Hyun Suk Kim | Hong Kong

Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
Hi Nicole, thanks for giving me a great opportunity to share my images on Women in Photography. I'm Hyun Suk Kim and I love to take pictures as a hobby. I have around 5 years of experience in photography. I love all types of photography, however my passion is specifically street photography nowadays.

How did you get into photography?
When I moved along with my family 8 years ago from New Work to Hong Kong, I didn't know anyone and quickly lost interest in visiting famous tour spots. My role as only a mother and a wife caused a sense of lost identity. So, I found that photography sparked my interest. However, after becoming a photographer, living in a new city was inspiring and fun. I was able to meet new friends with common photography interest.

What do you like about street photography?
My passion for street photography means I need to get out and walk around. 
I started with places that are familiar to me, and then slowly explored strange and unique places.
With my camera in hand, an average situation can easily change people and places into unique and special. For example, taking pictures of tourists from around the world who take pictures in front of the Bruce Lee's statue with various different poses makes me excited. 

You submitted an amazing series called @ the Beach from Hong Kong. Hong Kong is usually not knowing for it's beach life - so how did the idea came up to you to work on this project?
Hong Kong is famous for the high sky scrapers and has fantastic night lights. But after seeing it everyday, it become the norm. So, I spent researching and looking around my area carefully.
My home is located near many beaches which i've never swam - however almost everyday I have opportunity  to watch beach scenes of local people.

Spending time at the beach  and taking pictures made me even more nervous than usual because of the special situation of people being half naked or wearing skimpy swimsuits. Even though these are considered private moments many people sincerely enjoyed to interchange their moments with mine. I made a point to visit each beach on the south side of Hong Kong. Each beach has their own personality. Each single person's story was fantastic and I enjoyed capturing that moments with my camera. Another surprise I didn't expect was the change of weather

Which equipment do you use? and do you think gear really matters?
After 5 years with various lens and camea bodies, especially Canon 5D Mark II, I prefer to take pictures with a light compact camera, no zoom, such as Leica D-Lux 5 (not to use zoom).
My approach is to raw and transfer to black and white. I find myself using my I Phone camera too.

I know that for the professional, for the commercial, and for the scenery photography one should shoot with highly tuned equipments, however, I prefer small and light cameras. It gives me flexibility and at the same time remove the uncomfortable feeling for others so there is more chances to share the moments on the street in its natural form. Lastly, I'm not technical at the mechanical knowledge.

You said, that your photography is strongly influenced by movies. Can you tell us a little bit more about it?
I notice that my photography is strongly influenced by movies which usually shot by 16:9. There is also a certain style which tells a story. When I studied film and television in college, I was particularly interested in making storyboards which usually broke down the whole script and evalutated each single shot. I think this process definitely helped me to develope creativity and to able to capture a story in every single image. For example, my all time favortie movies are Federico Fellini's Amarcord and the La Strada which show the ordinary people's extraordinary life story in black and white. 

Tell us a little bit about street photography scene in Hong Kong. Is there a favortie place you prefer for your street shots?
Cosmopolitans like Hong Kong is also difficult to take pictures of people but when I try to have open minds with good and positive attitude, still there are many chances to take pictures in HK. A Favorite place? the beaches?  When I started to learn photography, I used to complain of my environtment such as, a small city, bad weathers, and etc.
However, everywhere in HK, every weather in HK, and every time in HK make me excited with my camera these days. That's why I'm able to take this project, @ the Beach. A rainy day, a cloudy day, less or more people at the beaches, sometimes none ... etc. 

Just enjoy and appreciate your ordinary life with camera, I think  every one can enjoy the street photography.

What are your next plans?
I'm still interested to take pictures at the beaches so I've been taking more beach shots from other cities for last summer, such as in LA, San Francisco, NY, and Busan (Korea). I also want to develope some images of women who lost their identity with my own point of view but still thinking and thinking...


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.