Member of the Month May 2014: Johnson Wee

by Hillary Becker

May 20, 2014 — Johnson Wee definitely took this year’s 16x20 Print, Album and Filmmaking Competition by storm: With two 3rd place finishes, 1st place for Engagement, 1st place for Bride or Groom Alone: Non-Wedding Day (which, by the way, earned a perfect score amongst judges), and 20 prints placing a score higher than 80, Wee unarguably had a great year. 

What many don’t know, however, is that until a few years ago, the Malaysia-based photographer had never actually picked up a camera.

Johnson Wee, courtesy of Destino Bridal Gallery

In 2010 at the recommendation of a family friend, Wee took a job as a photography assistant. While his family used to own a photo studio—his grandfather, granduncle and uncle were all photographers—Johnson went out with no formal training and let his genes handle the rest. “Obviously after that, I did not [do] so well with my grades,” Wee admits (he was still in college at the time). After a year of assisting, Wee joined his current studio, Destino Bridal Gallery, as an associate photographer where he began shooting pre-weddings and engagement sessions. 

Photos © Johnson Wee

During his first year at Destino, Wee entered WPPI’s First and Second Half Competitions—his first attempt falling short with only one accolade. The experience pushed him to start joining workshops and seminars to improve his craft and realize the mistakes he had made: “[I still remember] my first workshop with Ryan Schembri—Ryan was the one who inspired me and taught me the essential principles in wedding photography,” Wee says. The photographer also took advantage of the Ice Society and online videos from Jerry Ghionis, where he started to learn the importance of lighting and posing, not just Photoshop. After a short break to refine his work, Wee entered the 16x20 Print Competition in 2013. 

Looking at his photographs, you can tell he brings in elements from fashion and the red carpet, naming Oscar de la Renta and Zac Posen as a couple of his inspirations. “Gowns and props are an essential part of my work, and I also help my brides pick the right gowns for the right locations,” Wee says. He also pulls in lighting elements from Hollywood movies like those by Baz Luhrmann and Martin Scorsese: “While watching them, I visualize how my bride [would] be if [she] were in the movie.”

Now despite his booked schedule, traveling the world to shoot pre-weddings, features in Master Photographers magazine and workshops around Asia, Wee’s philosophy for a great picture has remained married to his principles: “I love my brides in amazing light and beautiful poses, and I transform these moments into art pieces and heirlooms which they can show off in their homes.’”

Thank you Johnson Wee for being such a great inspiration and for all the amazing work you’ve shared with us!

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