Frames from disaster land

Blessy Mathew Prasad discovers how Kiran Kreer, after apparently having and losing finally found his calling in disaster

Published: 29th August 2016 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th August 2016 12:09 PM   |  A+A-

They say money brings happiness. But we have heard of people who after achieving everything humanly possible come crashing down in spirit, hit rock bottom and feel empty. A few years ago, this was Kiran Kreer’s story. But he realised soon enough that it is purpose that brings happiness. And he had found his purpose — helping victims of natural disasters through his photographs.

Born in Ipoh, a small urban town in Malaysia, Kiran didn’t really enjoy school. He was, however, interested in sports and art. He bought his first film camera for MYR500 (US$150) at 23, with savings from his first few pay checks. He started learning film photography, basics of how to use light, shutter speed and exposures and then switched to digital. Photography was his passion and also his escape.

Kiran’s family had always been one to work hard and emphasise on earning well. So he followed suit, joined an international bank in the city, was promoted to senior sales manager and kept climbing the corporate ladder for almost 12 years. “I was the guy who always wore a branded shirt, pointy leather shoes and an expensive tie. Then I moved on to bigger goals, I started my own company to make more money. It was the good five years of my life, I thought then. I had my own apartment, a better car, a beautiful girlfriend, a bar in my house with expensive liquor, house parties, branded clothes, credit cards, leisure travel and more. I felt like I had it all. But the pressure was building inside and it was something I never spoke about. The pressure to keep on track, to keep being the son my dad was proud of, to make more money, to have a status in society and keep paying the bills,” he recalls.

And so, it did not last long. “I realised it was a life that others wanted for me. When I stopped making money, my business friends ‘disappeared’. With the pressure building, my relationship ended and soon I quit my company. I picked up my camera again and decided to go on a journey to discover myself.”

After his first backpacking trip to India, he came home and decided to sell everything and leave for good in 2012. Traveling helped him see the bigger picture and the rewards of a simple life. This turned into a new career, with the support of followers and readers on social media.

When asked why he particularly chose disaster zones, he says it wasn’t a conscious decision. “I wanted to see the poorest and hardest places on Earth. I saw my purpose in these places. My issues seemed nothing compared to the hardship of the people I met in disaster zones. I made a decision to use my work to tell their untold stories, to send aid where I can, somehow healing myself too. My first disaster was a typhoon in Philippines, the biggest natural disaster ever recorded in history. I saw millions lose their homes and lives. It was the hardest time of my life and I experienced it with the locals. There was no other place that I wanted to be,” he says, and adds, “They became like friends and family after six months, I had the purpose to be with them and help as much as I could. I ended up living there for a year and it changed my life. From then onwards, I started traveling from one disaster zone to another, volunteering and giving aid. I started my own social projects like Give Them Light.” Due to the publicity on social media, his works have been published in Europe.

Today, all that Kiran owns is a backpack, a camera and a tent, but he has never been happier.

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