Photographer Victor Cheng Capturing Hong Kong’s Most Photographic Scenes
November 21, 2022
Hong Kong-based photographer and creative designer Victor Cheng is internationally recognisable for his snaps, capturing the vibrancy and architectural gems of Hong Kong’s urban landscape from above and on street level.
His clean shot and comic-like style of photography has earned him recognition and work with Google, Samsung, Cathay Pacific, Uber, and Nike.
The Torontonian photographer delved deep into his story of becoming a photographer and inspirations for his journey in a chat with The Beat Asia.
What is your connection to Hong Kong? What part does Cantonese culture and society play in your life and work?
I was born in Hong Kong and moved to Canada when I was three years old. I can speak Cantonese, but cannot read or write. I believe Cantonese culture in Hong Kong has played a big part in my life and work, where I realise how fast-paced it is here, compared to when I return to visit family in Canada. I am now more used to doing things in a quick manner.
What began your interest and passion in the practice, and how did you transform this into a career?
I was in school for multimedia and communications, but initially I wanted to become an interior designer. I had a whole art portfolio completed and decided to pursue something more general in the arts. I started taking photography more seriously when I first saved enough money for the iPhone 5.
That was when I started exploring and using a lot of mobile editing photography apps, and learned things like symmetry, rule of thirds, and colour grading. My first move to Hong Kong began at Hypebeast as their creative director for the e-commerce platform "HBX".
Moving to Hong Kong led to my photography style drastically changing from minimalist to ‘organised chaos’. Because of the dense architecture and vibrancy of the city, my photography aesthetic completely changed.
I also met my wife in Hong Kong during this time, in which she was already freelancing full-time [doing] photography. We started working a lot together on different clients in the hospitality industry, which led to quitting my full-time job to pursue freelancing, since I took a lot of time off from my job for traveling.
For a while, many friends I would meet on Instagram would visit Hong Kong, and I would take them on these photography tours that forced me to explore the city and find cool locations for photos. That led to capturing a side of Hong Kong I didn't know about, such as rooftop basketball courts, straight facades, and aerial photography.
What to you makes a good photograph?
To me, a good photograph is if the photographer determines if it's good. If he, she, or they say it's good, then it's good. I don't think there is a definition of a good photograph.
What are your inspirations for your photography shared on Instagram?
My tips for working with brands as a photographer are to never stop creating and always have a mindset of shooting content that can potentially be seen by a brand or potential client. You should always have a mind to capture things in a brand's perspective.
At the same time, [from] applying your own creative twist or aesthetic to the photos, to pricing your work, everyone has different ways of [determining] how [much] they believe their work is worth. The way I always price my work is by experience. If one client accepts your pricing, that becomes your benchmark or guideline for the next potential client.
Social media has played a huge role in my freelance photography career. My experience of using social media to grow an audience is to keep it casual and not overly complicated. Have fun with what you're creating, but simultaneously keep it professional.
What do you want people to feel and see in your photography in the city?
I want people to feel that even an ordinary location or boring commute can be seen differently in a particular angle. One of the first projects I worked with was a dream client, Google.
This project was memorable, since it was my first time ever having creative direction and freedom to go anywhere in the world and capture architecture the way I wanted for a big brand. The project was to launch their new Chromebooks and have my images as the default wallpapers, which I felt was a pretty big thing starting out in my freelance journey!
Where are the most photographable/Instagrammable areas in Hong Kong?
I think if you're into street photography, Shum Shui Po. If you're looking for the most photogenic areas, Choi Hung, Victoria Harbour, and Monster Mansion [in Quarry Bay] are staples. The best view of the city is still at Victoria Peak's Luggard Road.
What is the future for your photography and creative arts work? Any exciting projects on the horizon you can share with us?
Don't rush into it. Always be intentional with your goals, and you must have discipline in terms of work ethic and the number of hours you spend crafting your work.
I would always advise on having a full-time job first and using photography as a side hustle to build up a portfolio first. Whether it be after work hours, or spending a weekend networking with other photographers, creating new content that might spark new clients.
The ultimate goal is to be happy [with] what you do every day, and [have] something to look forward to every morning. And of course, never stop shooting!
With social media constantly changing and evolving into video content, I'm excited to see where photographers put themselves in terms of branding or creating new content. I'm curious if there will be a new platform where photographers would showcase their work.
In terms of goals, I'm learning to have more work-life balance on knowing when to put down my camera and enjoy the moment with friends or family.
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