Photojournalist Alan Lee, who chronicles lives of hospice residents, dies at age 69

Julian Alexander Lee, son of Alan Lee, at his father’s wake on Oct 29, 2017.
Julian Alexander Lee, son of Alan Lee, at his father’s wake on Oct 29, 2017.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - 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, died at age 69 on Saturday (Oct 28).

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.

Despite suffering from end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - which left Mr Lee short of breath and struggling to hold up his camera - the passionate photojournalist went on to document life in Assisi Hospice, where he had been admitted for several months.

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 ex-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, 31 year-old Julian Alexander Lee, who works as 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 was something that spilled over into real life as well, said Mr Lee, adding: "He had a saying: 'The truth will not get you many friends, but it will get you the right ones.'"