INTERVIEW WITH FASHION PHOTOGRAPHER YONGQI LIU

Instagram : @ivanliu_nyc | Website : www.yongqiliu.com

Currently, I live and work between New York City and Beijing. New York City, with its unique fashion elements, is the perfect place for fashion photographers. It seems they always find inspiration while living and working there. I have traveled to many different places before coming to New York City. When I was in high school and university, I traveled extensively around China. Traveling is really beneficial, and I have experienced the different cultures, appreciated the beauty and faced the challenges of nature. Many of my photographs - published in various publications - were taken during my traveling. Now I’m in New York City and feel deeply attracted by its fashion atmosphere. I think as a fashion photographer, I will be able to capture and create something truly unique in this world-famous city.

I started photography when I was a university student in China. I had the opportunity to follow some outstanding photographers that were working in the field. It was a great learning experience to observe the creative techniques they used which helped me to advance my own style and abilities. I also studied many of the relevant courses while attending graduate school. Although photography was not my major, the additional classes were a suitable fit for me. My learning method may not be suitable for everyone, but I would advise any aspiring photographer to get involved with a studio or company and learn from prominent photographers; this will enable you to improve yourself at a quicker rate. Of course, having a relevant major is also very necessary. This is something I need to take into consideration when an opportunity arises.

While I was at university, I started a photography studio with my friends. In the beginning, I just photographed different people on campus. Then, I cooperated with some photography platforms and traveled around China to take various photographs. Later on, some platforms contacted me and signed me up, and I started to photograph models. I also operated some online platforms to broaden my horizons and diversify my photography.

Photography, especially fashion photography, is a major part of my life. It is my passion. What inspires me most is to capture the feeling of each moment as well as eye-catching images and powerful events. I rely on my heart and creativity to capture the right moment. I also do pre-makeup and retouching respectively, according to the characteristics of different models. At present, I am studying how to combine fashion with art. I want to bring oriental elements into the fashion world to reflect my personal style for different themes.

I remember my first paid creative assignment was leading a team to photograph the performers of a Chinese National Orchestra. Before our official shooting, we had extensive communication with our clients and made sure we truly understood each other. We used special effects when processing the photos to reflect the unique characteristics of the Chinese culture. Traditional Chinese musical instruments, as well as colorful makeup, went into designing those characters.

As for my recent creative project, it was a series of street snaps based on New York streets, which I cooperated with another fashion photographer after the New York Fashion Week. We visited and picked some shooting locations a week ahead of time. We made specific shooting plans and prepared the clothes designed by our co-work New York designers; compared to my previous projects, which mostly working with fashion bloggers, were not as prepared such as with clothing and shooting locations. Now we make sure we spend more time ahead of schedule to get everything ready for the photo-shoot.

"While learning from other photographers' strengths, I learn how to recognize and improve upon my weaknesses. I can rethink how to shoot, striving to make the next shoot better."

I have worked with many brands, designers, publications and companies. One that I remembered the most was during New York Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2018, I worked with Carlos Campos to photograph his Spring/Summer 2018 campaign. Carlos Campos is an agreeable, easy going and modest person, and he and his assistants worked very hard. We were very efficient when shooting. That was an amazing experience, and I learned a lot from him.

Often I draw inspirations from the work of other photographers. When I was attending college, I collected many photo albums and selectively studied of some famous photographers’ works. The time spent studying their photography and techniques was extremely beneficial. Until today, I still buy or borrow several wonderful publications which frequently inspire me. There are various photography books, magazines, and brands that continually offer new ideas and techniques that have promoted my creativity and inspiration.

I am always extremely happy whenever my work is displayed to the public. I would visit the photography gallery, and study other photographer's work that was being shown at the same time. While learning from other photographers' strengths, I learn how to recognize and improve upon my weaknesses. I can rethink how to shoot, striving to make the next shoot better.

