CD: ShuHui, many thanks for being part of the FUSEVISUAL Project. We met last fall at the Archive 200 Best Advertising Photographers party in New York. I enjoyed seeing your images and I like your approach to portraits and beauty.
I’m struck by the simplicity and elegance of your work. Let’s start with the incredible picture of the young woman and mirrors. Tell us a bit about how the concept came together, the execution, and how you responded to knowing your work was accepted into the 200 Best book.
ShuHui Yang: In my early photographic career the models would cancel at the last minute, and I said to myself: don’t let what you can’t do stop you from doing what you can do. If I only had one model, I thought of what concepts would fit and how could I maximize the uniqueness of a single-model shot. I happened to see my neighbor throw out a mirror in the trash recycle area. Then the “Sheep : Collide in Space” concept hit me, which was to use mirrors as a metaphor. I used many mirror pieces and played with the camera angles until I found the angles that I liked. The project’s statement is to try to encourage people: don’t follow what other people are doing. Be who you are, believe in yourself. You are unique enough to stand out on your own. Everyone has their unique something. Find your own style and essence.
I am honor to be in the Luerzer’s Archive 200 Best AD Photographers worldwide 2014/2015 Book. And will continue to do my best to create good work.
CD: Your portrait and beauty work is very clean and crisp. How do you plan out your portraits – is it organic, a defined plan, client based or somehow a mixture of all of these elements?
ShuHui Yang: I usually start with a series of storyboards and mood boards, and adjust everything else according to what chemistry comes out in the process. The way I work, I usually try to come out with a concept first, then decide the style that fits the concept. So I try to keep things open, to see what happens!
I also used to work at an AD Agency as an Art Director for many years, I am very comfortable with creating a concept from scratch. And again it depends on the project requirements/needs. I am comfortable with both creating a concept from scratch and/or helping the client execute the production and make the concept idea come alive. So, I would say it is a mixture of all these elements.
CD: Who were the artists, art directors, designers or photographers who have most influenced your work?
ShuHui Yang: They are varied and it depends on each project’s needs. Sometimes I form my own team, sometimes the client already has a team in mind.
The most influence teammate, I would say: Maribel Soto (Make-up artist). We meet in Chicago, we clicked right away. That time I just started to taking photos on the side as a hobby. She saw my photography, she really loved it and believed in me. She was so encouraging. She said: Anytime you wanna do a test shoot, I am in. Next, she and I started to do a lot test shoots together at a garage space. That time we both also had other full time jobs. The time conflict, short staff, and low budgets were a major issue that time. I remembered one time we shot until 3am at the garage. We did have tons tons fun ; )
That period’s challenges helped me expand my life and meet lifetime good friends. Learning new things (overcoming short staff, being a stylist, making props, etc.), forced me to try my best and think outside the box and make it work under the low budgets (overcoming the limitations of low budgets, such as using lower cost materials, using wigs, shooting at a garage, etc.).
CD: If you were given a grant to take six months to shoot a project anywhere in the world, what would that project be and what would you want to accomplish by publishing that body of work?
ShuHui Yang: Hmm.. good question. It is hard to say…
I usually try to create a concept first, then see where is the best place to shoot that fits the concept.
I have been to the USA and Asia. Haven’t been to Europe yet. If I must choose now, I would say Italy. I plan to go live in Rome for 1~3 months next year to extend my life experience.
Now I am into making video/films. I am working on 2 short films that are focused on the “Transformation” story topic now.
I am also taking my first “screen writing” class now, trying to break out of my comfort zone. It is terrifying and fun at same time.
CD: Knowing what you know now, if you could reach back and impart wisdom to the person just starting into this career, what would you advise yourself to do differently?
ShuHui Yang: I am 100% sure I have the passion for photography & video/film making. That’s why although I had a lot challenges along the way, I could still keep going. “I don’t need to be great to start, but I do need to start to be great. Don’t let what you can’t do, stop what you can do.
It took me a long while to figure out my vision & point of view as a photographer/film maker. Why am I doing this?
Who am I?
It also takes time to actually the visionary projects too. Now I am just starting on working toward my vision/point of view as a photographer/ film maker. Still a long way to go, but I am super excited about it and excited to see where it takes me.
If you can, define what you want in life, “why” you choose to be a photographer, what is your vision & point of view as a photographer early on, it will save you a lot life time, and keep you from running in circles.
Let’s keep encouraging each other and bring out the best in us ; )