Behind the lens with Peter Hong

Peter Hong, a 24 year old talented portrait photographer from Swansea, sat down for a coffee with Plastik Magazine to shed some light on the Polaroid that is his life.

Peter is a laidback creator of visual art who enjoys nothing more than being out and about with his bag of wonderfully varied cameras. We began with an introduction to his ‘children of the revolution.’ Reaching inside Peter hoisted out what he called his ‘workhorse’ camera, a beast of technology that he said was his one of his favourites despite its hefty size and weight. Nestling it back into its orange sponge bed he brought out a more retro looking Fujitsu camera. Peter told me he loved it for its hipster look and the fact is was much easier to carry than the workhorse. Finally in Peter’s magic bag was a blue and silver Polaroid camera.

He explained how he had come across it when he was in Japan studying abroad two years ago. He had bought a camera with the mission to learn how to use it out there. Peter explained that, “Japan was the place I got better; I got to know my camera.” His growing expertise was surely evident when one of Peter’s photos, a shot of a guard at the Imperial Palace in Korea, got into the top 500 most popular Flickr photos for that day.

Peter said it all began when his parents bought him his first camera, a Nikon D60. He laughed, explaining that his mother hadn’t been impressed to see £400 worth of still camera when she had been expecting a video camera for that price.

“I buy my own now,” Peter said. “I do stocks and bought a load of lenses in Japan because second hand camera equipment is cheaper.”

As for wielding his many cameras, Peter said that the beauty of photography for him was taking over 300 photos, knowing that there may well only be two decent ones at the end of it, “It excites me!” he grinned.  Where editing is concerned, he admitted that he used to spend up to 40 to 45 minutes on each individual image, even if it was simple. He said the editing time shortens once you’ve found your way and your style. Peter explained that his studio, or bedroom, is where most of his editing takes place, filling it with lighting and equipment. He advised that photographers keep it simple when it comes to lighting as you can faff with it too much.

When picking his subjects for visual capture, Peter avoids the typical tourist areas and clichéd beaches, explaining that he loves to get off the beaten track. He immerses himself in the culture of wherever he is, taking photos of people in their own environment; regular people in their everyday lives.

When Peter’s not out snapping away with his menagerie of cameras he can be found cycling round the city, admittedly to get to photo opportunity sites but also for the enjoyment and ease. “In Japan the transport system is so good you don’t need a car,” he explained. “I bought a bicycle and felt like a kid again.” As for dislikes, Peter’s aversion to the cold is not an uncommon one. He said that in Japan he was stuck in a freezing apartment, which was not the most enjoyable of experiences. If there was anything Peter would like to avoid photographing, it would be something with a mundane composition, such as someone in an office environment. It’s colourful people and places only for Peter.

With the mastery of photography securely under his belt, Peter decided to look into video. “I always wanted to do film,” he smiled. “It’s harder and there’s more to think about.”

Whilst in Japan he spent three weeks editing a documentary on Japanese etiquette. Interviewing Japanese people and looking at the country from both the foreign and the local angle kick-started Peter’s love of photography when he was engrossed in a second hand camera shop for almost four hours. He said that the great thing about cameras of late is their ability to produce both video and stills. The Canon 5D mark 2, he explained are just so good in their video quality.

“A film on an iPhone isn’t the same,” Peter said. Despite his deep-rooted love of stills, he admitted that film could make things look so much better.

When looking for inspiration he said that he doesn’t look at one person’s work too much. Peter looks at different points of many people’s photography, cherry-picking the best parts to apply to his own work. One of his favourite photographers is Chase Jarvis, who carries one of Peter’s most memorable quotes, “The best camera is the one you have with you.” For Peter this can mean one of many cameras, from his workhorse Nikon to his trusty iPhone.

In five years’ time Peter hopes to see himself working as a professional photographer and blogger in Japan. He said that he saw himself working mainly in stills but admitted that if he joined a professional camera crew then he would do more film.

Live: Future of the Left

The crowd was warmed into a gentle frenzy by Science B******s and Saturday Kids. Saturday Kids in particular offered an energetic performance that saw the lead singer thrashing around in amongst the crowd at the front of the stage. It was safe to say that by the time Future of the Left began to set up on stage, the crowd was pumped with electric expectation.

