对崇高的目标,自此奠定他的摄影界地位,成为马来西亚著名海内外摄影家。