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Meet Sophie Cheung

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sophie Cheung.

Sophie, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I have been exposed to photography since I was a young child, as my father is a keen amateur photographer. Growing up, I attended school in the suburbs of England. There was not much to do besides studying or taking long walks in the countryside. So I always kept myself entertained with photography. Some of my earliest experiments include taking hundreds of pictures of trees, as well as anything in my room that could be photographed: nail polish, fruits, clocks, etc…

Despite receiving recommendations from my art teachers to study art/photography, I grew up in a Chinese household, where we were encouraged to pursue a traditional professional career. So I picked architecture, a subject that would allow me to be creative. On my 18th birthday, having returned to my native city of Hong Kong, I was gifted my first professional camera. Since then, I started photographing friends, family and my travels around the world. I was intrigued by the elegance and beauty of Europe, the stunning scenery of Ecuador and the delicate culture of Southern Asia. Upon meeting individuals from all walks of life through traveling, from children struggling for an education in Cambodia to a French diplomat who informed France that JFK was assassinated, my photography improved and developed with each journey, as my cultural awareness and artistic sense also matured. I found that emotions and storytelling became my drive to create as I began to experience the ups and downs of life. I experimented with fashion and conceptual photography. A selection of my photographs have been exhibited at Sea World Culture and Arts Center in China, featured on multiple online magazines and platforms, such as Best Of on PhotoVogue.

Finally, I moved to America to pursue a master’s degree at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in Digital Photography. For the first time, I was finally able to fully embody and let my passion thrive. Besides collaborating with artists and models, I began to experiment with filmmaking. This year, I was a recipient of the SVA MPS Digital Photography Scholarship for my thesis short film – The Dragon Dream. It is a ten-minute narrative film that explores the great academic pressure placed on young people in Asian societies. The cultural imperative to succeed in school causes serious mental health problems, and it is my desire to shine a light on this issue through this film. A short excerpt of the film has been selected to be exhibited at School of Visual Art’s Gramercy Gallery.

Has it been a smooth road?
It was definitely not a smooth road. I remember dreaming to pursue art since the age of 13. However, due to the pressure of my family and the society in my native Hong Kong, where the arts, such as photography were seen as an unimportant extra-curricular activity, or a career for the unsuccessful, I decided to take a traditional route and study architecture, a professional degree, that the society approved of.

Having been admitted to a prestigious university in Hong Kong, everyone surrounding me was always studying all night long or applying to internships that I had no interest in, and I felt out of place. I had no idea what to do or who to ask for help. Every day, I was questioning my purpose and felt lost. Many of my friends felt the same but they did not make any plans to change their situations. Many students wanted a good job and to earn a lot of money and only a few were studying for their interests. Upon the last year of my undergraduate studies, I took a trip to Los Angeles and New York, where I saw the passion students have for their studies, and the respect for the arts in America. It was then that I wanted to move to America to pursue photography.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I am known for my deeply emotional and nostalgic photographs. My photo series ‘Lost in Me’ explores the aftermath of a romantic relationship, inspired by the aesthetics and settings of classic fairytales, paintings and religious symbolism. Sometimes, our stories do not end with ‘happily ever after’s, as the reality is too painful. None of my subjects directly gaze into the camera, as if they are quietly in pain or silently healing themselves.

My second series, ‘Nostalgic Photos,’ is shot on digital camera, and later manipulated to resemble analogue photographs. In the modern world, I find that many of us do not live in the present, rather, we fantasize about the past decades because we have a fondness towards what we never experienced. My subjects are a representation of this feeling, a pleasurable sadness.

Lastly, my latest project is my upcoming short film, The Dragon Dream, a ten-minute narrative film that explores the great academic pressure placed on young people in Asian societies.

When photographing or filming, I don’t intend to capture beauty. I strive to capture something that makes the audience feel or reflect on. What sets me apart is my emotional and social approach towards these media.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I love the diversity and creativity of Los Angeles. There are so many different spots that inspire me to photograph, and people from all walks of the entertainment industry that inspire me to create new art. My cousin also resides in Los Angeles, so even though my family is back home in London and Hong Kong, LA feels like another home to me. My favorite spot is definitely Milk + T where you can make your own boba.

What I like least is how inaccessible everything is, and I would like to able to walk to different places.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Photograph of me: @timotete Photos uploaded: Blinded (photo with two people’s hands covering eyes) Models: Morgan Cox, Arie Schmal; Models: Stephanie Hwang, Raymond Kwai; Model: Jenn Im; The Dragon Dream Film Poster; Model: Mana Takahashi; Model: Zam Dy; Film Still from the Dragon Dream

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