PHOTOGRAPHY WHICH HAD BEGUN AS A HOBBY HAD GROWN TO BECOME MY PASSION.

RAZIN ABD RAHMAN
OWNER OF PIXEL GALLERY, A PRODUCTION COMPANY SPECIALISING IN PHOTOGRAPHY, VIDEOGRAPHY AND GRAPHIC DESIGN

The buzzword today is ‘second skilling’. But photography is actually my ‘third skill’. I graduated with a degree in Business Information Technology (IT) and very naturally, the first few years of my work-life were spent in IT-related fields, first as a programmer and then as a systems engineer. Mid-way through my third job, the statutory board that I was working for, underwent reorganisation, and I took the opportunity to move away from IT into a community work related vocation. I picked up the new skills required for the vocation, eventually rising up to become an operations manager in my fourth job, also in a statutory board.

It took a lot of courage for me to leave my job as an operations manager at a statutory board to start my own photography business. I was after all leaving behind a supposedly ‘iron ricebowl’ for something that had few guarantees.

Photography which had begun as a hobby had grown to become my passion. I had been taking on freelance assignments in my free time for several years. There were more requests for my services than I had the time for. I was confident in my own skills and networks, and was seriously contemplating a third switch.

But it took me awhile to decide. I put off my plans once in 2009 because of the global financial crisis. But eventually in 2012, with the support of my wife and family, I decided I should give it a shot. I joined up with two other friends who were incidentally, also making career switches themselves, to start the company.

There were many struggles early on. You may be able to do photography well, but can you run the business of photography well? There are so many hidden costs. How do you price yourself appropriately? There are no manuals to teach you how to run a business well. A lot of it is trial and error. And of course, you do not know how much income you are going make each month, so the worry is always there.

But I have no regrets, because I think I have become a happier person, doing what I love. I am a more positive worker. I wake up every day feeling excited about going to work.

My first contact with NTUC’s PME Unit was at a dialogue session organised by NTUC together with the Professional Photographers Association of Singapore. When the Personal Data Protection Act was first announced, there were concerns by many photographers on how the Act would affect their business. The dialogue session with the relevant government bodies helped me to better understand the Act and allowed the authorities to better understand the concerns of photographers.

Since then, I have attended a few events organised by NTUC’s PME Unit and I find their presence reassuring for a freelance professional like myself. It is good to know that there is an avenue we can turn to for things like legal advice. Younger freelance professionals in the same industry see me as sort of a mentor because I have been in it for a few years now. I will encourage them to become a union member with NTUC. Through my social circles, I have become an advocate for NTUC.

This story is a part of the PME Conversation book,  brought to you courtesy of UP for PME.