As a creative individual, I do have challenges. I was once told by a famous photographer that I should try to see the imperfection in other photographers’ work. As in life, uncontemplated challenges may occur when someone decides to create a piece of work, such as in the expenditure, time, inspiration, and hardware facilities. However, one of the most challenging is perfectionism that also requires self-motivation from every creator. I always strive for every detail in each piece of work, makeup, outfits, lighting, and so forth. Those cost a lot in time and vigor. My photography skills have been significantly improved through self-demanding training, along with my work efficiency. All things are difficult before they get comfortable. Therefore, it is evident that working on my projects is generally more difficult than working for clients. Unambiguous requirements are usually given while working with clients, and only a few of them have presented their captiousness for long term cooperation. As for my personal projects, more time and skills are required to polish and refine them. I realize nothing can be perfect or even close to this idealist standard; still, I spare no pain on each and every single work.

Ever since I began photography, I have published my work on social media platforms. Many kinds of comments appeared; some were praising, but there were always criticisms. It was impossible to deny the influence those criticisms had on my passion for photography in the beginning. However, it was then I became aware that each one has its aesthetic preference, which is why it is essential to understand and respect the opinion of others. In the meantime, there's no need to sacrifice our beauty-appreciation to satisfy the audience. Photography, or any of the arts, is not to silence those critics, it is about expressing the touch and niceties within us.

I have always been holding the opinion that there is no perfect person but only an ideal team. I started my own fashion company in China years ago. We used to accept tasks like media releases, fashion public relations, production, and blogging. Recently, I am setting up a studio with several Chinese fashion photographers, and a showroom shared with one of my designer friends. The photography industry can hardly be separated from fashion. Keeping up with trending styles will be advantageous for my photography career. Currently, I am working on selecting my fashion line. To build my own fashion brand is one of my long-range objectives.

If I could change one thing about modern-day creative community, I would want a platform for sharing experiences. I want to share whatever I know, or I think is worth discussing. At the same time, I would enjoy learning from artists from all over the world. The collision of inspirations can often generate great artists and works.

I have more than ten years of practice with the Ancient Chinese instrument Yangqin, and I was trained to be a national champion percussionist. However, my jobs in the orchestra were given up when I achieved my bachelor’s degree. Nevertheless, it was treasured as an interest because it always inspired me. As I mentioned before, one must learn to accept the sacrifices he has to make before reaching his goal, and this is also the meaning of choice. This expression and experience of musical art started me thinking about the differences between eastern and western culture and endeavored to combine ancient Chinese elements and western culture. This was the motivational key to combine the two cultures into my photography work.

"I was once told by a famous photographer that I should try to see the imperfection in other photographers’ work. As in life, uncontemplated challenges may occur when someone decides to create a piece of work, such as in the expenditure, time, inspiration, and hardware facilities. However, one of the most challenging is perfectionism that also requires self-motivation for every creator."

Sometimes it is laborious, tedious and monotonous when studying art, regardless of whether it's photography, music or fine arts. It takes everyone a long time to improve various skills and understand the cultures of art all over the world. Once crossing the threshold, people cannot help but be impressed that art and beauty are the universal languages of humankind. Undoubtedly, studying fine art is of much benefit to camera work.

The definition of success is that one can choose to do what he is most interested in for a living, and is capable of perfecting. For sure, he must figure out what kind of job he wants most and whether he is qualified to finish it. Most importantly, once he determines to achieve his success, he must maintain focus and be unremitting. As for me, despite all the sacrifices I have made, the enthusiasm of being a photographer has never been sapped off.

The first time I was conscious of the so-called success was when an online photography platform contacted me and told me they wanted to feature my works on their website. Since then, my works have been featured in more and more media, like magazines and photo journals. Afterwards, collaborative designers and brand partners kept telling me that we got many positive feedbacks. All these made me realize I'd achieved it.

I hope to be remembered as a good photographer, and I hope I can leave some good photography works for future generations. This is the motivation for me to keep improving my photography skills.

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