Rags-to-riches S’porean photographer makes good

Kai Fong
Singapore Showbiz

Meet Anthony Levi Kho, the man behind the shots of S.H.E’s Ella Chen and Alvin Lai’s wedding. (Photo by Let There Be Light)

Drowning in debt just four years ago, he's now the go-to photographer for Asia's top A-list celebs.

Meet Anthony Levi Kho, a Singaporean who's making a name for his company Let There Be Light Photography, as well as his team — the Wedding Photographers Network and Vocare Media Production.

Kho was most recently behind the lens for the shooting of S.H.E's Ella Chen's star-studded wedding ceremonies in Taiwan and Malacca.

Besides having worked with top celebs such as Hong Kong movie star Shawn Yue, music prodigy Jay Chou and Taiwanese girl group S.H.E, Kho's also shot the weddings of Taiwanese stars Blackie Chen and Christine Fan, Barbie Hsu and Wang Xiaofei, as well as ex-MTV VJ Jason Tang.

Taiwanese girl group S.H.E and the star photographer. (Photo by Let There Be Light)

But it hasn't always been so smooth sailing for his business.

'I was nearly bankrupt'

In an exclusive interview with Yahoo! Singapore, Kho, now 32, and his wife, Janice Poh revealed that they were mired in S$100,000 debt just four years ago.

They had married in 2004, and the age of just 24, the newly weds quit the production house they were working in to start their own.

"It was our first time starting up. We swiped credit cards, got into many debts. Jobs were coming in but we were paying for interests too, and never-ending mortgages for our house," he said of their decision.

"It was pathetic," Kho recalled with a laugh. Their electricity supply was cut; handphone lines were disconnected; they even had to hide in the storeroom on several occasions to escape from debtors knocking on their doors.

Kho and his wife were reduced to eating bread and jam, or porridge with soy sauce for months. Once, even after a search around the whole house, the couple could only gather S$1.60 which was "barely enough to buy a packet of vegetable and rice to share".

As if things weren't bad enough, the young entrepreneurs also had to endure their fair share of "company partnership meltdowns, friend betrayals, cheating clients and missing camera gear, either stolen or destroyed".

"2004 all the way to 2008… we went through four years of craziness before we fully cleared our debts in 2010 when we sold the house," Kho continued, as a tearful Poh, seated beside her husband, fought back tears.

"I was just laughing with her yesterday, (telling her) 'Hey, we've got money to eat McDonald's now,'" he said.


Kho's fortunes turned in 2008 when he was offered a chance to shoot a behind-the-scenes of local romantic comedy film "The Wedding Game" in which Taiwanese TV personality Blackie Chen was starring. The duo hit it off almost immediately.

"Then, Chen asked me, 'Why don't you just go over (to Taiwan) and have a look?'" Kho recalled.

Even then, Kho said he had to think twice.

"I was quite resistant," said Kho. "If I were to go to Taiwan, I'd have to borrow money from my mother-in-law and shooting equipment from friends… there was a lot to consider."

The Singaporean team and newly-weds Blackie Chen and Christine Fan (C). (Photo by Let There Be Light)

Taiwanese actress Barbie Hsu and Chinese tycoon Wang Xiaofei's wedding in Hainan, China. (Photo by Let There Be Light)

Ella's wedding

At the urging of Chen, Kho began travelling to and from Taiwan, where he shot the prestigious Golden Horse Film Awards for the Golden Horse Association in 2008.

His work began to impress many within the entertainment industry and soon, he and his team were shooting more in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China.

"Blackie started to be my 'salesman' too," Kho revealed. "He was like a manager managing me — hard-selling me to his clique of friends."

Ella's wedding photography gig came along after Kho worked with her on the behind-the-scenes photography for her recent movie with Vic Chou, "Perfect Two".

One of Kho’s behind-the-scenes shot for “Perfect Two" starring Vic Chou and Xiao Xiao Bin. (Photo by Let There Be Light)

The 31-year-old singer-actress had rung him up personally at the end of last year to deliver the good news — that her Malaysian beau Alvin Lai, 36, had popped the big question and that she wanted him to be shooting for them.

Kho and his eight-man team were the official photographers and videographers engaged for all of Ella's wedding proceedings, whether the pre-wedding in Guam Islands and Taipei, or the actual ceremonies in Ping Tung, Taipei and Malacca.

[See photos of the newly-weds at the star-studded wedding ceremony in Taipei]

It was "just us", shared Kho. The couple did not appoint anyone else in Taiwan.

Up close with the stars

Besides the newly-weds, whom Kho described as "a very fun-loving couple", and "crazy group" S.H.E., Kho has also worked with a string of Asian A-listers.

Among other big names: Hong Kong movie stars Jackie Chan, Jaycee Chan, Shawn Yue and Danny Chan, and Taiwanese celebrities Jay Chou, Wang Leehom, David Tao, Lin Chiling, A-Mei, Ethan Ruan and Mark Chao.

"Legend of Bruce Lee" star Danny Chan poses with a photo Kho shot for MMA film "The Spirit of Fight". (Photo by Let There Be Light)

"Off-work", Kho is also the go-to photographer for the celebrities' personal shoots and private events: birthday parties, barbeque gatherings and pool parties.

"It can be in Taiwan or China," Kho shared. "They'll call me and I'll fly over to shoot for them."

So has he seen any celebs throwing hissy fits during his four years of hanging with the celebs?

Hardly, although there have been exceptions.

The stills photographer recalled seeing a veteran Hong Kong actor, whom he likened to "an older Jay Chou", screaming at the director when he wasn't too pleased with his lines.

Another time, Kho had to work with a "famous male Taiwanese artiste" who refused to shoot for a campaign just because he "didn't want to wear the campaign clothes".

"But most of them are actually very nice, friendly people," Kho was quick to clarify. "Very down-to-earth and professional too."

Who has left the deepest impression on him?

"To be honest, my impression of Jay Chou wasn't too good in the beginning. From what I read in reports and what I heard from colleagues in the industry, he seemed quite hard to work with," Kho revealed. "But he was super nice when we shot our Love Life ad with him — he had no airs at all."

Mandopop sensation Jay Chou naturally exudes the “aura of a superstar”, Kho says. (Photo by Let There Be Light)

When asked how these international celebrities compare with local artistes, Kho said he found it easier to work with the former even though "they can demand more sometimes".

"I feel that overseas artistes are more professional," he explained. "They react to situations very quickly. If there's a prop missing or a script that doesn't flow well, they  improvise on the spot."

Kho, who had earlier worked with several local A-list actors and actresses including Zoe Tay, Fann Wong and Christopher Lee, added, "Perhaps the new generation (of artistes in Singapore) needs more exposure."

What's next?

Now that he's worked with Asia's top talents, does he still take on local projects?

"Definitely," Kho quipped. "Because I'm a Singaporean!"

"In fact if I've got a choice, I wish there's more local support because my family's here after all," he shared.

Last year, Kho had had to spend almost nine months overseas on his job. His latest movie stint saw him pulling out of Jackie Chan's last action film "Chinese Zodiac" when he was required to follow through with shoots in Beijing, Hong Kong and New Zealand.

Since taking on "Perfect Two" last year, Kho let on that he has already "clinched some of the bigger Taiwan movie productions" and more international gigs are set to come.

The Singaporean team even covered Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou's presidency campaign earlier this year.

While Kho may not have had it easy in the beginning, he knows he has plenty to be grateful for.

On coming this far, he said, "We still feel there's a lot of potential to grow but we know we've been very lucky and we're definitely blessed to be where we are now."