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.
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.