The alternative rock band have been working on their latest EP, which has just been released on Xtra Mile Records and the forthcoming LP The Plot Against Common Sense. Clwb was treated to some previews, such as the lyrically ingenious song Robocop 4: F**k off Robocop and Sorry Dad, I was late for the riots.

Lead singer Andrew Falkous entertained the crowd with his typically witty and cutting-edge humor. The crowd particularly fed off the banter by guitarist Jimmy Watkins, who became the subject of the joke when Andrew explained that one of Jimmy’s first sets with them saw him play almost and entire song without plugging his guitar in.

The cherry on top, and perhaps the best surprise of all, was when the band played three songs from Andrew and drummer Jack Egglestone’s previous band, Mclusky. On hearing the first few notes of each Mclusky song the crowd instantly formed a wild mosh pit packed with grinning fans.

Future of the Left’s older songs were met with crowd sing back and the newer songs were embraced with full head banging appreciative force. The band’s ease of play was demonstrated through swift instrument changes and swaps between Andrew and bassist Julia Ruzicka, both playing keyboard and bass guitar.

The band has reembedded their roots in Welsh soil and looked firmly at home in Clwb. The performance was filled with pure electricity and took members of the crowd back in time to the nostalgia of real rock and roll, when band’s addressed current issues through meaningful lyrics and powerful melodies.

The sweat poured off the band and flicked into the pulsing crowd before them. Hands clapped to the rhythms of the keyboard that are so distinctive to Future of the Left. By the seventeenth and final track the crowd was just getting warmed up on what Andrew referred to as their “bizarre combination of skanking, mosh pits and gentle sexually repressive swaying” and so they bayed for more. The band finally finished the crowd off by whirring them up in the heavy, crashing drumbeats and screaming guitars of the second half of Lapsed Catholics. It wasn’t just the crowd who weren’t ready for the final curtain; Andrew literally disassembled Jack’s drum set whilst he played, finally leaving Jack alone on stage to flick out the last few crashes of drum on stick.

The lights came up on stage and the crowd stood for a few minutes, utterly entranced by the rock legends that had just blown them away on stage.

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SWN: Day 4

As Among Brothers set up the crowd numbers grew. Then they doubled. Then it was a one in, one out policy in Undertone as the small room became choked with fans. The style and sounds of the band were like something straight out of woodland. Sticks cracked together to make a drumming noise and a xylophone created a sense of tin soldiers marching. The floating vocals and mellow tinkling piano with low reverbs conjured an image of being sat around a fire in Stone Henge. Big thumping beats pounded out and spiralling, airy electronics were pierced with the violin. It was a very enlightening and hypnotic performance. Among Brothers were definitely worth being packed-in like a sardine for.

Despite ripping his trousers and cutting his strum finger, Joshua Caole played a heart-warming set. Sounding similar to Damien Rice, or a mellower John Mayer, Joshua had the crowd sat on the floor like children around a campfire. Joshua played acoustic guitar and the harmonica in a brilliant performance that left people with a gentle glow inside. We were all mesmerised by his flame, for the guitar strings became his heart strings of which he played out the words of his soul. His voice was reminiscent of old country folk song and people swayed slowly to his soft voice. He had to admit defeat in the end however, as his cut finger wasn’t impressed with the hard strumming it was being put under, and so Joshua finished early to a round of applause.

The popularity of this local band, Truckers of Husk, was obvious as people queued up the street outside O’Neills. The band’s music blasted out of the windows of the first floor and down onto the crowd outside. Math rock with plucky guitars were joined by warbling undertones which rang out into the night air. Thick and deep drum beats cut through with an overall uplifting road-trip sort of feel. The Truckers had drawn a good audience and people set up camp outside to listen, only able to imagine what it must be like for those lucky few who got to watch them in the warmth.

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Lucy Rose, who if you don’t recognise in her own right (which you most definitely should!) is the female singer (or unofficial fifth member) on Bombay Bicycle Club’s albums, Flaws, and A Different Kind of Fix. Lucy has great vocals that compliment Jack Steadman’s unique tones perfectly, but she also sounds great as a solo talent. Lucy stepped onto the stage at Clwb Ifor Bach as another cool and attractive indie girl with a guitar. After tuning and warming her voice on stage, Lucy’s dulcet tones purred and soothed a SWN-worn crowd.

