Phoebe Wong is a Vancouver based creative with an eye for the eccentric, the obtuse and colourfully imaginative. Her work generally includes people in some way whether that be fashion, creative portraits or street photography. Phoebe was hand selected by us here at Lekker Magazine in partnership with Racquet Film to be the first in a series of featured photographers in Racquet's front-of-house exhibition room. Her work has been printed and displayed with all proceeds going toward the Black Lives Matter movement with Racquet matching these proceeds dollar for dollar. As part of this exhibition we spoke to Phoebe in order to hear her perspective on art and photography as well as the struggles of being creative in a COVID-19 Canada.
(Sam) You’re currently featured in the gallery co-curated with Lekker Magazine. Can you tell us about the pieces and overall theme?
The overall theme is called Synesthesia, which means "a crossing of the senses". My work is mostly portraits of the people I love, respect, or admire. Some of them are taken to document a certain memory/feeling of my life that I want to remember. When I take portraits of people I like experimenting with the depth of field, incorporating bright hues, and attempting to capture a fleeting moment. When people look at my portraits I want to challenge how they see motion. My goal is to get a reaction of "I hear" or "I can feel the texture of this image".
(Sam) All profits of this exhibition are going towards the Black Lives Matter movement. Before we talk about photography, do you think the world will make enough sound to ignite change?
There is a lot of momentum going on in the world right now, therefore, I think it’s crucial to keep that momentum going. Now is the time to listen, reflect, learn and unlearn bad habits or perspectives that we have learned. We all have choices to make right now and it’s important to let those choices be led by hope, love and the belief that the world will see change and healing. The change starts with us and I believe we can all work towards a better future.
(Brady) With the world being on uncertain terms due to COVID-19 how has photography been a part of your life throughout?
Like most people, 2020 has been the hardest year of my life. There were times when I’ve felt completely uninspired and stuck from a creative standpoint. A lot of my work consists of portraits of my loved ones and having that opportunity being taken away from me during quarantine has put my creative process on hold. Things got better when I tried to see this situation in a new light, I began taking photos of my family or just the simple things at home that I find peace and beauty within. Photography has helped me pay attention to details I’ve taken for granted in my everyday life, such as the beautiful neighbourhood I’ve been living in for the past few years. I’ve taken my time to look again, look harder, and embrace the beauty that surrounds me.
(Sam) What does an average day look like for you currently?
With the pandemic going on, I try my best to make the most out of my time. Lately, an average day includes working on my portfolio website, documenting summer in Vancouver by shooting photos, and spending time on my summer anthropology course on racism.
(Sam) How long have you been shooting?
I have been shooting ever since grade 9 in high school. I started by taking photos of Vancouver when I first moved here from Hong Kong, and my interest in photography grew dramatically throughout high school as I explored film photography and started focusing more on taking portraits of people.
(Sam) Is it something you see as a life profession?
I’m currently a graphic design student and I’m hoping that photography can continue to be a part of my professional development towards creative directions.
(Brady) You seem to draw as well, does this aid your work, replace it, or work alongside your photography?
It’s amazing how different art forms can be so versatile when it comes to creating. My background in art and design has helped me drastically in the composition process of photography. My knowledge in art makes me pay extra attention to details such as light and shadows, sometimes I treat a photograph like a painting. On the other hand, skills I learnt in design school have helped me achieve better composition and visual balance in terms of framing.
(Brady) Your work can be quite eclectic and experimental, what are some of the things you do when looking to create less "standard" images?
I always try to make sure I have a concept or message to convey before I start shooting. When I first started getting into photography I found myself falling into this loop of trying to shoot like other photographers. I often end up being unhappy with the results knowing that my reference is from an idea that is already done. But by getting inspiration from my everyday life and shooting based on my own concepts it has helped me drastically on the development of my particular aesthetic.
(Sam) Do you feel there’s a trade off between being unique and shooting what you like, and pandering to public appeal?
I think it’s easy for photographers to lean towards shooting for public appeal, and I often struggle with that as well. For me ideas are never completely original, what we think is creative or unique is probably done by others already. But as long as my photographs tell a story about my experiences in life, they will always be special to me. Since they tell people about a part of me and no one can ever take that away from me.
(Sam) Your work is strikingly unique, that’s a trait almost all prolific photographers share, and certainly a compliment. Do you feel like you’ll stick to that aesthetic or is it simply your current look?
Thank you so much, Sam! As someone that still has so much to learn, to be called unique is such a big compliment to me. In the future, I hope to continue improving my skills as a photographer, which means more experimentation and evolving my aesthetic as I grow.
(Sam) Instagram proliferates imagery at a crazy rate, do you think an age of instantaneous gratification means photography will move forward with the "greats of old"? I.e. some of history’s most iconic photographers probably wouldn’t crack the Instagram algorithm.
From a creative standpoint the influence of Instagram on photography is not always positive in my opinion. I try not to find inspiration on Instagram these days as certain ideas are often overdone. The of approval from the Instagram algorithm can create an echo chamber with people trying to emulate and reinforce ideas that are done over and over again. Sometimes it feels as if there’s a certain guideline to get exposure and attention for public approval and it's not something that I really want to fall victim to.
(Brady) How did you get into almost fashion based photography? Do you have an interest in fashion or is it simply an accessory to achieving your overall vision in an image?
A lot of my friends and I have been into thrifting and vintage fashion for a few years now. It started as taking photos to capture a great outfit but then it gradually turned into getting inspiration from fashion itself. For instance, picking an 80's outfit to create a specific mood for a shoot or even picking a location that will compliment the model’s outfit.
(Sam) What is your end goal in photography?
A dream of mine is to go on a road trip, document it with photography, and design a book about my journey. Travelling comes with a lot of bitter-sweetness: on the one hand you don’t want the trip to end, but on the other hand it is a beautiful thing to have the opportunity to capture fleeting emotions and be able to look back on them.
(Brady) For those that think that any photographer whose work is published must be a complete photographer, what are some things about your own work that you’re unhappy with? Areas you’re looking at pushing into to expand your own skill-set and to continuously improve?
It’s interesting hearing this as I personally don’t even see myself as a "photographer". To this day I still make plenty of mistakes when I shoot, so I’d like to say that I’m still in the learning process of becoming one. When it comes to using a 35mm camera I struggle a lot with shooting manually and getting all the exposures right. I’m hoping to push myself further into knowing all the technical aspects of the camera I own before diving into more advanced forms of film photography like medium format.
(Sam) What does your camera kit look like and who inspires you?
I’m currently using the ever popular (and for good reason) Canon A-1. Most of my work is inspired by my own experiences in life. Similar to a lot of other photographers, photography is a "visual diary" to me, it is a medium that expresses my unspoken feelings and thoughts.
(Sam) If you could tell a younger version of yourself three pieces of photography related advice, what would they be?
This is an interesting question because to this day, I still make a ton of mistakes when it comes to shooting. But if I could have this opportunity, I would tell myself:
(Brady) Do you have any upcoming projects you’re excited by?
I have been trying to get into night photography and shooting manually. Film photography is all about trial and error, I’m hoping to take advantage of this summer to experiment and get familiar with how to use a camera instead of only seeing the medium as an art form.
To see more of Phoebe's work head to