Photographer • Los Angeles, Hong Kong
Have you ever experienced a period of inferiority complex? Someone once described a phenomenon in Hong Kong in which people didn’t like to admit to or be credited for what they had done.
Yea, like the project 365. I only found out that a lot of people were following it, including my current classmates and people I went to school with. I didn’t know about it until a friend told me, “Did you know that day during break, a lot of people were on your Flickr?” I was like, “Seriously?’ I was startled. Especially about self-portraiture, most people Hong Kong seem to have a huge misconception about self-portraits. They think that people who take self-portraits must be narcissistic, or very pretentious. Even I get scared sometimes for doing self-portraiture — would Hong Kong people think I’m “insane”? But at that time I also thought, I didn’t start photographing myself because I love myself! I used to worry about the misinterpretation in the beginning, but then I thought better. It’s fine. People who view my work would understand if they do, you can’t really change their opinion even if they don’t get it. I can’t really stress myself out for that anymore.
About Hong Kong people’s misconception on self-portraits, with your collaboration with Heiward Mak in Klack and your work travelling back to the Hong Kong audience, do you worry that it would intensify their misconception? Because the style of your work is quite different from the Hong Kong mainstream and its trends.
Even if their misconception intensified, it’s not something I can control. Sometimes misconceptions don’t even from from your work, but rather from the vibe of the whole society. For example, I just met someone from Hong Kong here in the States. He asked me what do I do, and I said I am a photographer. He said, “So you’re a ‘lung yau’.” As if everyone in Hong Kong who likes photography is a ‘lung yau’. Their subjects and style are very different from mine, so I hate being referred to as one. I don’t even shoot pseudo models.
Because this type of self-portraits are quite popular and ordinary in Western countries (such as North America). People in Hong Kong often have another perception on self-portraits.
Yes, they would think I’m weird. I’m not sure how Hong Kong thinks of me.
Have you considered working in Hong Kong or Mainland China?
Yes, I have. I want to work in Hong Kong or China. I have thought about it, like working in Beijing. Someone once said that my written Chinese was quite good, and didn’t expect that I came from Hong Kong. I’m just not that great at Mandarin.
Do you think there’s a chance for self-portraiture to be popular in Hong Kong or to become more acceptable?
I also want to eliminate the misconceptions. The truth is, most of the self-portraits people see are of the type with girls pouting from a 45-degree angle. But I hope there will be more people in Hong Kong to do self-portraits as art.
But there’s a problem, which we are sure you are aware of: whenever there’s a new toy or new trend in Hong Kong, people only follow and do it because of the herd mentality.
I have thought about this as well. If you have to promote the development of an art form, I would rather have a bunch of people to do it. If there are 100 people doing it, there ought to at least be one or two who will be truly into it. Having one or two people is still better than zero awareness or a complete lack of exposure.
There are always some things whose effects can’t be seen in a short time and can’t be rushed. It might not be possible to see the result within a decade or so. The whole thing needs some time to sink in.
I hope there will be some results one day. But Hong Kong is such a small place, it’s hard to even find a piece of blank wall at home. Location might be one factor that the style it inspires tends to be similar. I still feel like photography and self-portraiture are things worth encouraging and promoting. Hong Kong is quite an intriguing city, seriously.
How do you feel about your face? You always write on your blog that it’s “weird”, and that the photographs of you don’t look the same as the face we see now.
Nobody says that they have to be the same, right?
How do you feel when you see yourself in the photos?
My face doesn’t appear in most of my favourite self-portraits. Would that mean anything?
Most of the time, I don’t see myself when I look at my self-portraits, so I don’t really have any special feelings ― I wouldn’t think I’m extremely beautiful or especially ugly, because I think of myself as a character in the photograph.
Do you get surprised when you see yourself in the self-portraits? Or was it something you had already envisioned, and they came out as expected?
That depends on the photograph. Sometimes there is a little surprise, but sometimes it would turn out to be exactly what I pictured. It depends on the situation; it happens both ways. But the biggest surprise — about my face — is not when I photograph myself, but when other people photograph me. That could often be a bigger surprise. Sometimes the photo would come out perfectly like I envisaged, not only self-portraiture, but other personal work or fine art portraiture as well. But even though they could come out completely different at times, it could still work out in the end.
Los Angeles, where you currently reside, seems to hold a lot of opportunities for artists, but also a lot of competition at the same time.
There are a lot of possibilities, a lot of competition, and a lot of interaction. It’s not that it’s hard to improve, but that there are so many elements here that it’s hard to not improve. Though, after having been here for some time, I want to move, because the weather is really boring. Los Angeles is the same across the four seasons, and for a photographer who likes to shoot on-location, it’s the same thing over and over again. Spring would look the same as winter, or summer would look the same as winter. It gets dull.
Though, that works for a lot of people.
For living, but not for creativity.
It seems like the change in environment could really affect you.
Surroundings can really inspire me, because I love to shoot on-location. I’m not that interested in studio as much as I do on-location. If an environment inspires me, I would stay there. It’s not that L.A. isn’t good, I like it, but I wouldn’t stay there for the rest of my life. I want to go back to Hong Kong, or Mainland China.