We recently lent a final prototype of the Lomography x Zenit New Petzval Art Lens to Studio TM, a multidisciplinary photography duo from Hong Kong. They gave the lens a try and we asked them about their experience. Read on for the full interview!
Name: Studio TM (Topaz Leung and Martin Cheung)
Country: Hong Kong
Cameras: Lomography, Rolleiflex, Canon 5D Mark II and Mark III, DIY pinhole cameras
What was your first experience with photography?
We began photography through different directions. Topaz briefly interned for Lomography in Hong Kong and learned about photography during this period; she was able to shoot a lot in films with all kinds of Lomography cameras. After that Topaz also started an academic interest in photography and took a few courses in school. Martin studied Fine Arts in Australia during the period of 1996-2002 and first approached photography in an academic background from the very beginning.
What’s the challenging part of working as a photographer and artist for a living?
Working as a photographer for a living means that we have to deal with the business side of things and constantly communicate with clients instead of just focusing on the artistic side of things. However, we have a more diverse approach to our work. Beside the commercial photography projects, we are focusing also on art education, partnering with different schools and hosting various workshops and courses of photography. In the meantime, we also actively exhibit our work locally and overseas to gain exposure and subsequently more diverse clients and projects.
When do you decide to use film or digital for your projects?
The decision is based on the nature of the projects. For projects which require more instant feedback, mostly more commercial projects such as fashion or advertisement, we definitely go for digital as it is more convenient to get real-time feedback from our clients. However, for projects which allow more creative process such as movie stills or a magazine shoot, in which we are able to collaborate with the director or magazine editor very closely, we always try to shoot more using film with cameras like a Rolleiflex or Lomography cameras.
How do you strike a balance between commercial and artistic projects? How is the creative process different between both types of project?
We are generally open to work on all kinds of project, artistic or commercial. We are a bit different than most commercial studios in Hong Kong because we have a more diverse background and approach, we have clients from different sectors including various NGOs. Regarding the balance, we really do not have a specific split in mind, but currently have about 60% commercial projects and 40% artistic projects.
Regarding the difference in process, definitely for the commercial projects we have to work within a certain structure to achieve a very specific requirement of our clients. Whereas in the artistic projects, there is a lot of creative room for us to brainstorm and produce something different.
You’ve had the opportunity to shoot a lot for big famous brands, celebrities and artists – have you got any advice for photographers looking to become successful?
First we need to define the term “successful photographer”. We have been quite lucky and got some really good opportunities so far, but this will not last forever. Working as a professional photographer means that we have to constantly improve not just our photographic techniques but also our management, coordination and communication. The clients pick the agencies not solely because of the creativity of the teams, but also whether or not the agencies are able to deliver a full service package and complete the production on time. Ultimately the actual photo shoot constitutes only 25% of the whole project, the rest goes to the preparation and management. We believe that it is really important to provide really good conceptualization, presentation, project management, time management and communication on top of the final product in order to succeed.
How was your experience shooting with the Petzval Lens? What advice have you got for people shooting with it for the first time?
During the short period of our testing the Petzval Lens, we have tried different approaches to maximize the capability of the lens. For example, we added a close-up attachment, which is basically an additional bellow between the lens and the camera, to further narrow the focusing distance between the lens and the subject. The results are our test photos of our friend Sue Chow, in which we were able to take photos of extreme close-ups with the Petzval lens down to the level of Sue’s eyelash. We like the fact that we are able to romanticize the facial features of our model through this technique with the Petzval Lens. Luckily our friend did not mind that we poked the camera really close to her face!
What is your favorite shot with the lens so far? Why?
We shot with the lens under two conditions. The first one was shooting with the lens at this original state without the close-up attachment with a distance between the lens and the subject at 1.1m, in which you can see really clearly the swirling bokeh in the background. The second one is with the close-up attachment that allows us to focus even closer to the facial features of our model. We are particularly fond of the close-up shots because this creates an intimacy between the viewers and the model detailing her delicate hair, smooth lips, eyelash.
And lastly, what’s the strangest, funniest, hands-down greatest, or most “unusual” photographic encounter that you have ever had?
Definitely our strangest, funniest and most unusual photographic experience comes from our more artistic projects. For example, we worked with a project with Kubrick and Broadway Cinema to create a gigantic pinhole camera out of the cinema. We practically turned one of their theaters into a pinhole camera and produced a huge photographic collage that captured the exterior scenario of the cinema. The roast duck pinhole camera made by Martin was also one of the most provocative and funniest projects we have ever done.
Thank you! We look forward to more Petzval shots from you soon!
The Lomography x Zenit Petzval Lens is now available for pre-order in the Lomography Online Shop! They will be delivered on a first come, first served basis; so don’t miss out on securing your piece of photographic history and your place in the pre-order queue!