His real name is Ang Choon Leng, but many people know him by his professional name – John Clang, a name that stuck since his National Service days, thanks to his uniform badge which read C L Ang.

Even after garnering prestigious awards and accolades from Prix de la Photographie Paris, and American Photography, as well as his commercial works with luxury brands like Hermes, Godiva and Timbaland, Clang still does not take himself as a master photographer. Rather, he sees himself as an artist, not a photographer.

23 years ago, when he was 17, he made the decision to steer his life into another direction – creating art. He dropped out of his photography programme in LASALLE College of the Arts because he felt that the best way to learn was to gain exposure through first-hand experience.

So he made haste in learning under one of Singapore’s most celebrated photographers then, Cultural Medallion Award winner Chua Soo Bin. It was during this period of apprenticeship where he slowly amassed his exceptional skills of observation.

It was only at the age of 25 that he took a whole new take on the art he created. He recalls, “I started to feel that my images should be something that circled around me and they need not be of any importance.”

But if you think the 40-year-old’s the sort of man who’d be carrying a DSLR camera along with him all day hoping for something extraordinary to happen, you couldn’t be more wrong. Instead, his creative prompts come from observing the ordinary happenings in his life, which he then gives his Midas touch to.


The visual artist became the first Singaporean photographer to have been awarded the prestigious Designer of the Year Award at the annual President’s Design Award in 2012.

“To know Clang is to encounter a perfectionist with a clear vision and the drive and spirit to take on the giants,” said Ms Gwen Lee, director of the 2902 Gallery. “The topics he explores are not ones that are shared over a glass of wine, yet they are evocative and memorable.”

It doesn’t take a connoisseur of art to appreciate his artworks, as he explains, “The way I do my work is to basically mark the time we are living, with the mindset of a simple ordinary urban man.”

He goes on to elaborate, “I enjoy creating images of the current state that reflects memories more; it gives us more than one time dimension to look at it.”


John left Singapore and his family for NYC in search of greener pastures, where he was all alone with no kin or relative to depend on. Even with his successes now, he has not once thought of asking his family to join him in the Big Apple. “My family comes from a traditional Chinese background,” he shares. “The lifestyle in New York is too difficult and extreme for them to adapt to.”

He brushes whatever homesick feelings that come his way, often with the occasional dinners with fellow Singaporeans over the weekends that remind him of home. But aside from that, John absolutely loves the life of solitude he has grown accustomed to. He tells UrbanWire, “What’s beautiful in NYC is that I feel like a stranger in a big city.”

His most recent exhibition, Being Together, heldat the National Museum of Singapore, shows just that. It features more than 90 photographs of people overseas reuniting with their loved ones in Singapore through a family portrait conjured with just a Skype video call projected onto their living room walls.


Szan Tan, a Senior Curator at the National Museum of Singapore spoke about why they chose to exhibit Clang’s works. The daughter of a Singaporean second-generation artist says, “The theme of the “family” is one that anyone can identify with, and for me, the theme of separation, guilt, mortality and fear of losing one’s loved ones are themes which are very much close to my heart.”


Helping him connect with the families from Singapore are his trusted godchildren, a pair of 19-year-old twins, Ray and Roy Lew. “I’m just particularly amazed by his aptitude for art and his charisma to make photo shoots as natural and casual as possible,” said Ray, the older of the 2.

Contrary to his cause of virtually uniting families separated by distance through Being Together, he wasn’t afraid to admit why he didn’t visit his family back in Singapore for a long time. “The reasons are mostly selfish ones. I’m most productive when I create my work in my own space.” He then refers to his life of solitude at NYC, “In an alienated space, NYC provides me that.”

He reveals to UrbanWire that the theme of his next photo series will be about love, which will be yet another addition to his collection of 21 successful photo series. One of such is Guilt, which, like its name suggests, is directed at the immense guilt he feels for sacrificing time with his family for his career.