Interviews / Stories
Interview: Photographer Stephen Wong (Australia)
Tell us something about yourself.
I’m from Sydney, Australia, where I work as a professional photographer. My photography is diverse. I shoot people, pets, live events, products, fashion, anything really… except weddings. I really love photographing the female nude. I discovered Andre de Dienes’s classic book, ‘Nudes, My Camera and I’, a long time ago, but I only got started in nude photography a few years ago when a friend asked me to photograph her. I think I’m addicted.
How and when did you get into photography?
My father's camera collection started my boyhood fascination with film photography. In the early 1980s, I upgraded my first SLR camera, a Mamiya NC1000s to the Canon A-1, which remained my camera of choice for 20 years until I converted to digital photography.
My experience in 1996 with one of the first consumer digital cameras, an Apple QuickTake 100 (built by Kodak), was disappointing. I only started to transition from film to digital when I bought an Olympus C-2500L a few years later. Nowadays, I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark III DSLR.
What does photography mean to you?
Well, obviously it’s my business. But, more importantly, it’s a passion. An obsession, really. I’m pretty hopeless with drawing and painting. I don’t play a musical instrument. I write, a little. So photography serves as an important creative outlet for me. Photography has taught me to value and to appreciate light. Without light, we are without sight.
Please briefly describe your photography style for our readers.
That’s difficult to answer. I don’t think I have a particular, obvious style. Maybe I do, but I don’t see it. I experiment all the time. I start off by emulating different photographic styles. And then I’ll mix in some of my own ingredients. For example, I love the Hollywood glamour images of George Hurrell, so I’ve been trying to recreate that similar look using Speedlites instead of hot lights.
Would you consider yourself a hobbyist or a paid professional?
Hah hah. Another question that I’ve already answered. Both. For me, photography is a professional and it’s also a hobby. At the moment, I would consider my art nude photography as mostly a hobby.
Where do you get inspiration from?
Everywhere, everything, and everybody!
I already mentioned George Hurrell. I also love Helmut Newton’s work. And I’m constantly inspired by the amazing nudes in landscape work of Australian photographers like Cam Attree, Mike Stacey, Mark Rhodes, and Tim Bradshaw, just to name a few. And how can I not be inspired when I get the opportunity to work with models like Ivory Flame, Zoë West, Anne Duffy, and Sylph Sia?
Do you think in advance what you want in the picture?
Usually. But overthinking a concept can hinder creative. At the same time, you need to have an idea or purpose. So I do quite a bit of preparation beforehand. I’ll consider the weather and the location. I’ll correspond with the model. We'll discuss wardrobe requirements (if any!), makeup, hair styles, props, poses, lighting and so on. Sometimes, I might create a mood board. But during the actual shoot, I'll let my intuition steer my creativity. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But that’s how I do it.
Studio, on location or both?
Both, but it really depends on what I’m trying to achieve. Whenever it’s possible, I prefer location shooting. It's challenging. It’s inspiring. And it’s a lot cheaper because I don’t have my own studio. I have a completely portable lighting setup using Speedlites, so it doesn't matter where I shoot. In fact, with my collapsible backdrop, I can set up a studio almost anywhere. a dance studio, a fitness gym, a hotel room. With high speed sync, I can create a virtual black box anywhere, which means I have full control on lighting. I can choose whether to include or exclude ambient light.
What has been your most memorable session and why?
My first collaboration with a professional model. I was so scared that I was going to make a complete fool of myself. But Blanca Brooke was an absolute gem. She was patient, friendly, professional and, of course, beautiful. The photo shoot went very well. Afterwards, while we were talking, I found out that Blanca had just been published as International Playmate Miss November South Africa 2014. Lucky I didn’t know this beforehand or I would have been petrified and would have probably dropped my camera during the shoot.
What has been the biggest source of inspiration in your work?
The models. When I work with a model, it’s very much a collaborative effort. It’s not just about their physical attributes, but it’s also about the model’s personality and their motivations. By interacting with them and talking with them, I draw inspiration from them, and together we try to capture that in our images. Shooting at an amazing location is also a good source of inspiration.
Nikon or Canon? Favorite lens?
I’ve already answered this question. I don't think it matters what camera you use. It's all about how you use it that matters. As to my favourite lens, it’s probably the one I use most often: Canon EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM.
What is one piece of advice you would like to offer a new photographer looking to start their own business?
Have a good business and marketing plan. Seriously, no matter how good you are, creatively or technically, you need a strong business roadmap if you want to be successful. And, a bit of luck wouldn’t go astray either.
What do you think of our new magazine?
Brilliant. Modellenland magazine is a wonderful source of inspiration. Such beautiful images. And I love reading the interviews. And it gives photographers and models a fantastic opportunity to share their work and to promote themselves. The magazine industry has gone through significant changes. Many print magazines are no longer in circulation. Some have switched to wholly digital publications. It’s a brave new world. As the editor of the Australian Photographic Society Digital Division’s monthly magazine, I know how much effort is involved in producing a magazine. So congratulations and well done. And thank you for allowing me to be part of your magazine. It’s a real privilege. I wish you continued success.