Cover Image by Elizabeth Gabrielle Lee for IRL
Text by Nicole Ngai
Photography by Nicole Ngai
Originally published as an interview piece in Issue 02
Current editorial featuring some unpublished shots
We had the most enjoyable time the other day. We had to submit an editorial for our uni project that was due on a Friday. We agreed to work on it on Wednesday but Tuesday came around and we didn’t have anything planned for the night yet. Within two hours, we plotted an entire concept. After putting up a makeshift backdrop in my flat, we texted our friends at midnight saying,
‘we’re having a shoot at Nicole’s flat. Just come anytime you want.’
We got a bunch of people. There were fifteen people in the house. We had drinks, people were smoking out the window, some called in their friends. There were clothes ready and a friend who had hair and makeup covered. I could only photograph a few people at a time so in the meantime everyone else just hung out on the sofa. It felt like a party. I pissed my housemates off but it was such a good time.
Things like that make you feel like you’re part of a community. Back home, it can feel like you’re often by yourself. I’ve met people who weren’t keen on helping and didn’t like seeing people achieve but I feel that being inclusive, exchanging ideas and influencing each other are more important.
My photography style solidified through shooting and reshooting, deciding what I liked best and how I can elevate it each time. I suppose that was how I got my style — a gradual process combined with hard work.
The projects we were assigned to [at London College of Fashion] place a lot of focus on theory, introspection, identity and how these elements influence your photographs. I think exploring those aspects plays a huge role in creating your personal aesthetic.
You’re the only person who’s you — that means you’re allowed to dictate what makes your works unique.
I think being a woman gives me the ability to coax a certain sort of sensitivity and camaraderie among my subjects, many of whom are female.
You think my photos look vulnerable?
I think it’s because of the casting choices. Most of the people in my photos are friends or friends of friends. Aside from that, I think communication is important when you’re shooting. I always try to get to know everyone and make sure that we have a fun time. Sometimes it can feel like a hang out instead of work. Those are the best kinds of shoots.