Hubert Burda Media

Spirit of Renewal: Tony Wu (3of4)

Once leading the life expected of an Asian upbringing, our third personality reveals why he gave up the corporate life.


Ex-investment banker tells stories of marine life through pictures


Tony Wu once led the life typical Asian parents would wish for their offspring — he studied hard, attended an American Ivy League university and started a successful career as an investment banker, which took him to the financial capitals of New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong. Together with two friends, he also brought skincare brand Laneige to Singapore.

But since 1995, he’s shed his corporate suits for a diving one instead. He can’t quite put a finger on exactly when his love for the sea began, but it saw his transformation into a full-time photographer of marine subjects. The reason? To encourage others to appreciate and protect the oceans through his work. “It’s eye-opening to see how little society in general values the natural world,” the 49-year-old says. “There’s a lot of lip service but the amount of money being devoted to natural sciences and conservation in Asia is minuscule.”

It wasn’t easy when he first took the plunge, admitting he and his wife struggled financially. “It took a few years to work out how I could keep myself going,” he says. “Now, we are both happier than ever.” For work, Wu documents large cetaceans and massive spawning aggregations of fish, but despite the long hours, what he does rarely feels like a “job”, says Wu who was named 2016 Wildlife Photographer of the Year (underwater category), awarded by the UK’s Natural History Museum.

What spurred you to leave your previous job to pursue your passion?

Life is short. You never know what’s going to happen. I decided not to spend more of my life in offices, airports and hotels.

How has your lifestyle changed since then?

I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I gave up most of the creature comforts that signify “success” in the modern world. I own very little now, mostly the cameras and computers I need for what I do. My friendships are built on getting to know people, without any agenda or judgement. As a result, I’ve met lots of wonderful people from all over the world, from all sorts of backgrounds.

Where do you see your passion taking you in five years?

I have many projects I want to pursue, so that entails a lot of ongoing research, scraping together funds and working out logistics. I’ve also started to do more public-speaking engagements, especially for kids. I want to concentrate on doing talks in Asia. I have a few books I want to write as well.