La Flor de La Canela
interview with Vanessa Zican Feng behind the upcoming editorial for Just Magazine Spring 2017
(see the full editorial soon)
Published on 06 April 2017
Tell us briefly about yourself and how did you first get into photography?
I made a brave decision when I was 13 years old. I decided to study aboardto Singapore by myself. My parents were so open-minded and they wanted me to become an independent woman. I still remember I learned how to pay my bills and moved into a shared apartment with strangers at the age of 15. At that time, pictures were the fastest way to share my life with my family. I became so focus on the details around me. On 2009, I got my first DSLR camera. I came to states 4 years later and went to a boarding high school in Maine. I was so upset when I saw there is only one Starbucks and a mc Donald near my school, I was always a city girl at heart. But I soon get used to the life in Maine and I love the freedom atmosphere in the states. I started to focus more on portraits. I still remember my first ever fashion relate shoot was underwater. The model was my friend who went to the same high school with me and she is from Kazakhstan. Since then, I keep creating more themed shoot, but model were mostly my friends or a girl that I met on the street.
What the story behind one of your latest editorials "La Flor de La Canela"?
I photographed this editorial in Lima, Peru. I’ve always want to go to explore the south America. The reason why I choose Peru to be my first stop is because I really want to see the llamas. (haha). I wasn’t planning to do an editorial shoot there because it was a vacation for me. but when I was doing the research on Peru, I was so fascinated by their cultures and architectures. I got in contact with a great stylist who is based in lima, Peru. And the model who is also from Peru. We did the shoot the second day I arrived in Lima. We didn’t have time to meet up before the shoot, but everything worked out well. I am so thankful for the social media; people are so close even though they don’t live near each other. I still remember the day that I did the shoot was like 28 Celsius, they place where we did the makeup didn’t have air condition as well. But no one complained about the heat. We were walking around the barranco district in Lima, there was a guy who is a security guard for a private resident. He saw we were taking photos, and he told us in Spanish: “come inside, we have good view here.” I was so touched and told the stylist by the time we wrapped up the shoot, “I will be back again! “
How would you describe your overall aesthetic and who are the people in your photographs?
I really enjoy the creating my images in a minimalist way. And I like to use colors to connect the images together and create a flow. I don’t really do a lot of beauty retouching in my images because no one is perfect, and imperfection makes perfect. I took a lot of photos when I was traveling in Peru. I would stop a girl on the street and asked if I could photograph her because I think her eyes are really pretty, or a guy sitting at the corner inside a café when the lighting was just right. I enjoy observing the small details of my life. and I think photography is something that I always want to do when I first open my eyes in the morning.
What camera did you use?
I used both digital and film.Canon 6d with 24.70 lens and Nikon F1 with 50mm lens.
Where do you live and how does it influence your work?
I am based in New York and Pennsylvania now. It’s fun to travel between two such different states. New york is a big city with skyscraper and street scene. But the place where I go to school in Pennsylvania is a very peaceful and rural small town. I get to work with the variety of locations. Like a beautiful farm in Pennsylvania or a nice studio in new york. And encourage me to look into the different side of the world.
What is the most difficult or challenging aspect of being a photographer in 2017?
This is a very good question. I felt that there are more and more young talented photographers and they all have a different style and different point of view of this world. I often spend hours looking at other people’s work and get inspired by their work. It’s a challenging to me but it’s also a way to help me improve. A lot of people said being a fashion photographer is not realistic because it’s not really stable. But that’s still what I want to do for the rest of my life.
What fascinates you about the art world today and what are your main inspirations?
My first camera was a basic canon DSLR. But I got into film camera soon after I bought a second-hand Nikon FM2. I was so fascinated by the colors of the film without any retouching. Later, I started to use fewer films because I was so used to the convenient that the digital brought me. However, last year I finally picked up my film camera again and decided to shoot most of my editorial in both film and digital. You can found big campaigns starting to hire the photographer who photographed in films. And a lot of my photographer friends are also starting to use film again. We don’t think the film is dead. I think I want to eventually do more documentary work and somehow combine it with fashion, because fashion is also a photo story, and I want to add more contents to my images.
Are there any trends or movements you're tapping into?
I can say I am into 70's fashion and they are in trend right now. I kind of like to dress my model according to my personal style.
Which artists, designers or models would you like to collaborate with?
I like to work with different people because I can always learn a lot of things from them. I’ve worked with two parsons graduated student – sherry tsang and Emily Francis, and we created some good work together. I also worked with a Japanese makeup artist Seiya Iibuchi for several times, and he is very talented.
What upcoming projects we can expect to see from you?
I am planning to do a monochrome photo shoot with more conceptual ideas.