Fstoppers Interviews Fashion Photographer Paul Phung
Paul Phung is a fashion photographer based in London, but to call what he does just ‘fashion’ is a gross oversimplification. Paul has the gift of being able to photograph a feeling. He can capture emotions on film. His images dance all over the line that vaguely separates fashion images from fine art. It’s no wonder his work has been featured in magazines such as Dazed and Confused, Intern and Nasty.
Can you tell us about yourself and your photographic background?
I was born in Manchester, UK, studied my degree in photography at Leeds College of Art and now live and work as a photographer in London.
What got you started in photography?
I think it was a natural progression. Before studying photography, I did everything from graphic design to life drawing. I’m not sure why I went on to study photography, but it felt like the right choice at the time. I really grew to love the subject, but everything I’ve done previously has had a huge impact on how I work. I started to look in new ways after my life drawing classes.
What kind of gear would we find in your bag?
It depends what job I’m doing at the time, but I always carry around with me a manual film 35mm and a small point and shoot.
Do you prefer strobes or natural light?
It’s always natural light with some reflectors. I try to keep it very simple.
Where do you find the majority of your inspiration?
I find it in cinema and music always, but I think inspiration can come from everywhere. I love looking at different textures on walls and sitting and watching the sea. It is something I wish I could do more. I also love looking at how things interact with each other.
What is your mental checklist before a shoot?
Apart from the obvious camera checklist, I make sure I’ve eaten something and have a clear head.
What is your thought process for location scouting? When shooting studio, how do you approach it differently?
I rarely shoot in the studio. It’s something that still hasn’t appealed to me yet. I find location scouting really difficult; it’s something I over think a lot. Recently, I’ve tried not to see the location before the shoot and love the challenge of working with an unseen location.
What is your favorite subject to shoot?
I photograph my sister a lot, because she really understands my work probably better than anyone.
What is your favorite thing to shoot for yourself?
The open sea, always.
What do you do on your down time?
I work on something photography related everyday, but I do enjoy walking around at night on my own in London.
What has been your most memorable moment in your career?
Shooting for Dazed and Confused magazine was amazing, but my most favorite shoot I’ve done was for Nasty magazine. I worked with a very small team, and it was a rare time where I hit all the points I wanted to do within a shoot. It taught me a lot on how I worked best.
How spontaneous is the process for you? Do you do a tremendous amount of pre-planning or prefer feel it out on the day?
It’s half and half really. I like to think I’m pretty spontaneous on a shoot, but I also have a very set way on how I shoot.
Can you explain the expressions or emotions that you are looking to capture or present in your images?
A key part of my work is to leave it up for interpretation.
How important of a role does post production play in your work?
Not much if I’m honest. I really hate heavy post production. It’s something I try to avoid.
What is the one thing you wish you had more of in your work?
Maybe continuity? I used to be quite an experimental photographer when I first started.
What is the one thing you wish you had less of?
I go through phases of hating my work so I burn the negatives. I should stop doing that, but I’m really strict on myself if it’s not right.
What defines the decisive moment of your photographs?
Maybe if you ask me again in 10 years time I will have a better understanding.