- Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from? When did you start your photography career? Where can we find your work?
I was born in Haikou, a tourism city in southern China. It is located on the very beautiful island of Hainan. When I was in high school and university, I traveled extensively around China. Traveling is really beneficial, and I experienced many different cultures, appreciated the beauty and faced the challenges of nature. Even as a boy I was inspired by the cities, countryside, and mountains and started taking photos. However, it wasn’t until I reached the university that I started to take it seriously, and set up a photography studio with my associates. At first, my clients were mostly just friends. Soon after I began working in cooperation with several photography platforms and I traveled throughout China, taking various photographs. At this point, larger platforms contracted me to photograph models. My work can be viewed on my website www.yongqiliu.com or Instagram ivanliu_nyc, as well as other social media platforms.
- Which photographers influenced you, and how did they influence your thinking, photographing, and career path?
Every day I collect new photos from photographers found on various websites and magazines. I am influenced by photographers who have a certain unique style, especially some photography masters from the early 20th century. Their photography work was done mostly from film cameras, and the color and the composition by today’s standards, are still exceptional. I am influenced as well by contemporary fine art and fashion photographers in China and Japan. Their images have an eastern aesthetic, which is beautiful and very different from western artistic culture. Whenever I see sensational photographs, I always try to understand how other photographers shoot, how they set up the lighting, and how they do the retouching work. I have studied them to learn their styles and continually apply this knowledge in creating my own individual style.
- Exactly what it is you want to say with your photographs, and how do you actually get your photographs to do that? Would you say you have a specific photography style?
As a photographer, I am always planning how to capture the right photos. I am willing to photograph an entire sequence and document what happened around us. I do enjoy shooting portraits and fashion, but there are times I will walk down streets to shoot documentary photos as well. Whatever the projects are, I strive to capture the pinnacle of the moment in each scene. In order to bring the photo to life, I want to gain the right degree of eye contact, the suggested smile of the model, or the light coming from the building. I do have a particular photography style, drawn from my life experiences and how I perceive things when I am focusing on images or enhancing the shot when retouching.
- What technology/software/camera gear do you use to keep focused on what you do best, as you photograph?
Software and technology are not the highest priority. How you see and feel about your work is what truly matters. Along with obtaining professional knowledge and becoming more observant to raise your awareness are more important factors. However, if you shoot for a client, the image quality is absolutely important, this coincides in another artistic area. When using software for my photography projects, most of the time I prefer using Photoshop and Lightroom, and sometimes I will use Capture One. My favorite lens is the Canon 24-70mm F2.8 lens. Because the image quality is excellent and the lens is sharp. The focal length is capable of covering the majority of my projects. I also have a 50mm and a 70-200mm lens, but I seldom use them. As for the camera, I like using the Canon 5D and 1DX for main photography projects, and I use Sony for video projects.
- What motivates you to continue taking pictures?
Having traveled a lot as a photographer, initially, it was a city that inspired me to take up photography. When I first came to New York City, I was always attracted by the sui generis scenery and the artistic atmosphere of the city. I always work to make everything perfect, compelled to learn all the time. Every time I find out I have created something different, or have made a slight degree of progress, I feel satisfied. I hope to be remembered as a good photographer, leaving notable photography work for future generations. This is my motivation. Keep improving my photography skills and continue taking pictures.
- If you could photograph anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would that be and why?
Having come from China, I truly enjoy shooting editorials with Chinese models, aiming to combine fashion elements with traditional Chinese styles. I also find photographing a specific person interesting, however, photographing a model who displays a unique personality is intriguing. I believe a good image is not only about the quality, but also the story behind the image. I photograph regardless of who the subject is, actress, professional models, or just common people. I believe anyone who can portray their personality, can be a good model.
- Do you have a humanitarian cause close to your heart? Which one is it and why? Have you considered creating an editorial to express your feelings towards this specific cause?
It is the photographer’s role to peer at human beings through a lens and reflect real life. We wait to seize the perfect moment to record beautiful or even imaginary pictures. All real pictures, good or bad, beautiful or ugly, luxurious or simple, should be recorded. In portrait photography, focusing on the eyes of the characters most times conveys more than just the moment when the shutter is pressed. Sometimes I can see their recollection of the past, resistance from reality, or the yearning for a great future. I often think about writing an article sharing my experiences and understanding of the expressions I see in the eyes of the characters. I have accumulated photographs of children in Cambodia, women in Tibet, and fathers of children in anti-war demonstrations. I hope to have more humanitarian documentary photography in the future, and even work with stylists and make-up artists in the studio to create wonderful photography for this theme. I also hope to record, reflect and change the world with photography. I love photography and have devoted myself to it.
- What do you love most in a model? What is your favorite set?
As a photographer I am always looking to capture a model unique personality in my lens. This is the most enjoyable part of photography and I can appreciate the model on a professional basis. Working with fashion designers especially on eastern sets, photographing Chinese models, using a combination of traditional and modern fashion flare, always gives me the greatest sense of creative achievement.
- What is your photography pet peeve? Is there anything a model should never do in front of your camera?
Actually, I don’t have any personal vexation in photography. In order to create the right effect, a model is free to perform in front of my camera to acquire the right mood and achieve the best shot.
- What is one question we did not ask, but you`d like to be asked and to answer?
Question: What brought you into photography?
When I was young, my dad gave me my first film camera. This was how I started learning to photograph. Since then, I continued taking photos with film cameras. When I was older, digital cameras became readily available. I bought my first DSLR camera with my scholarship proceeds when I was a sophomore. Soon after I joined a local photography club and made many new photographer friends. It took me four years to transit from a hobbyist to a professional.