SIBU: Sibu-born Edwin Ong Wee Kee created history when he became the first Malaysian to win the grand prize of the 8th Hamdan International Photography Award (Hipa) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).
The award carried a prize money of US$120,000 (about RM500,000) plus a trophy and a certificate.
The 45-year-old, who operates a traditional Chinese medicine centre here, said he was stunned when he was announced the winner from among dozens of international competitors.
“I’d only thought of getting either the fourth or fifth placing,” the physician told a press conference yesterday morning.
Hipa is an international photography award founded in 2011 under the patronage of Crown Prince of Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan Rashid Mohammed al Maktoum.
The annual total prize money of US$400,000 is the largest monetary prize among the photography awards. The competition is open to all. In its first year (2011-2012), 5,600 photographers from 99 countries entered for the competition.
The second year (2012-2013) saw the participation of 19,000 photographers from 121 countries.
‘HOPE’ was the theme for this year’s contest and the award presentation took place in Dubai on March 13. Ong submitted a single entry capturing the feelings of a Vietnamese mother whose speech disorder did not prevent her from feeling hopeful and evoking a sense of strength for her child.
“The judges said it is the expression and the hope of all mothers to give the best to their children that wins me the award,” Ong said.
He shot the winning photo during his trip to North Vietnam with a group of local photographers on May 26 last year.
“We were parking our car nearby a cultivated farm, and initially, our intention was to shoot a group of farmers tending to their farms.
“However, as we walked along, we saw this woman breastfeeding her child and our tour guide asked for her permission to take photo of her,” he recounted.
A holder of MPSA (Master of Photographic Society of America) since 2018, Ong said he would share some of his prize money with the woman if he ever come across her during his next trip to North Vietnam.
Ong is a late bloomer and his interest in photography only started in 2010. Since then, he has taken part in numerous photography contests organised locally and internationally.
Asked on how he has managed to balance his hobby with his career, Ong said he would leave his medical centre under the care of his wife, who is also a physician, whenever he needs to travel overseas to take pictures.
Ong is a life member of the Photographic Society of Sibu for which he once served as a vice president.
His words of encouragement to photographers: “Always stay positive”.
Ong said he is ever ready to share his photography skills with others, particularly the young ones in the photography fraternity.