Leibovitz is 63, Testino 58 and Terry Richardson is simply just old enough to know better. All these fashion photographers have become household names and icons in their own right through their extraordinary journeys and beautiful works of art, but who’s next? I spot a Phoebe Cheong on the horizon.
I was fortunate enough to meet the talented Miss Phoebe Cheong back in 2010, after we had both been bribed with tickets to Underage Festival by We Are Photogirls to snap up shots of style-tastic festival goers. I was a little shy and reserved at first, holding my Nikon close and muttering under my breath; “I don’t suppose.. I could have a photo?”, whilst Phoebe on the other hand, had vast dip-dye-denim-donned crowds diving in front of her lens. Practically from the first 5 minutes I had spent with the girl it was clear what she was put on this planet to do.
Since that day, I have followed Phoebe’s work religiously, being fed tidbits of behind the scenes, videos and props from each shoot via her official Facebook page and falling in awe for her carefully edited delicious outcomes.
After recently graduating from Arts University Bournemouth, it was more than a pleasure to catch up with the Malaysian-born missy and grill her that bit further..
Let’s start with inspiration, which photographers inspire you most and why?
– I am currently very fond of the works of James Meakin and Chen Man. My recent work has been inspired by Meakin’s use of light and locations in his images. Chen Man’s work excites me as it embraces the strength and individuality as a young generation of China.
What excites you about fashion photography?
– The creative team. It always amazes me how innovative when a group of creatives get together to produce a fashion piece. That said, it excites me when I am finally able to share my images to world once they are edited and published in an online/printed magazine, after keeping it a secret for months after the shoot!
How would you describe your signature style?
– I would describe my work to be colourful, cultural and bold. I have started to be very much inspired by the Chinese culture, and I hope to infuse my experiences in both the East and West into my future work.
What’s been your most enjoyable/rewarding shoot?
– I really enjoyed the shoot when I went to Beijing to photograph an editorial piece. Working with an amazing team, beautiful Chinese model and breath taking traditional location, I was able to bring these images back to the West and share the beauty of the modern and traditional in China. Not only has the images been published in an online magazine, I also had the opportunity to display these images in an exhibition in London, and the responses to these images have been extremely rewarding.
(Phoebe with her photographs shot in Beijing for Noctis Magazine showcased in ‘Thrive’ photo exhibition at the Candid Arts Trust, London.)
Funny anecdotes from shoots?
– There are always funny moments from all my shoots, but my favourite one had to be when I photographed in Beijing for Noctis Magazine. Whilst photographing in a very traditional residential part of Beijing, we came across some local men playing Chinese chess on the street side. I suggested our Chinese model Hui Hui, to pose amongst them without disrupting the game and five minutes into the shoot, one of the men screamed out loud and almost fell off his stool! Apparently he was frightened from not being aware of her presence and how tall she was!
Biggest obstacle along the way?
– The biggest obstacle would be finding your unique style that makes you stand out from the crowd. Be patient, it does take time and hard work to find your unique style. Experiment as much as you can and challenge yourself on every shoot you do. It will definitely pay off at the end! Furthermore, before a shoot, I usually have a good idea of what I would like the outcome to be. However sometimes, I believe that some things fall apart so that better things can fall together.
Who would be your celebrity of choice to snap?
– It has got to be Miss Sasha Fierce, Beyonce!
Proudest fashion moment so far?
– When I was shortlisted for the ‘Fashion Photography Award’ at Graduate Fashion Week!
Tim Walker or Rankin?
– Tricky one! But Tim Walker wins it.
(Myself, Mia Gorgis and Phoebe at Underage Festival, London)
Ever been starstuck?
– Yes! When I saw Donatella Versace flying on the same plane as I was to Beijing!
Talk me through your favourite sandwich.
– My mum’s tuna sandwiches: diced celery, carrots, red onions mixed in with tuna and mayonnaise spread on toasted bread, yum!
What is your treat at the end of a good shoot?
Phoebe’s portfolio stretches beyond just a few photographs on a page or in a magazine, it is a constant conveyor belt of beauty which is so hard to keep up with just as a follower, it’s difficult to imagine where she even finds the time to create these wonders. To get a real understanding of her work, why not head over to her official site here.
See you queuing up around the corner of Somerset House for one of her exhibitions. I give it a couple of years.