Peter Kwong | Wok & Roll
Soul Shine Creative Studio
For those who have read my new book, “Have You Eaten?” I hope you enjoyed it. The book is a recap of me growing up around foods many years ago (50 years, to be exact) in Hong Kong. When my wife and I went back for a brief visit 10 years ago, I was saddened to see that the old Hong Kong that I grew up in is not the same anymore. The little temple that my Pao Pao (grandma on my mother’s side) took me to visit had disappeared, together with the farmland where the water buffalos once roamed; they all disappeared and were replaced by high-rise apartments. The little village where 300-some farmers and their families once lived is now replaced by buildings that house 30,000 residents. Very sad indeed. The second half of the book has tasty recipes from my cooking classes, with vivid pictures taken by Micah and Genevieve “Gena” Davis, the owners of Soul Shine Photography.
If you happen to check out my website, phkwong.com, you will have the opportunity to watch a short video about the book. It is only about a minute and a half long, but would tell another side of the story about the book. Again, that’s Micah and Gena’s doing. There was a lot of long hours put into that short video. So, I decided to interview the couple and ask them how they got into the photography business and what inspired them to keep the business going. Even though I’ve known them for a long while (well, I am married to Micah’s mother), I never really knew him. Through the years, I found out that he attended Madison Area Technical College in Madison first, then transferred to University of Stevens Point; he met a beautiful girl while attending a film photography class there; and they fell in love and eventually got married and decided to travel the world together. They both enjoy photography and filming.
While I look at life in black and white format, they have keen eyes looking at everything in a different perspective. From a different angle, everything looks different. That’s why I admire my wife’s talents. While we are just taking walks, she notices the shades of different leaves, even though they are all green to me. She could notice a piece of bark that has been gnawed by a beaver. I would just look at it as a piece of fallen branch.
While attending MATC, Micah was working for Pizza di Roma, a local pizza joint in downtown Madison. He helped the owner design the logo for his company, and the menu, and took pictures of the entrees for the menu. It was then that he knew that was his calling, to get into the graphic design profession. He bartered the owner for a $2,000 computer for his work; and would use that computer to solicit more business down the road. He transferred to the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, knowing that they have an excellent art department with a graphic design program. It was there that he met his dream girl who would share his ideas and philosophies. After living in Costa Rica for a year, they moved to Colorado for some time, and finally decided to come home (to Wisconsin) so they could be closer to all their families. They chose to settle down in Eau Claire, which is only an hour and a half away. I can’t describe the glow on my wife’s face after she heard that. Especially after learning that Gena was pregnant with our grandson shortly afterward.
So, after finally settling down, Micah and Gena decided to focus on promoting their dreams. They started Soul Shine Photography to spread the peace and joy of their spiritual beliefs – a combination of God, Buddhism and Hinduism. They believe in uplifting people’s spirits, helping them love and appreciate themselves and the world. Micah teamed up with Steve Betchkal, an Emmy Award winner for producing local short stories. Together, they have created many episodes that touch the community with different local stories that reflect the positive aspects of living in Eau Claire.
Soul Shine Photography has since been contacted by many companies, asking them to help promote positive messages of their services and products. The latest one was from the Eau Claire Transit System, who would ask them to interview the bus riders on their “Walk About, Talk About” program that the couple has started not too long ago. The response has been tremendous. The couple would go out and actually interview bus riders and asked them soul-searching questions. It is a gift, that people are willing to respond to a question with sincerity and honesty, followed by a heart-warming laugh. People are actually waiting to be interviewed by “Walk About Talk About.” Amazing, isn’t it?
So, the company is doing well and have appointments booked three to four months ahead. I asked them why folks would choose to use their service. Their answer surprised me (which shouldn’t be a surprise, knowing them all these years). Gena responded, “We are not a company focusing on just making a profit. We focus on people, their lifestyle and the connections with each other. Our final product reflects the togetherness of the family; it should be able to tell a story of how everyone is connected to each other. Yes, the lighting is important, the posing is important, the background is important. However, if you cannot feel the passion and affection of the togetherness of the picture, it is just a portrait. What we do is make everything feel natural, comfortable and relaxed. They might act a little goofy, yet folks looking at the picture can feel the happiness and togetherness, and the love flowing between them.”
Goodness, I never knew that taking a picture could be so sensational and emotional. But I guess that there is a secret to every trade. At least I can make you cry with my cooking. What’s so hard about adding a few more pinches of chili peppers?
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