Although Chow San works mainly as a graphic designer, he has a camera with him everyday and shoots regularly. His street photos seem to capture people often in transit and on the move in his native Hong Kong. One rather gets the sense that his photos document fleeting moments from an ephemeral world. In this restless and fast-moving world, the people in it seem always to be moving from one destination to the next.
Perhaps because of the constant need to deal with digital media for work, Chow San prefers instead to shoot with film. One of his heroes is the great Nobuyashi Araki. San tells us that, even though today there are many new photographers out there, for him it is worth reexamining Araki’s output in greater detail – such is the depth and ingenuity of his work. Read more about Chow San’s work in our recent interview with him below.
Neocha: What kind of spaces do you like to photograph? What kind of lighting do you prefer?
Chow San: Actually any kind of space is suitable for shooting, whether it is in an office or just on the street. A lot of the times, I just shoot the daily commute on the subway, which is more or less because of my routine. I hope that the lighting in my photos is fairly even – it helps with the storytelling aspect. I don’t like to use flash, or to art direct my shots. The lighting shouldn’t be too forced or contrived.
Neocha: What are your thoughts on film versus digital?
Chow San: Actually eventhough there are probably more benefits to shooting digital, I personally think digital photography feels quite cold. Film photography for me feels more satisfying. It just feels warmer and has more human qualities, which for me, is similar to how a human being has a body and soul.
Neocha: How does Hong Kong inspire you?
Chow San: There really are too many things here in Hong Kong that are inspiring. You can say that there are a lot of interesting social issues here; for example, the relationship between people here in Hong Kong and trees is rather strange. This subject inspired me to shoot my project Together.
Neocha: What are some challenges you face as an artist?
Chow San: In a material, capitalist society like Hong Kong, it is really difficult to make a living as an artist. The government doesn’t help us or give us any kind of aid. The common consumer tends to appreciate art that is just visual appealing or trendy, but then just about ignores everything else. In Taiwan, and even in the mainland, you can see more high-level art.
Neocha: What are some things that you have planned in the near future?
Chow San: I’m now looking for a new exhibition space. Last year, I gained a lot of experience after my first solo exhibition Flower at Yi Hu. The next one, Ja Yen Mo Cheung, will compile six to seven years of my photography work. I hope in a few years’ time I’ll have the chance to publish an album of all this work.