Would you mind introducing yourself? Heyyyy, my name is Shawn Tang. I’m currently an architecture student in upstate New York pursuing my bachelor’s degree! I was born in New York City and raised in Europe(Russia, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, UK…), and yes, I used to speak Swedish and Russian but not anymore. I went back to China with my family when I was around 10 and completed my middle school and high school at some international schools there.
Shawn’s Instagram - @shawnztang
How would you describe your style of photography? I am not confident to say that I have a style yet, but certainly, if there is one, it would be minimalistic. But don’t get me wrong here — I don’t aim for a minimalistic composition or neither do I intend to see things that way. The way my photographs came out to be simple and meaningful to me, yet hold a moment closest to its sincerity, is a direct reflection of my current state of mind as an artist, and a human being.
When did you first fall in love with taking photos? Going back to my early childhood experience, I think I fell in love with travelling when I learned to appreciate nature around me. Then as I grew older, my artistic instinct urged me to take on the path as a photographer and using cameras as a tool to document moments of a journey.
Who/What inspires your photography? Everyday people and sceneries around me. I think being a photographer is an understatement to my existence because I believe that I am human first, and then everything else comes after. With that said, being a human I certainly enjoy moments of my life with related/unrelated people in it, whether I like them or not. And I am inspired the moment random and simple moments/events that I encounter every day. It will vary for different people, but I take inspirations from life, no specific subjects, just the feeling of being involved is enough.
Camera & Editing Process? I use Nikon D810 with Nikkor 14-24mm, Contax G2, Rolleiflex M4A, and iPhone 7Plus! I have been using iPhone more often these days; I guess I finally learned to not make images too intentionally. I find iPhone comes in handy in all situation and all activity types, so that’s why it is my favourite device at the moment. I usually edit with Lightroom on PC first, with simple adjustments, including tone curve, HSL and lens correction. Then, depends on which platforms I’m sending it to, I might move the edited photo into Photoshop to enhance a soft layer of contrast and bring out the emphasis a bit (though nowadays I don’t go through this step anymore). Finally, I would export the photos into VSCO on my phone, where I will make additional adjustments, including HSL and brightness, according to the mobile screen. Oops, sorry I lied. Now, this is the final step. I import it into Instagram and adjust brightness, highlight/shadow and saturation before I upload it!
Are there any tips you would like to give to anyone out there who would love to create similar style photos to yours? I will say one important thing in my process is to expose for the mid-ground, meaning background might be at risk of over-exposing, but it’s fine because there should always be an emphasis to a photo. And to me, it is normally midground or even foreground.
Who are some of your favourite photographers? I have too many favourite photographers, but there's a few who inspire me as an artist that I would share with you today. Ryan Chun, Can Dagarslani, Mustafah Abdulaziz, Fred Tougas, Julia Nimke and Dan Tom. Artists that more people should know about are: All of the above, plus Michael Novotny, Kacie Tomita, and Andrew Ross.
The coolest place you've ever been? Xinjiang, China. Hands down the only place I recommend you go. This place is located in the far west of China, with a drastically different landform from anywhere else in China. You will see both grassland and deserts there, and also a vast lake called Syram. It’s a dream. Go and spend more than two weeks there, and you will never give a second thought to Iceland anymore.
What would be your number one dream destination for a photography adventure? Just about any desert or woods in Africa? And also Western Australia!
Which time of year is your favourite for taking photographs? Summer! OR spring! You might find some fall photos on my website but never winter. I would love to shoot winter scenarios though. I have shot some photos during winter, but I think the reason I don’t favour winter is that snow covers too much of the original look to a landscape.
Do you have any upcoming photography trips/sessions that you would like to share? Yessssss! I’m going on a family trip to Canada(Banff, Calgary area) over this Christmas, and sooner after that, I will be in Seattle to meet up with people from January 4th to 10th! Very excited to be in the wild in Canada for the first time, and hope it will be worth it!
Anything extra you would like to share? I would like to continue a thought left over at question 9, regarding tips to create photos. Here, I want to share an important tip with you guys — GEAR DOESN’T MATTER! Just kidding, but that is also true. I want to say that taking photos is very similar to everything else you do in life. If your purpose in life is to live, then many things, including falling in love or getting a job, can be seen as byproducts. Similarly, if your purpose in photography is to live the journeys, then the camera along with the hundreds of photos in it can be seen as just byproducts. There can be many intentions in making photos, and to make a living can be the most prominent one. But whatever it is to you, I hope you don’t forget that despite being a photographer, you are a human being. So if you take photos and draw inspirations from your own life, you will find your own unique voice one day.
With that being said, I believe there should not be photos that are considered “bad” or “good”. It’s all subjective. It’s a subjective experience when the photographer presses the shutter, and so it is when a viewer, such as you and me, viewing this photo through whichever mediums. The point here is: let your life take control and take photos that are meaningful to you.
Shawn’s Instagram - www.instagram.com/shawnztang
Shawn’s Website - www.shawntang.co