CHRIS ROSSS LEONG bio - Chris Ross Leong

My Dad taught me how to print photos when I was very young, perhaps 8 or 9, and I've carried a camera of one kind or another pretty much all the time since then.


At first I mostly took photos of my mother, aunts and sister, mainly because they asked me to, but after that I did a lot of ballet photos (my first love and I ran a ballet school for a while back then), so I preferred the classical theatrical wardrobe look of the time, formal setups, profiles, good background and prop construction (I was later conscripted to be the Technical Director and Stage Manager of several ballet concerts and other shows, where I learned audio and lighting skills on professional level stages).


I studied pre-medicine in London and didn't like it. My headmaster at that time asked me what I'd want to do otherwise, and I didn't know. I'd already been acting in commercials and directing school films and plays by that time, was also a competitive concert pianist and a student with the Royal Schools of Music.


My headmaster then asked what I'd do to make money. I told him I hadn't thought about it, and he said I perhaps ought to. I realized that the only thing I could really do well, to perhaps a money-making level, was to print photos, so he looked in his Rolodex and sent me down to London to meet a couple of prior students who had moved into the world of photography.

Turns out they worked for Condé Nast studios, so after proving that I could indeed print photos, they sent me to Max Factor and Vidal Sassoon and the house of Chanel for their foundation courses (turns out the first word in "fashion photography" is fashion, not photography, what a concept!) and then I was allowed to make the coffee and sweep up the studio, as the lowest rank of apprentice/assistant to several of the great London photographers of the time, but all sort of passing through the studio. I didn't work for the photographers, but for the studio.

When I finally made 2nd assistant, I asked the 1st assistant what equipment I should buy. "Small shears (scissors) for taming stray hairs, a defuzzer because models love their pets, and a staple gun for the background sets. Oh, and a commercial steam iron..."


After a while my parents wanted me back in Hong Kong to see what had become of me. So I went back to visit, and one day I was walking by a hotel lobby and the doors were open and there was a runway and there were models rehearsing a show. But it was the music - it was, literally, music to my ears. I just had to go inside and see what was up and who was who, and so it was right there and then that I met the indominable Kiki Fleming, a leading stylist and fashion choreographer in Hong Kong, both in print and in fashion shows. She also owned and operated two agencies, a model agency and a talent agency.


So I started with her and her photographer husband, the late great Dinshaw Balsara, and assisted while printing, doing headshots and doing the tech on Kiki's fashion shows. Dinshaw was generous enough to take me under his wing and help me fully commit to the life of a professional photographer. I did my first cover shot and full page magazine ad just before I was 19 years old.


Eventually I became full partner in Studio Dinshaw Balsara. We bid for and won many local and international accounts, including Official Photographers for the HK-RTW Festivals for several years running, I also was the Official Photographer for the local HK branch of the Miss Universe contest for a year, during which assignment I officially talent spotted one of the contest's judges, Ms Britt Eklund, whilst she was out on an icognito shopping trip. At that time I also played a fashion photographer in the movie sequel to "Love Story" called "Oliver's Story", with Ryan O'Neal and Candice Bergen.


We then won the Gulf Air advertising account, which was a new airline to be based in the Middle East. The stipulation put on the local advertising agency was that it could not hire overseas outfits to do the job, so we moved our entire Hong Kong operation to Bahrain, Middle East, and set up there.


Three years later I wanted to get into real theatrical film, so moved mainly out of stills (there wasn't much fashion to be had in the Middle East anyway) and into feature film work in London, and then feature film and TV work here in Los Angeles starting around the late 80's.


TV's been good to me. It's a very decent living but it still isn't fashion - actually the fashion I was brought up with was a lot of haute couture and very little prêt-à-porter.


However, I've carried a camera with me since the beginning, and had half an eye out to track the current fashions and photo looks.


And now things are changing again, coming around again. I'm actually liking a lot of what's around lately, excited even.


I'm fascinated to explore the next creative opportunity, meet the next fashion diva, take the next innovative photo.




Powered by SmugMug Log In