Qiya, 26, and Kuoloon, 30, of local photography and videography studio Kompactfaen have reached out to people from all over the world, from home in Singapore, to the States.

The couple were awarded the New York Rangefinder’s 30 Rising Star in 2018 and also spoke on a panel during the WPPI Conference in Las Vegas earlier this year. We hear from the duo behind the brand about what makes Kompactfaen stand out from among a sea of boutique photography studios here.

POPSPOKEN: How did you get into your current line of work?

For Kuoloon, he has always been into photography since his army days and taking portraits is something he’s really good at – the composition, the emotive side of things and the use of different lighting. As for Qiya, the love for film stemmed from her study of communications both in polytechnic and college.

As our friends were getting married, we realised there was something missing from the wedding photos and films that we see during their wedding ceremonies. As a couple ourselves, we weren’t sure if that was something that we’d want during our wedding day — for the joy to be magnified and have the complicated layers of emotions missing in the documentation of a wedding day and relationship. A lot of things seemed staged as well.

Being pretty unsatisfied at our jobs then, we decided to leave and venture into the wedding photography and videography industry, hoping to bridge a gap between creative works, documenting the rawest of happenings and emotions, and have Singaporeans question what their wedding is really about.

We wanted to provide an avenue and make full use of what we were good at — creating and putting together photos and films — and inject the couple’s real self, real feelings and real reflections into the works that we create. And that the creative works from their wedding process will not just be a recap, but an open door into something deeper within them that they can always revisit and relive.

POPSPOKEN: How does a normal day look like?

We’re pretty lucky in a sense that every day is different. We get to meet different people every single day and go through different shoots and weddings every other weekend.

On weekdays, it’s a lot of planning, marketing and ground work. We try to figure out ways to communicate with our audiences about our idea of documenting wedding and how weddings should each have their own meaning to each pair.

This year, we embarked on the ideology of “delving deeper” where we seek to go beyond the craft. We wanted to go beyond the surface and go down deeper with each pair so that we don’t just cover what’s happening during a wedding, but we make sure that a wedding is meaningful in its own way and we fully capture and encapsulate that into our works.

It’s actually amazing how much you can do with just covering weddings. We’re hence very thankful for this fast paced industry,  that because of how our profession is, we don’t really have a routine, “normal” day.

POPSPOKEN: What are the top 3 apps you use in your creative work?

Inspiration-wise, it’ll be Instagram, YouTube and Tumblr. We use a lot of Instagram, Facebook and Vimeo for showcasing and marketing.

POPSPOKEN: What is the biggest challenge you face as a creative in Singapore?

The biggest challenge will be the lack of support and respect for creative agencies in Singapore.

We find ourselves spending a lot of time trying to get people to understand the works of what goes behind a creative piece then investing the time into the work itself, and we often have to fight for chances to allow ourselves the space to give clients the best we’ve got.

It’s ironic as you’re literally fighting for the chance to work more and to work better for your clients. Because of this lack of respect and support, clients often try to dictate how you shoot a particular photo or footage, without realising the implications it can have on the post-production process and on the work as a whole.

We also find that there’s a lack of support for good creative work – people often are looking for the cheapest option and expect it to be the best. A lot of of costs are not obvious, but they are there. It is true that “you get what you pay for” and we feel that the challenge to have people respect and support our work is very prominent here in Singapore.

We also realise that a lot of people in the industry have lost the respect for themselves and their own craft. After a while, people start undercutting each other, settling for lower sums and just putting half-hearted efforts into their work as they no longer see it as their craft but just a job for a sum of money. It’s a ripple effect, and kind of a chicken-and-egg question as to where the respect should start stemming from.

POPSPOKEN: What is your biggest creative pet peeve?

Seeing other people just copying our works — be it a picture, or a type of edit for our films. The most ridiculous ones are to lift off our website, our captions on social media, and using our writing as their own. It’s very disheartening to see as we’re relatively new, just a full year till date.

It’s a thin fine line between copying and taking inspiration and we wish that people were just more aware of that. After all, it’s our heart and soul, it’s our craft. 

