New cover and editorial for Elle Vietnam's Lunar New Year issue featuring Vietnamese singer/actress Minh Hang. Styling by Phuong My.Read More
Happy to share that I'm on this month's cover of Photo Professional Magazine in the UK!
The inside article introduced the Motherland Chronicles and we talked a bit about my perspective on commercial vs personal work.
Interesting enough, the title "One Step at a Time" echoes a saying I love from the game of Go. Whenever I feel daunted by the million and one things I know I need to do ahead of me, I think of what one of my best friends and teachers used to say to me, "Go has to be played one step at a time". Obvious but so totally personally meaningful. :D (Also, didn't someone say to Hikaru in Hikaru no Go that "Akira is where he is today by playing one game at a time"?)
Thank you Terry for the lovely writeup!
Chinese interview! My first in a long long time. I'm embarrassed to admit that I had to do it in English because my command of Chinese is so atrocious. :( So thank you Demi for all the translation work!
It's an introductory sort of interview about the way I work and stuff. Uploaded the text pages in hi-res for those who understand Chinese. Below, I also have my almost-original interview answers to some of the questions, edited because I wrote most of it in broken English to make it easy for translation. If it sounds cold/weird it's only because I meant to add personal touches in Chinese. :D
Can you tell us more about you? How did you start photography?
I was born in Beijing and moved to Singapore when I was 8. I was an air rifle shooter for 6 years in the national team growing up there. I'm based in New York now.
I started photography during foundation year of art school. We had a small photo project in our visual studies class, and from there I toyed with the idea of experimenting with photography. I started shooting fashion-focused images when I went into Fashion Design for my major.
What do you think about fashion photography? Are you a fashion person?
I've always liked art. I think of fashion photography as a medium where I could in my own way create a beautiful picture, I like the idea of being able to do that. I'm not very obsessed about fashion or trends, but I greatly admire the artistic value, aesthetics and innovation of great designers.
How would you describe or define your work?
The foundation of my work is beauty. Built upon it are hints of fantasy and romanticism followed by a painterly touch.
Does your personal shooting style change with time?
Certainly, I'm inspired by different things at different periods of my life. Change is constant, I don't try to fight it.
How did you find your style as a photographer?
Like anyone else I suppose, my style comes from simply shooting a lot and doing what I think will make a good image, the taste of which I guess comes from my preference in art and who I am as a person.
What is the most important elements in your photography? Composition, space, time, light, feeling or emotion?
It's a combination, with feeling and composition at the foremost of it. Feeling comes from the experimentation of lighting most of the time, and composition wise I usually sketch out what I have in mind beforehand.
What kind of light do you prefer? Do you use strobes or mainly natural light? If it's mostly natural light, how do you find such a great lighting conditions?
I do a lot of studio work with strobes, but when on location it's mostly just natural light. I like both.
How do you pick models and make decision of their styling and makeup? Do you communicate with your model often and how?
If it's fashion or commercial work, I discuss picking the model with the stylist, editor or art director. Clothes and makeup are usually decided by the magazines for editorial work, while commercials would be a team effort in decision-making with the client's input.
For personal shoots it's all up to me. I pretty much get to pick whoever and whatever I like for model, styling and makeup direction, though of course sometimes my team contributes with suggestions or ideas for their specialization.
Communication wise, I'll let the model get familiar with my work and show them photos with mood of what I'm shooting, then direct them accordingly.
Who are your favorite photographers or artist? Is there any influence?
I love so many painters and illustrators, but John William Waterhouse and Yoshitaka Amano were my first influences. I'm also very much affected by friends who are illustrators and concept artists for movies, books and games. Paintings are generally more interesting to me since I can't draw.
How do you prepare for a photoshoot? What happens during the session?
I usually start with an idea or concept and go from there. Once I've decided on something, everything else is a reaction towards making that vision a reality. The right model, clothes, and hair and makeup all come from having the concrete idea first. On the day of the shoot the team will be prepared and know what we are going to do based on references I've already sent, so I just let everyone do their job. I'll check on hair and makeup from time to time to make sure the looks are what I want since everyone's interpretation of an idea can be different. And then we shoot.
Do you work alone or with a large team? Could you please do a brief explanation?
I work with a moderately small team for personal work, usually hair stylist, makeup artist, model, and 2-3 assistants. But there are definitely times where it's just me and the model, where I'll do her makeup and hair then we just shoot.
Fashion and commercial shoots will be bigger, there is usually a stylist and their assistants, hair stylist, makeup artist, manicurist, and sometimes the hair/makeup artists' assistants as well. Depending on the scale of the shoot, there may also set designers, editors, art directors, creative directors, etc.
You have cooperated with a lot of fashion magazines and some big brands. Which experience impressed you most?
Harper's Bazaar Singapore was the first major fashion magazine I shot with. My beauty editor Alli Sim had an incredible eye for style and details, I learnt to be very meticulous with hair, makeup, nails, clothes and accessories from shooting with her. Those are definitely some of the most memorable experiences for me.
What do you like to do in you spare time?
I like reading and video games, I guess travelling too, but it's more like a way of life. I love ancient cities and old towns.
If you could go back in time and tell yourself something that would have made the start of your career as a photographer easier, what would it be?
Nothing, my motto is to never regret. Whatever was difficult, I would have had to experience it to become the person I am today.
And that's pretty much it~ I've answered some of these questions in the past before, but I feel like it's been a couple of years and the way I work has definitely changed, I used to just wing it for so many things. Hope you enjoyed the read!
Elle Vietnam, Sept 2013
Photography: Zhang Jingna
Model: Kwak Ji Young @ Wilhelmina
Makeup: Gregg Brockington
Hair: Junya Nakashima
Manicure: Naoko Saita
Photo Assistants: Ngoc Vu, Ernie Chang
Harper's Bazaar Vietnam, July 2012
Photography: Zhang Jingna
Hair: Cường Hoàn Lệ
Makeup: Valerie Vonprisk
Model: Ngo Thanh Van
My first Harper's Bazaar cover! For Harper's Bazaar Vietnam anniversary issue. Featuring Vietnamese actress Ngo Thanh Van.
She's sooo pretty. Will get the story+behind the scenes photos up later. Thank you for slaving days and nights with me on this Phuong My. ♥