As many of her tracks are in different keys, she quickly tuned between songs and the audience remained calm and attentive, patiently waiting in silence for the next track, which did appear to unnerve Lucy slightly. Accompanied on stage only by an electric guitarist who provided harmonies and the odd atmospheric reverberant glissando, Lucy remarked that a couple of her songs feature a larger band. Middle of the Bed, one such song sounded great as a stripped back guitar and vocal version. Lucy has a single coming out in November, with five remixes, and hopefully an album will follow next year.

Supporting Ben Howard’s headline set this evening was 19-year-old Jodie Marie, a lovely and quietly unassuming girl with a big, big voice. Jodie’s songs moved between country, acoustic, and some with a jazzy, funky flair to them. It appeared that Jodie had bought her entire cohort of family and friends with her, who were all crowded together and naturally cheered about five times as loudly as everyone else. Joining Jodie on stage were a percussionist and guitarist who definitely remained in the background, letting the soulstress shine. Jodie’s voice is clearly influenced by some of the blues and soul greats such as Carole King and Joni Mitchell, and her songs that are influenced by this style were much more impressive than some of her acoustic numbers.

During one song, Jodie appeared to be moved to close to tears by the personal lyrics which she warned would depress everyone. She has said, “The songs are written as conversations to people in my life, but without speaking to them directly about things, almost like an echo.” Her debut single, Single Blank Canvas, is out now.

Tonight Ben Howard played his first ever Cardiff gig to a packed and rather toasty Clwb Ifor Bach. Young girls attempted to get as close to him as physically possible, edging further and further towards the stage throughout the show. The West Country singer-songwriter, who was signed to Island records only at the beginning of this year, is gaining a rather good reputation for himself. Ben’s debut album, which was released earlier this month has been very well received, and many songs performed at Clwb Ifor Bach were from the album, receiving huge support from the adoring crowd.

Beginning his set with the beautiful Depth Over Distance, the audience fell silent and you could practically hear hearts breaking and girls swooning. Several tracks had most of the crowd singing along which is a testimony to Ben’s popularity and rise to fame. Keep Your Head Up was a track that the crowd particularly enjoyed, crooning along with the gorgeously smooth tones of Ben.

Many tracks had added instrumental sections at the end where Ben really seemed to get in to the folky motions, and towards the end instigated a speedy hoedown which received clichéd whoops and hollers from the crowd attempting to keep up with the frantically increasing rhythms.

Unfortunately Ben didn’t play an encore, but the enthusiasm and quality of Ben Howard’s set at Clwb Ifor Bach for the finale of SWN festival 2011 was, judging from the audience reaction, more than enough to satisfy musically, and ensure girl’s across Wales will be dreaming of Mr Howard for a good while.

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Gideon Conn could have kept strumming away in the top floor of Clwb Ifor Bach for the remainder of SWN, and I doubt anyone would have made a peep of complaint. Bounding onto the stage with a cup of tea in hand, Conn has the energy and perennial smile of a CBBC presenter, but his comical delivery and simple lyrics fail to conceal how incredibly articulate and intelligent he is. Tailoring his set to feel of the audience, he hyperactively volleys from I Want You Around to Electricity, the playing beautiful Londonderry after a request from the audience. The fact Conn asks his sound engineer to “Put some reverb on the trumpet solo,” and then plays the trumpet solo with his mouth, sums up the whole Gideon Conn experience.

After four days of enjoying himself, Sweet Baboo is the worse for wear by the time it comes to his headline set in O’Neills; larger, wine and whiskey have all failed to cure his debilitating sore throat, but Stephen Black takes to the stage anyway. Glass of red in hand, he croaks his way through songs from the recent Girl Under A Tree EP, his Welsh Music Prize nominated album I’m A Dancer/Songs About Sleepin’ and a selection of new tracks.