It makes us doubt if it’s worth it to put in so much effort into creating something only to have it be stolen and it also makes us wonder if people in this industry are really that creative. But ultimately, we chose to have faith and believe that clients will be able to tell who’s creative and who’s not, and that hard work will always prevail.

POPSPOKEN: Do you have any advice for aspiring creatives?

It’s never going to be easy at the start especially when you’re trying to sell something new — be it a physical work or a concept. The idea of  “new is never popular” spoke to us during our year of setting up Kompactfaen.

People are always going to doubt something that is new, something that is novel and eventually, if you’ve put in 200 percent hard work into what you’ve created, people are going to see that, and gradually appreciate your craft and that’s when you know you’ve successfully done something creative. It’s a long process, and it’s a marathon.

But with that in mind, always make sure that you put in the best efforts so that even when things don’t go the way you want it to, you have the confidence from within that what you’ve created is a good piece of work and you will never lose that confidence and faith in your own craft. Also, from there, be bold and do impractical things.

Creativity doesn’t come to you as you sit there and do nothing. It comes to you when you’re out there in action, when your designing, when you’re writing or when you’re shooting. If you have an idea, no matter how absurd it sounds, go try it out on your own. It may not bring you cash, it may take up some time and money, but just go ahead and execute it.

You’ll gain something out of doing impractical things — you find flaws, you find confidence, you find courage to be different. And that’s when you have the mindset and ability to create.

POPSPOKEN: Where do you go and what do you do for inspiration?

A lot of our inspiration comes from our trips to museums and also, from our travels.

Rembrandt is one of our favourite painters and a lot of times, we find ourselves studying his paintings, trying to understand his mindset behind the imagery that he created.

Many people mention Wes Anderson as their inspiration, but only reference the colours and symmetry of his style. Anderson and Christopher Nolan are a few of our favourite directors but what inspired us most is the deliberation and thoughtfulness in their works.

After all, style isn’t about a look but the way something is done, which also includes looks, clouds and design of a film. The intricacy in their works is something we study and look into for inspiration.

POPSPOKEN: Are there any books or blogs you’d recommend?

Definitely Cereal magazines – we love the way Rosa Park and her team writes, and we do get a lot of inspiration from their writings and ideologies behind travelling. I guess, it also inspired us to question why we rarely do things with a deeper understanding and search for meaning.

Also, The B Magazine as it teaches us a lot about branding and communications.

Books-wise, we love The Power Of Habit by Charles Duhigg and Manage Your Day-To-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus & Sharpen Your Creative Mind by Jocelyn K. Glei and Scott Belsky. This books talks a lot about creative habits and we found it really helpful in helping us manage our zen, attention span and the daily workflow.

POPSPOKEN: Is there anything you want to promote?

On the side of weddings, we hope that more people will be exposed to our message of thinking deeper about the meaning behind a wedding and a marriage and weddings could be a perfect platform to celebrate humanity, sacrifices and forgiveness.

On the note on creative works, we hope that creatives in Singapore get the recognition and respect that they deserve because we really have very talented people among us doing up really good work. Furthermore, we hope that the creative industry as a whole respect the time and effort that everyone has put into their work and not shortchange themselves.

On the topic of learning from our craft, we’re having an upcoming workshop Dimensions 1.0 this September. Over the last year, Kompactfaen has been more than a business to us. It is a garden where ideas grew and flourished. Come and find out more about this delicate balance between art and business!

POPSPOKEN: Where can people find you?

If anyone wants a good overview of our works, you can head down to our Instagram page (@kompactfaen).

For a more detailed idea of what we represent, our thought processes and our works, we can visit our website (www.kompactfaen.com). Most of our films at on Vimeo and YouTube.

POPSPOKEN: How would you like to be remembered?

A pair that’s daring and different, yet sincere.

It’s honestly the most impractical thing to spend so much time on creating and not earning cash but hey, we take pride in our craft and we do hope it’s something that will never change.

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Creatives In The Lion City is a series hosted by Sheryl Teo on Popspoken. Read exclusive interviews with artisan souls in Singapore, as we get behind-the-scenes with the dreamers and doers in various artistic spheres and creative disciplines.

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