For a while now I’ve wanted VPW to be not only a place of (physical) encounter for local photographers, but also a stage for talent, and a ‘directory’ for creative minds. On that note, hosting guest blog posts, written by local photographers, artists, designers, and bloggers, is an idea I’ve been playing around with since the beginning of 2016.
I’m very pleased to announce the launch of our VPW Guest Blog Series, appearing (from now on) regularly on our website. And here to kick-start this project is Hongwei Tang.
I met Hongwei when I first moved to Vienna last year. I was finishing off my thesis, didn’t know anyone in town, and turned to two awesome groups for comfort and inspiration – Instagram Vienna (@IgersVienna) and Instagram Austria (@IgersAustria). Both, aside from re-posting popular photos in their feeds, organize regular events around Austria – free of charge, free of discrimination (all photo-levels and all cameras welcome), and full of enthusiasm and positivity. My second Instagram-hosted event took me to the Belvedere, which is where I met Hongwei. As we waited for everyone else to arrive we started chatting about Vienna, Instagram, bad cameras, and great lenses.
Since then we keep running into each other at local Instagram events and, most recently at the IG-unrelated Martin Parr exhibition opening at the Kunst Haus. It was loud and hectic, and we were trapped between two eager lines for the bar, but Hongwei still managed to fill me in on what’s been going on in his life since we last met; once the idea of the VPW Guest Blog Series became a tangible one, he was one of the first people who came to mind for an interview.
So, without further ado, here are a few words (and images) by Hongwei Tang about his journey, his work, and his exciting plans.
Guest Blog: Hongwei Tang
I am not a classically trained photographer, so my relationship with photography has developed in an unusual way. From the very beginning I started questioning myself, wondering how I could set myself apart from everyone else; thinking about it didn‘t help me find a solution. At that time I was shooting with a Canon 650D (+50/1.8 and Tamron 17-50/2.8).
I was studying Graphic Design and Fine Art Photography at university, when my class planned to go on a 2-week trip to India. Two weeks is not a very long time, but the trip had an immense impact on me, and is the reason for my current choice of photo-gear. It was the year 2014 and Fujifilm had just released their X100s model. I was very excited about the camera, and invested lots of time into testing it and reading reviews of it. Eventually, I bit the bullet and went for it, purchasing a used black X100s. I brought it with me to India.
What changed for me, with the purchase of this new camera? Crucially, I now had only a fixed 23mm/2 lens (FF equivalent to 35mm) on my camera. You realize how much the distance to your subject matters, and how differently your images need to be composed when you have an extra space on the left and right side of the viewfinder to account for. Capturing the world through this new perspective wasn‘t straightforward, and I ultimately wasn’t successful in mastering the new Fujifilm on my India trip. In fact, it took me the last two years to get comfortable with it, and to really develop my work in the right direction; photographers like William Eggleston, Joel Meyerowitz, Fred Herzog, Stephen Shore (to name a few) played a big role in the development of my vision.
So, my advice for beginners? If people tell you that 50mm is an excellent lens for your APS-C camera, don‘t trust them because your 50mm will be like 80mm (50 * 1.5 or 1.6 depending on your crop factor) on a crop sensor. Bearing that in mind, I would suggest you go for a 35mm.
Now, you may have noticed a small discrepancy: at the beginning of this interview I mentioned that I had no classical photography training, but then went on to mention that I go to art school. That might seem confusing, but let me explain: the education you get in art school has less to do with understanding technical photographic parameters, and more with learning how to build a good concept. Most of my classes involve learning image theory (I love Susan Sontag’s book, ‘About Photography‘), reviewing a photographer’s unique concept, and talking about photography in terms of exhibition. All this has had an influence on developing my personal view of photography.
Throughout 2015 and early-2016 I worked on conceptual stuff for school. We were given topics like „Ghosts & Demons“, and everyone had to think about and find a definition that would go well with the theme. It was challenging to create meaningful work, but interesting and exciting to see what others and myself were able to come up with. Unfortunately I can’t share that work here; it is still a concept I am working on, and I need to put the finishing touches on it before I can produce and present it for my bachelor thesis next year. The images shared with you in this blog post have been selected from other projects I’ve worked on in the past, and you can find them all (and more) on my website: www.hongweitang.net
I still have a long way to go because I feel there is always something to be learnt, and photography is a wonderful tool for self-expression. It took me a while to realize that photography is, in fact, about just that – self-expression – and that my personal view was born as a result of searching for meaning in my work.
On a related note, I recently worked on a project for a small art scholarship where I had to deal with the term „In/Equality“. I struggled to find a starting point to work from, and decided to approach it on from more personal angle: I tackled the subject of inner inequality, and this resulted in a series called „Identity“, in which I question my own identity.
Throughout the project I grapple with the strange phenomenon of human contradiction, expressed in the fact that my own body and brain are divided between two „worlds“. Being born with a Chinese background but raised in Austria creates an unusual situation where I struggle to define a place that I can call home, because both sides don‘t feel quite right. It’s a struggle that involves, on one hand, being perceived as a foreigner no matter where I go and, on the other, having no first-hand knowledge about the culture of my origin. This project wasn’t very big, but very personal and meaningful for me.
Starting July 21st 2016, I will be taking part in a tv show called „Master of Photography“ on Sky Arts. Follow me and my adventures around Europe on www.masterofphotography.tv. You can see my personal profile here.
If you have any questions or comments, or would like some advice about selecting gear, please drop me a line at email@example.com, and I will get back to you as soon as I can.