Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Three Little Words

When I interned at the P-I, one of the first things my mentor had me do was write down a list of 3-5 words that described who I was as a photographer. For the most part, the task didn't seem too hard, I mean, all you have to do was write down a few adjectives and call it a day. However, the more I thought about it the more daunting it was. For most blossoming creatives, it's really hard to describe your work because you're still learning and trying lots of techniques and styles to really get a sense of what you like. So when I was asked to describe my body of work in three little words it started becoming the most difficult task in the world. I started seeing all my work as a random hodge-podge of photos that I just happened to like, with no consistency what-so-ever. "Did I just get lucky over and over?" I thought to myself. Being at a complete loss of words to describe who you are and what you do is, by far, the worst feeling in the world. I was hitting rock bottom and thinking that maybe I wasn't an artist at all. Maybe I wasn't creating a craft as much as just randomly being at the right place at the right time.

But then I went about it differently. Instead of describing my own body of work I started thinking of adjectives that described the body of work of photographers that I really admired and aspired to live up to. Immediately I thought of Christopher Doyle, the Australian surfer who made it big in Chinese cinema. At the time (and probably right now as well), there was no one who I aspired to be more than Christopher Doyle. If I could make it big in Chinese cinema and direct photography for Wong Kar Wai and Zhang Yimou, that would be living the dream for me. So I thought, "Ok, I can't describe my own work but I can describe work that I like. That should be good enough." So I wrote down three little words:

Women
Color
Romance

If you look at my body of work now you can see those three little words resonate throughout everything I do and that's because, from that moment on, I dedicated my life to living up to those three little words. In retrospect, that moment changed who I am as a photographer completely. I was no longer the person just looking for a good photo or a unique angle. I was now the person who had a specific vision and a clear goal at the end of the day. I was the person that needed to live up to those three words. Even though I didn't know who I was at the time, I at least knew who I wanted to be and that dramatically changed how I approached my work.  With every photo I pick I think of those three words and even with many photos I take those words echo in my head.

The great thing about being an artist is choosing your own identity. Sure it's daunting and it's hard but if you can pick three words to live up to then everything else will just fall into place. If you're ever lost, let those three words guide your way and eventually your work will end up where it needs to be.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Rose by Any Other Name Would Smell as Sweet









Shakespeare might have written the single greatest one-liner concerning roses because I have failed to come up with a better title for these photos. I visited the Portland Rose Garden for the first time in years to take photos of Xiang for our fashion blog. She was so inspired by the beauty that she asked me to go back a few days later to photograph some roses for her.

To be honest, it felt a little beneath me to be among tourists taking pictures of pretty flowers. Only, I was doing it with a large telephoto lens. After about two photos in, I started to have a lot of fun with it and ended up staying hours. "Yeah, work it" I thought in my head, knowing full well that the roses could not hear me. Even though they were all roses, I learned to appreciate their subtle differences and how much they reminded me of the subtle, gentle beauty of women. Each curve of the petal was slightly different from one rose to the other. Some would open up and show their yellow core and some would hide it from view. Ultimately, it came down to these small things that really fascinated me about these flowers. How they can all be so different yet not one was more beautiful than the next.

To get the contrasting blue light, I photographed only the roses that were in the shade and then I cooled the white balance even more drastically in post process to about 4900K. You can compare the photos of Xiang shot in the same lighting at 9125K to get an idea of just how much I blueified the other photos to get that effect.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Days of Being Wild



For a long time, I sat here thinking of a name for this blog that would capture its essence. Being neither clever nor witty with words, I grew lazy and named it after one of my favorite movies. The movie I chose is the exact movie that gave a big break to my favorite director, Wong Kar Wai, when he was first starting out. At the time, I thought it would put me in the spirit of finding my big break. While registering this blog, though, I realized that I was not very original in thinking this.

You'll actually find several blogs on the internet under the same name (it's even the name of a DJ). Like mine, most of them have nothing to do with the movie. Despite the many Days of Being Wild clones out there, I'd like to think that the name means a little more to me. I didn't know it at the time, even after writing the tagline, but Days of Being Wild is the most apt name this blog could have.

This blog is not only about photography but about a wild, aimless journey in photography. When you begin to think "I'd like to be a 'photographer'" the question that always follows is 'what sort of photographer?' The daring ones go on to be war photographers and the posh ones become fashion photographers while the majority stick to weddings and portraits. But for me, I was never able to answer that question.

The main character of Days of Being Wild, the movie, often refers to himself as a “bird without legs”. He was always flying and would sleep on the wind, only ever landing when he's dead. After trying out this name, I came to realize that the legless bird was the perfect metaphor for how I felt about my photography. I'm not simply an observer that takes photos when I see a gem but rather a dabbler that can't seem to settle with just one way of photographing. I'm wandering in the endless forest of photographic possibilities, and these are my days. In the words of Lord Byron, "there is a pleasure in the pathless woods."