“Something inside me just won’t let me [relax].
The markets are so big, there’s so much opportunity,
there are competitors everywhere. If I took a day off,
I’d feel like I was missing out.” – Patrick Grove
I met Patrick Grove here in Singapore almost 20 years ago; we had a few friends in common and he and his business partners were starting the Asian search engine catcha.com (now known as Catcha Group). Serial entrepreneur Grove has come a long way since those heady days of the late 1990s: “Now aged 44, Grove’s net worth of $885 million places him 105th on the Financial Review Rich List.” And our paths crossed again a few weeks ago when I was commissioned by the Australian Financial Review to photograph Grove for a feature in the June issue of the AFR Magazine.
From experience, making corporate portraiture isn’t usually a very interesting affair. The sessions typically happen in nondescript corporate offices, and I’m often given only a few minutes with the subject as personal assistants and public relations personnel hover, clock-watching, over your shoulder. This assignment, however, was a very different — and a very refreshing — experience.
The AFR photo editor had seen “Sin Palace”, a fashion spread that I had created years ago at an old Singapore barbershop, and he asked me to return to this location to photograph Grove for the AFR feature. I wasn’t even sure if the shop still existed, but I drove past that evening on my way home from work and, sure enough, there is was, virtually unchanged from the last time I visited nearly a decade earlier. After a little negotiation with the aged proprietor, he agreed to allow us to use his small shop as our location, and I returned a few days later to meet our subject there for our portrait session.
Grove arrived at Sin Palace with his driver — not an assistant or a PR person in sight — and spent close to 90 minutes (and a few wardrobe changes) with my assistant and me, shooting both outside in the blistering Singapore heat as well as inside the vintage barbershop. It was a great experience — I love environmental portrait work where I have an opportunity to make the location as much a character as my subject — and I really enjoyed collaborating with Grove on this session. When we were wrapped, he even swiped the camera from my hands, turning the lens on me, and for a few moments before we parted, the subject became the photographer and vice versa.