Acknowledging in his typically deprecating style that his illness is in fact “pretty f***ing endearing”, Sweet Baboo delivers each song with all the power he can bear to muster, but loses nothing from his delivery.  During the brilliantly ironic The Day I Lost My Voice his voice catches beautifully, while on I’m A Dancer his affirmations sound even more desperate.

In an attempt to write less about girls, we’re treated to a hilariously rambling “ten-minute song about a clam”, which isn’t ten-minutes at all and actually rather good.

It’s hard to pin Sweet Baboo down, but fundamentally he’s the funniest, sweetest and easily the most talented folk singer-songwriter in Wales today, and the finest we’ve produced for many a year. A phrase too often bandied about these days,  he is a national treasure.

Welsh Language at SWN

Supported By @CreativeCardiff


Visit @CreativeCardiff online to find out more

Iwan Huws

Saturday 22 October, 8.45-9.30pm, 10 Feet Tall

Iwan Huws is one of those gifted artists who can superbly concoct beautiful songs using a medley of sounds. Iwan’s music has haunting elements of acoustic country, infused with his deep and soul stirring lyrics. The tracks conjure images of rolling fields and sunny skies, leaving you with a smooth sense of nostalgia. The music hits an even more diverse level when Iwan shows off his Welsh language skills. The plucky acoustics swirling with the Welsh language, which so easily rolls of Iwan’s tongue, is enough to make even the toughest heart swell. Iwan’s not to be missed at SWN! – Jade Price

Sen Segur

Saturday 22 October, 7.00pm-7.45pm, Gwdihw

They are around the age of seventeen, they are psychedelic, and they sometimes sing about swimmers. Sen Segur may be young, but the trio, Gethan Davies, Ben Ellis and George Amor from Gwynedd in Snowdonia perform with maturity, and sound like they have been plucked straight out of a mid-60s psychedelic pop festival and planted firmly in 2011. Twangy guitars and bass with some dreamy reverb and lilting Welsh language vocals make a compelling mix. They cite some of their influences as Joy Division, My Bloody Valentine, and Super Furry Animals. The band have played at the National Eisteddfod and Gwyl Gardd Goll festival in Bangor this year, and you can catch them at SWN this weekend. – Rachael Hogg

Y Niwl

Saturday 22 October, 11.45pm-12.30am, Dempsey’s

If you want to be reminded of those lazy summer days this weekend at SWN, then check out Y Niwl. Their retro, instrumental and bright surf rock will transport you back to lounging around on the beach (on those couple of days of sunshine that we had this summer). The names translates into English as The Fog, which is a bit of a juxtaposition of their music, and of their production. The LP was recorded by British Sea Power’s engineer, David Wrench and unlike nearly every band produced these days, the sound is almost entirely natural. There has been no enhancement of sound, even down to the reverb. This therefore means, if you like what you hear, and you enjoy the authenticity, you are even more likely to love seeing Y Niwl live this weekend. – Rachael Hogg

Al Lewis Band

Sunday 23 October, 7:00-7:45pm, Clwb Ifor Bach

Al Lewis’ winsome, radio-friendly melodies mask complex, impeccably crafted lyrics; evoking the American troubadours of the 1970s, the North Wales singer perfectly creates sweeping story arcs in songs like Life On The Wire and The Arsonist.
Al Lewis’ star has been steady in Welsh Language music since 2007, when the singer-songwriter came second in the “Song For Wales” competition. In 2009 Al Lewis Band released their first Welsh Language album, enjoying massive success. Performing alternately in both Welsh and English, Al’s 2010 solo release In The Wake was followed by his first nationwide tour and a Welsh Music Prize nomination. – Emily Bater

Welsh Music Prize

And let’s not forget the formidable Welsh Music Prize. Although we’ve already mentioned it several times this week, it’s a highlight of the festival this year. While it won’t be in the Welsh language, it is a celebration of Welsh (language) music and Welsh culture. We’re so unbelievably excited about finding out who the winner is that we can barely stop squealing – in Welsh.

 

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SWN Festival is an incredible opportunity to promote Wales and the Welsh language. With all of the literature that’s produced for the festival being bilingual, the team behind SWN are making a massive contribution to the Welsh language as well as culture in Cardiff.

Exciting times!