Cheng Nan-Huang on Chasing Cinematic Colors
“Cinematic” is how Cheng Nan-Huang describes his photography style. Like movie stills, the vivid colors and scrupulous setups of his portraits invite the viewers to linger and wait for the climactic scene to unfold. In these silent stories, a fortuitous meeting ends in an intimate conversation and a quiet time alone becomes a moment of self-discovery.
Lomography talks to the Taiwan-based photographer about what inspires his photography and why he likens taking portraits to falling in love.
Hello Cheng! Thank you for your time. Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
I’m based in Taiyuan,Taiwan. As an engineer, I make photomask.
You are an electronic engineer by profession. How did you get started with photography? What made you pursue it?
On December 2009, I started to take photo while cycling because I like to travel by bicycle and record everything I see.
I started to shoot with a film camera in 2015. My grandfather give me a Fujica STX-1 camera before he passed away. I wanted to know the world through its viewfinder as my grandfather. That why I started taking film photographs.
I think I’m more emotional than rational. For me, photography is a wonderful thing to document and remember things that happen in my life with. Photography made my life more exciting and allowed me to release my emotions.
Who are your photography idols?
Wing Shya, Ping-Bing Lee (Mark Lee), Lara Jade, and Richard Avedon
The strong personalities of your muses and the overall aesthetic of your photos remind us of movies by Wong Kar Wai. Do you also consider him as one of your inspirations?
Yes, WKW is one of my favorite movie directors. Each of his movies touched and inspired me. They resonate with me. The funny thing is that I felt bored with his work when I was younger. I feel the heaven of WKW movies when I turned 30.
Most of your photographs are drenched in vivid colors. What role does color play in your portraiture?
Actually, I don’t have any rules when I take photographs. Everything should feel comfortable is my rule. Maybe, it’s the model’s personality that affects what kind of colors I play with.
How do you plan for a shoot? Do you prefer having an image in mind before shooting? Or are you the type who goes with the flow?
Life experiences led me to write the scripts of my photo series. No doubt! [Laughs] I will write the concept and collect songs for my models. My friends often make fun of me because of this. For me, doing photo shoots is just like falling in love with someone. We listen to music, watch movies, and write the story together.
You mentioned that you use music to communicate your vision to your models. Can you tells us some songs that you listen to during photo shoots?
Do you have a favorite among your series? How did it come about?
None. Probably, my next work will be the best one.
Do you have a favorite film and camera combination? Why is this your favorite?
My favorite film is Kodak Vision3 500T, paired with a Konica Hexar AF camera. For most shoot, I set the ISO to 400. The camera is very simple and easy to use. I have a Leica M3, Leica M6, and Konica HEXAR RF but I mostly shoot with the Konica Hexar AF.
With the Konica Hexar AF you can set up different ISO. It also has different shooting modes so it’s really convenient to use. It allows me to focus and feel the environment, the space, and be in my own world.
In this digital age, why do you still shoot on film?
I like old stuff. All things have their own story and history that always give me a sense of nostalgia. I think that’s why I choose film because it imparts a special sentiment to the image.
In your opinion, what makes a great photograph?
In this world, everyone follows their own judgement. Each person has their own story and thinking. If a photograph can record those memories or emotions, then it would be a great photo. Maybe you will learn exposure or how to set up a good lighting — these are all part of the photographic process. But don’t forget to be yourself! Always remind yourself what you are shooting and why you are shooting it.
What does photography mean to you?
A part of me.
What’s next for you?
To enjoy my life to make better images.