On 3rd March in 2014, I got my first encounter exchanging some words with a curious and a very funny guy from Hong Kong, of course, our medium was a galloping social network called Facebook that started to present itself as a great option to meet new people. And this is exactly the metaphoric idea of our friendship, how two minds can get a reciprocate communication where ideas can get a productivity feedback.
After a long period of conversations with so many different topics, I rediscover my friendship with this guy and started to open my head to assimilate all that creativity that his mind translated into a promising career. Simky Cheung is a prodigious photographer who not only begins to carve its name in the most important editorials of fashion but also that gives us a deep look at his dedicated style, which is covered by a subtle halo of mystery but with a lot of avant-garde styles. With a series of important works in tow, it was difficult to resist the idea of exploring in more detail his vision about image capture and how it is that human beauty seduces this boy with each project. Recently, we were able to align the respective agendas and had the opportunity to cross words and opinions with Simky Cheung who gives us a great conversation on a random afternoon. Hope you enjoy
Words by Gianfranco Peña
We believe that such a level of sensitivity is only achieved over the years, which leads us to the question. Since when you were interested in photography and when it is no longer a hobby to become a career?
My interest in photography ignited when I was 16 years old, being into street and skate culture, I was obsessed over “Ollie“, a Japanese magazine on skateboarding. Drawn by the way skate culture is presented by the images, whether it be outfits or lifestyle portrayals, I would skate and ride BMX with my friends on the streets to try our best to immerse in the culture.
Meanwhile, I bought my first digital camera – Canon PowerShot G9, thinking I would record something interesting, and at 18, I decided to study photography and learn to shot professionally. After 2 years of school, I acquired solid knowledge in the field and began to think of crafting my own career path as graduation approached. Returning to Hong Kong after a few months stay in the UK with my family as my graduation trip, I got my first job as a photographer’s assistant at a fashion magazine. From then on, my career began.
You are a pretty young professional looking to locate your name in an almost insane market. What are in your opinion the characteristics that a fashion photographer must have to survive in a field as volatile and sometimes ungrateful as this?
“Be honest with yourself, your work won’t tell lies.” & “To find yourself and believe in yourself.” These are theories based on my own beliefs. I am a believer in religious theories and occultism. I believe that the “Self” is the most important part of our creation, and our work is actually an extension of our mindsets; whether you are a fashion photographer, a creative director or even an artist.
I am a believer in religious theories and occultism. I believe that the “Self” is the most important part of our creation, and our work is actually an extension of our mindsets; whether you are a fashion photographer, a creative director or even an artist.
Lately, I have been reading “Mastery” by Robert Greene and find his concepts on how to survive and dominate in any professional fields particularly resonating. You either find a specialization, or you have to add new elements to your work. For me, I would like to inject some of my own imaginations from myths and occultism into fashion photography. Fashion is an experimental element; you can try different combinations to create something completely unexpected. After all, to create something new is always like a dream in every creator’s mind.
I remember that we met through HYPEBEAST, which is now considered one of the top reference and media collective about the most select topics around streetstyle, streetwear, and pop culture. How did you start to develop your work with them?. How did you start to develop your work with them?
I was working at Sunny Lau’s studio, who is one of the most famous photographers in Hong Kong. He introduced me to one of the managing editors at HYPEBEAST and that is how I started to shoot for them as a freelancer. An interesting note is that a friend of mine was a stylist at HYPEBEAST back then, so I have been working with the team on different occasions prior joining full time. It wasn’t until later that my friend told me about a vacant senior photographer position in their creative team. Eventually, I joined full time and I am glad to have worked with my talented colleagues over the past two years.
Nowadays many Millennials consider that photography is almost a disposable activity, and we admit that mobile devices do not help to clear this idea. What is your opinion on this? A photographer of iPhone is still just a parody?
Like other art forms, photography to me is self-expression. Based on my own experiences, I think the concept of your work and the unique way of how you perceive the world or even create your own world view are most important. I believe that audiences can feel the soul in your work if you really give it your all. As I said, your work won’t tell lies, so I don’t think iPhone photographer is just a parody. It really depends on what your goal is. To me, I’d like to seek and reach mastery of the highest art form. Therefore, techniques and concepts are necessary.
We admit that one of the highlights that generated us a healthy envy is your participation in an editorial/interview with Yohji Yamamoto. Man, tell us more of this moment and that I represent for you that opportunity?
No doubt, that’s one of my most memorable career highlights. My editor and I interviewed him at Y-3 S/S 2016 runway show during PFW. Backstage was intense, everyone was busy as usual with final fixed, with lots of medias waiting and time was tight for that interview as we only got 5 minutes and the show would start back-to-back. When it was our turn, Yohji was just sitting on a sofa, I could tell that he must be tired and as soon as we had our introductions, time was already running out so I grabbed my camera to shoot anything I can and tried a few different angles in that small room. When his assistant signaled us to wrap up, I was reminded that I brought my Yohji’s biography, but the show would start in 30 seconds when Yohji was about to sign, so his assistant asked me to meet her after and we just dashed back to our seats for the show.
As you can imagine, post show was also hectic as ever, with people wanting to catch Yohji for photos. I felt so blessed that I was able to meet with his assistant again with the book signed by Yohji.
Do you feel that you are much more fluent working indoors than outdoors?
Back in the day as a photographer’s assistant, I shot indoor almost 90% of the time since most were commercial work, so I got lots of chances to practice my studio lighting techniques.
While I worked at HYPEBEAST, I learned how to deal with sun light in a photo shoot so I wouldn’t say I am much more fluent working indoors than outdoors.
A good photographer should be able to leverage fashion to elevate his work to another level.
Besides the hot weather in Hong Kong (Summer here can go well over 30 degrees daily), I think the two are not much different to me although I’d prefer shooting outdoors because I like to shoot randomly, so sometimes I can get something out of my expectations from it.
Judging from your closeness to fashion, would you say that you are addicted to it in some way?
Like I said, Fashion is one of my favorite elements in photography, but I wouldn’t say I am addicted to it because the images can be dull if fashion is the only focus.