New York-based creative Boyang Hu‘s journey to becoming a photographer was not a linear one. “Growing up, I never thought I would become a photographer,” he admits. “I dreamed of being a professional illustrator, since it was something I always enjoyed as an introverted kid growing up in a small town.” It wasn’t until he studied illustration at Parsons that he was exposed to the world of fashion and photography.
New York City was a cultural shock to Hu in the best way possible, and he owes it to his roommate who first pushed him to try photography. “I started to fall in love with photography over illustration because I started to see how exciting it was to collaborate with all the different stylists, designers, etc. to create a photo vision,” he says. “I liked it more than my time in illustration, where I was working alone and much more introspective.”
By the time Hu graduated, he was fully committed to pursuing photography. He still enjoys illustration, and feels that his background has significantly influenced the way he shoots, elevating fashion photography in the style of fine art. “I think the editing phase is where my background in illustration really kicks back in,” he explains. “I love to turn photographs into what feels like a work of art, and I see this phase as where I can finally combine the two things I love to do: photography and illustration.”
Hu strives to strike a balance between what looks beautiful and real, while also evoking a distinct emotion and feeling familiar. “I love to try and balance what looks beautiful and real, with the feel of nostalgia or a recalling a distant memory,” he says. “I feel like this helps my photography evoke a distinct emotion while feeling familiar.”
We were thrilled to have the chance to catch up with Boyang Hu and get an inside look into his journey from aspiring illustrator to renowned photographer. During our conversation, we dove into his experiences studying fashion photography in NYC and how it has shaped his approach, as well as his unique style of collaboration with designers and stylists to bring his visions to life.
To kick things off, I’d love to learn more about you and what initially led you to going down the route of photography.
Growing up, I never thought I would become a photographer. I dreamed of being a professional illustrator, since it was something I always enjoyed as an introverted kid growing up in a small town. I studied illustration at Parsons and that’s actually where I was first exposed to the world of fashion and all the players that came with it: designers, photographers, brands, et cetera. New York City was a cultural shock to me in the best way possible, and I actually owe it to my roommate who first pushed me to try photography.
I started to fall in love with photography over illustration because I started to see how exciting it was to collaborate with all the different stylists, designers, etc. to create a photo vision. I liked it more than my time in illustration, where I was working alone and much more introspective. By the time I graduated, I was still an illustration major but I was fully committed to pursuing photography. I still enjoy both, and in some ways, I feel like my illustration background has significantly influenced the way I shoot, and helped me elevate fashion photography in the style of fine art.
That being said, how do you approach collaborating with designers and stylists on different shoots and editorial content?
I love to learn more about what inspires people and what the story is behind their designs or ideas first. This makes me think of how and what types of color, lighting, posing, and editing techniques I should use to best convey the emotions and story scenes they want. Once I put myself into their shoes I try to find different metaphorical ways to highlight the main theme/concept throughout the shoot.
Among the many reasons why people love your work is the way that you transform photos through editing and retouching. Can you talk about your style and what you seek to achieve through it?
I think the editing phase is where my background in illustration really kicks back in. I love to turn photographs into what feels like a work of art, and I see this phase as where I can finally combine the two things I love to do: photography and illustration. I love to try and balance what looks beautiful and real, with the feel of nostalgia or a recalling a distant memory. I feel like this helps my photography evoke a distinct emotion while feeling familiar.
What types of stories or themes have you tried to convey in your recent projects?
I believe that everyone is inspired by their unconscious dreams in some form. To express this, I worked on an editorial project for WOW Mag, “Water Dream” where I delved into how we memorialize our dreams.
As an image maker, I often dream of visuals and landscapes unknown to reality, and though my memory of them is fleeting when I wake up, I was inspired to capture the brief snapshots I was able to hold onto. When we recount our own dreams, our thoughts and visuals often change without any logical transitions, in a way that is chaotic, yet feels so normal while dreaming.
I felt that the use of water was perfect to symbolize how fluid our dreams are, and how they can be chaotic yet peaceful at the same time. Through the series of images I hope to get people to feel like they’re recounting their own dreams with the tone of a distant memory.
What are some stories or concepts you want to explore in the future?
Surprisingly, one of my biggest sources of inspiration is actually from a youtuber, LaoGao, who is a pop science blogger. He talks about a wide range of topics such as the universe, time, consciousness, etc. Though he never talks about fashion, his unique perspective is very inspiring to me and I would love to see how I can incorporate this with my photography style and process. To me, I really value the balance between being an independent thinker and being inspired by others’ pictures.
Bringing things to a close, can you discuss any upcoming projects or exciting new developments in your career as a photographer?
I recently signed with outcast as my management agency, so am looking forward to building a good partnership with their team. On upcoming projects, I can’t reveal too much yet, but am really excited to collaborate with some very talented designers and musicians. I think my main focus this year will be to use those opportunities to push my photography style further and experiment with different elements.
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