Photographer who captured hospice life dies

A prayer session at Mr Alan Lee's wake yesterday. Many people from Assisi Hospice visited to pay their respects, said his family.
A prayer session at Mr Alan Lee's wake yesterday. Many people from Assisi Hospice visited to pay their respects, said his family.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Freelance photojournalist Alan Lee, who suffered from a respiratory disease and spent his final months documenting the everyday lives of fellow patients at Assisi Hospice, has died at age 69.

His family described him as a warm-hearted man with many friends, whose passion lay in capturing everyday life through the lens of his camera. He died on Saturday.

Despite suffering from end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - which left him short of breath and struggling to hold up his camera - he documented life in Assisi Hospice.

In August, he held an exhibition comprising 19 portraits of fellow hospice patients, titled Come Walk With Me. Rather than being "sob pictures", they showed patients interacting with staff and volunteers, and engaged in activities such as music or mahjong.

Many from the hospice turned up to pay respects at his wake, said his former wife, Ms Charmian Chelvan, 67. She added: "He had touched their lives in the short while he was there."

Last month, President Halimah Yacob met Mr Lee during a visit to the hospice. "Once a photographer, always a photographer!" she wrote in a Facebook post that evening.

Mr Lee used to be a photographer for Singapore Press Holdings, where his pictures were featured in magazines such as Her World and Home and Decor.

He also worked as a freelance photographer, travelling to places such as Cambodia, where he took pictures of how the landmines buried in many parts of the country affected the lives of people there.

"He liked taking what he would call 'real photos'," said his son Julian Alexander Lee, 31, a general manager in a marketing company.

Added his 44-year-old stepson, Mr Warren Christopher Chelvan: "He would capture what life was, without it having to be polished or dressed up."

This honesty in his art spilled over into real life, said Mr Lee, adding: "He had a saying: 'The truth will not get you many friends, but it will get you the right ones.'"

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2017, with the headline 'Photographer who captured hospice life dies'. Print Edition | Subscribe