Five months into her job scooping ice-cream, Shavonne Wong decided to trade-in the scoop for a camera. A decision that went on to win her numerous recognitions and awards for her fashion photography.
Her excellent photography skills also caught the eye of the producers for the reality television show, Asia’s Next Top Model, where Shavonne was invited to be the guest photographer last season, and for Season 6 this year.
In this interview, we check in with Shavonne to find out her story behind her successful career in photography and what she thinks makes a good photographer.
What made you fall in love with photography?
I have always been a creative since young. Used to study 3D animation in school and as much as I loved it, it took months to come up with a 15s clip. Photography was a lot more instantaneous, plus I got to play a bigger role on how I wanted the end result to look. It also gave me the opportunity to work with amazing talents to create some beautiful work.
What was the most significant break of your photography career?
Getting to shoot for Asia’s Next Top Model gave me the biggest boost in exposure, credibility and industry validation.
What were the challenges you encountered starting up?
Like most freelancers, especially creative ones, the money was very inconsistent. It was quite difficult financially and made it hard to appreciate any non-monetary achievements.
Were your loved ones supportive of your decision to become a photographer?
I have been very blessed in that aspect! I’m sure my parents were worried in the beginning, but they were still very supportive. It was important especially during the months when the income wasn’t great, and I knew I still had a bed to sleep in and food in the fridge.
What do you think makes a good photographer and a good photo?
Someone who loves to create and does it out of passion. Honestly, gear has improved so much over the years. To stand out, you need to have good ideas and intention behind what you shoot.
You’ve done so much photography work but if you have to choose, what’s that one photo that you would call it your best work?
I chose this image not because I think it’s my best work but because of how it came about. I was setting up my lighting and sunlight was shining through the windows. I considered closing the windows so it would not affect the lighting too much but was a little too lazy so I wanted to see how it’ll look. And ta-dah! I guess in a way I was experimenting… through laziness.
Gears! What are your must-have gears when you go for shoots?
Honestly, I’m not a technical person. I have a 6-year-old camera (5Dmk2) and just three basic lenses (35mm, 50mm, 85mm). They’re also all second hand.
Do you lug all your gears when you travel for leisure? If not, what do you bring along for your travel photos?
I don’t usually lug my gear around for travel photos, but when I do travel even on holidays, I do try to plan photoshoots while I’m there so, in a sense, I bring my gear. But not for the usual travel photos.
You’ve travelled around the world to do shoots. What’s your absolute favourite place to shoot and why?
I loved shooting in NYC. There’s just so many fantastic talents to work with and locations to shoot. The air just oozes with creativity. Plus they also have beautiful natural light.
You are the guest photographer for Asia’s Next Top Model 2018. How’s the experience like?
Amazing. It was amazing the first time they got me to shoot for them last season but for them getting me again this year and flying me over to Bangkok to shoot was a real validation. It’s fun, working with the girls and people like Cindy Bishop and Yu Tsai. Also interesting to see me actually on TV.
You have achieved so much over the years. What’s next for you?
I hope to get into videography. The world is changing, and technology is just getting more and more advanced. I feel like as long as I am not too stuck in my old ways and continuously experimenting and having fun, it should be good.
What’s your advice for aspiring photographers?
Be yourself, don’t be a second-grade version of anybody else. And find yourself a mentor or be an assistant. You’ll learn faster.