Member Spotlight


Member Spotlight - Ronald N. Tan

[ February 16, 2009 ]   Born in 1981 Yangon, Myanmar (Burma), Chinese-Burmese photographer Ronald N. Tan pursued photography autodidactically during summer 2006 emancipating from his well-established, milieu of scholars in medicine. Renouncing his academic lifestyle and future career in pharmacy, Tan is chasing his dreams of being a photographer. Overly-ambitious, goal-oriented, and self-motivated, Tan welcomes 2009 - his third year in professional photography with hope and optimism.

Clients include: Vilain Garcon, Vizeau, DNA, VERTU, AX National,, Vanity Spain, reFRESH, blu,, M-MENSUEL, Horizon Barcelona, Bleu Model Management, City Models SF, Click Models LA, FORD Models SF, LA Models, Next Models LA, Next Models Miami, NTA Life Models, RED Models NYC, Renegade Models NYC, Vision LA, and VUE Model Management.

Why did you pursue photography?
I was "bitten by the shutter bug" when I took an elective in optics at UC Davis around 2002. I was excited because everything about photography from image creation to development process could be mathematically described--it was poetry. It was then. If I see those equations now, I'll probably run away from them screaming at the top of my lungs. I would not know what to do with them. Or I'll look at you as if you're speaking Latin. Photography pursued after me - we were destined to be together. I grew up surrounded by science and intelligentsia. However, genetic inheritance played an interesting trick on me - I inherited a small percentage of my family's smart genes while the majority went to my two younger siblings. Any artistic recessive traits I inherited from my family are being expressed in me. I have "it" and "it" is still developing and being refined.

What do you want your prospective clients to know?
I will go above and beyond to meet and surpass their expectations. If I could teach myself photography and retouching in within a year while refined, there is nothing stopping me from satisfying job prerequisite and parameters. My photographic pedagogy embodies my independent, self-sufficient, and educational approach - another variable in problem solving.

You've photographed many covers and editorials already - published in nationally circulated magazines in Spain, France, Australia, UK, and Germany. What's your favorite project? Do you have any interesting incidents to share?
Spain's "Vanity" magazine ran a 10-page spread on me and my photography back in September 2008 titled, "La Perfecta Imperfeccion." I decided to photograph my muse Justin in the spirit and elegance of the late Herb Ritts. That was my first project involving tasteful rear nudity. Due to my initial discomfort, I sought the wisdom and knowledge from Mr. Brooks Ayola - one of my "unofficial" mentors here in Los Angeles. Paraphrasing his advice: allow your photographer eye to take over and don't think too much! The shoot was informal and quick. Justin took a day off and we rendezvous at El Matador State Beach in Malibu, CA. When the nude segment came, I was prepared. What really got me going was when Justin expressed his trust and confidence in me. I was directing and engaging Justin until the "shot" was captured in about ten minutes. The experience taught me a little about being comfortable in my own skin. I won't hide the fact and will not be shamed in my appreciation towards the elusive beauty in men.

There is a certain nostalgic, melancholic beauty in your work. Can you tell us a about your style and technique?
I consider myself a "photo-painter". I use dodging and burning techniques in post process to achieve the "illustrated" mood to my photographs. My style was my own variant derived from the style of retoucher Amy Dresser.

Ronald, you were born in Rangoon, Burma. How does this heritage influence your work as photographer?
I had a stoic and academic-centric upbringing and taking up photography breaks the mold and reconditioned my mindset to look at things in a different light. My Burmese/Chinese culture is opposite from the open Western culture. Embracing the beauty that is the human body in an open medium is considered taboo. Photography gives me the freedom to embrace the masculine beauty in the fashion-inspired lighting and never producing insipid or declasse images.

After working in this field since 2006 - so really not that long - how do you see your evolution?
I see my evolution as a work-in-progress. I've come a long way since 2006. I have a distinct and recognizable visual style. I've already found my "photographic voice" which has been refined to be fluid and organic.

What's in the future for Ronald N. Tan?
I have a cover and a 10 page spread in Australia's DNA Magazine coming out soon. France's "VERTU" magazine is running a 4-page biographical spread on me. I've got a few dialogues with magazines in Germany. I am submitting to Australia's "AndMen" magazine, a men's high-end fashion magazine with a deadline in summer. Wish me luck!

Last, I want to give thanks to my "unofficial mentors": Brooks Ayola, Jerry Avenaim, Sean Armenta, and Robert Randall. Thank you Katrin Eismann: I learnt Photoshop within a year from your books; I could be your books' poster boy: It works!

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