Hello Michelle, thank you for submitting your work. I am very excited that you are our first photographer from Asia! Tell us a little bit about yourself!
Hi! Thanks for having me here - truly honoured to be interviewed here and wow first from Asia too! I’m over the moon.
I’m Michelle - my nickname is Rice cause in Chinese “Mi” means Rice, and I do like to eat rice - hahahaha :) I was born in Hong Kong but have been pretty much raised in the UK, till recently I returned cause family is here. By day, I’m a freelance art therapist. I work with special needs kids. I used to do it full time, but for various reasons and mainly for having more time to do photography, I changed to freelancing. So now I can do both! Hehe.
When did you first become interested in photography as a mode of expression?
Photography has been a lot of things for me - recording of moments, expressing my feelings, translating my ideas etc. I’m no good with verbal languages… whatever that’s been rehearsed in my mind comes out all haywire - very weird. I’ve always felt that languages can’t describe exactly how I feel, or what I’m thinking. So ever since I have a camera, or can get hold of a device that has a camera, I’ve always been using imagery as a mode of expression. It’s only been 2 years that I took photography more seriously.
You submitted your project “The third eye“. How and when did you get the idea for this project?
Haha, actually it’s funny that you asked because how I work is really strange - I don’t set out a project idea and follow a project and shoot. When I do that it goes all wrong for some reason - meaning I feel those photographs come from the brain rather than the heart - they don’t connect with me (Not sure whether I’ve explained it well haha). Anyway, for me, I shoot with my instinct almost all the time. Then after a few months I look back at the bunch of photos I have and try to sort them into “themes”. One of the themes I found I’ve been shooting a lot is enigmatic and mysterious. The title “The third eye” came about because I’m into spirituality and meditation and I thought it fits well with this theme. In Taoism, “the third eye” is a mystical and esoteric concept referring to a speculative invisible eye which provides perception beyond ordinary sight.
Your images are very poignant and well composed. Do you first look for a framework for the composition or do you use your instinct?
Haha - well some people say your photography reflects your personality and the things you have been through in life - which hmmm I guess it’s partly true. I studied psychology and I kind of understand how subconscious works. So when I shoot with my instinct, maybe my subconscious surfaces and translates into visual imagery...
How did you cultivate your sense of composition?
Good question. Honestly I don’t follow any rules for composing my work (or maybe I did but I didn’t know that I did, you know what I mean?). I’d say, I look at many photographs - thousands and thousands of them everyday. And maybe the composition of these images get imprinted in my brain which I replicate when I shoot.
Your work is exclusively in Black & White. Why?
Because…. I can’t do colour! Hahahaha. No - ok that’s not it. It’s because I think black and white somehow demolishes the presence of reality and takes me to my dreams and imaginations where they can be found in my photography work. I want to capture images that hopefully make viewers feel the emotions that I left on the prints.
What would be the best compliment you can get from the viewers of your pictures?
Compliments in general is a plus for me already. I try not to shoot for compliments, but what resonates with me. And I guess when viewers see that too, I’ll be even more grateful.
Recently your work has been chosen as one of the Top Tens for the “Urban Playground“ theme of Toronto Urban Photography Festival 2016! Congratulations to that! How do you feel about it?
Wow yeah. I was ecstatic!! It’s great to have your work get recognised by people who know what they are doing haha. I would love to attend the festival unfortunately the timing was off.
You are also one of the founders of The Orange Moon Collective and also a member of (DRKRMS) which is a photography platform for Asia’s best emerging photographers. Can you tell us a little bit about it and what was your intension to start a platform of the Orange Moon Collective?
Sure. The Orange Moon Collective started with a few friends who clicked with me and have really similar vision in photography - Edward Chan and Ricardo Leung who attended the same workshop by Richard Kalvar and another good friend of mine, Arek Rataj, who’s based in China. We thought of forming a collective to promote the interest of this genre here, in Asia, since it is still relatively unknown. Right now, we organise photowalks and workshops so that more people get a chance to learn more about it, and for the future, we are planning to do projects and exhibitions.
Tell us a little bit about the photography scene in Hong Kong. Are there any female photographers you could recommend?
Hong Kong is a vibrant and fast-paced city. It’s a great place for doing street photography - lots of interesting people and scenes where you can capture human behaviours and emotions. Female photographers - I’d recommend Xianfang Zhu - the way she captures rain in Hong Kong is mesmerising.
How do you see your photography evolving over the next years?
I’m into people. I love people. This may be a little far off but I’m hoping to work on projects that speak for the minorities in the near future - maybe a project on special needs kids - who knows haha. Right now I’m still focussing on learning, being better both in my skills and knowledge of photography, reading photobooks, connecting with other great photographers, and sharing what they love and what I love about photography.