Art Talk: Stephen King On His Hong Kong Exhibition
No, not that Stephen King. Far from the terror and gore of the famed horror novelist, Hong Kong’s own Stephen King captures hauntingly beautiful fine art and landscape photography.
Seeped in each shot—whether it be of lava-streaked volcanos in Hawaii to South Islandic glacial meltwater—is a meticulous, painterly sophistication and juxtaposition between drama and serenity that seem to capture nature in its most majestic and beautiful state.
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The photography world has taken notice, too. Apart from showing at Fine Art Asia and Art Basel two years in a row, King has scooped up coveted accolades such as Travel Photographer of the Year awards’ “Best Single Image” and recently, National Geographic’s “Nature Photographer of the Year” (editor’s selection, week 10) for his work ‘Winter Wonderland’.
In light of his first ever solo show, ‘Rhythms in Nature’, we spoke to the photographer about the spontaneity in his shots and what to expect at the show:
How did your debut solo exhibition ‘Rhythms in Nature’ come about?
I was overwhelmed by the reception and number of prints sold at my debut show, held jointly with Malaysian photographer Ming Thein in 2015, where we exhibited 11 works each. Since then I’ve participated at both Art Basel and Fine Art Asia.
While the audiences have been great and large, I was only able to exhibit two to five works at each fair, which felt somewhat limiting. A solo exhibition like this is appealing as it enables me to show a more complete body of work.
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This show will present a curated cross-section of my work from the past five years, all within the theme of depicting pleasing rhythms in nature. We wanted to showcase a diverse range of images while still selecting a coherent body of work that reflects my style of landscape photography.
Your works are distinctively painterly, harmonious yet dramatic in colour and composition. How did these aesthetics come to be?
I have been surrounded by paintings all my life with my mother (Alice King) being an art dealer. Subconsciously, the aesthetics of Chinese and contemporary paintings have been imprinted on my senses from childhood.
Particularly, Chinese traditional ink painting has influenced my use of negative space and vertical composition while a love of abstract expressionist artists like Georgia O’Keefe have helped inform my use of colour, composition and abstraction.
Another important influence has been other photographers. I’m lucky to have spent time with some of the best—Charlie Waite, Tony Spencer, Justin Reznick and Joe Cornish—and admired how they use light and composition to create depth and emotion in their photos.
Congratulations on winning National Geographic’s “Nature Photographer of the Year” (editor’s selection, week 10) for your work ‘Winter Wonderland’. Can you tell us more about the shot?
Thank you, it is one of my personal favourites. I captured it while engaged in one of my other life passions—skiing—in Niseko, Japan.
I’d skied past this particular cluster of trees many times; that day it was snowing and yet relatively warm with a breeze. As a result, the unusually sticky snow blew sideways and stuck to the branches in a way that highlighted their edges. The scene was so unusual and magical that I had to stop and take the picture.
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What first drew you to photography?
I began photography while at boarding school in the US. I loved the ability to create something aesthetically pleasing through composition, and since I’m terrible at drawing, the camera gave me a much better way of expressing myself visually. I was later drawn to landscape photography as a way of seeing all these amazing places and getting outdoors, away from the concrete jungle of Hong Kong.
What’s your creative process like? Are you more of a spontaneous shooter or planner?
I think it’s important to be both. Planning involves choosing locations, seasons and time of day to maximize your chance of capturing an interesting shot; yet once on location, it’s very important to be spontaneous. You need to take whatever the landscape, weather and light give you at any time.
I seek to portray the wonder and awe that I feel when I am exploring the landscape, and hopefully present that in an original and thought-provoking way.
What was your most unforgettable photography experience?
There have been too many to single one out. I would say shooting river deltas from a helicopter in Iceland, exploring the Arctic pack ice near the North Pole for a week in a small vessel completely cut off from the world, and hiking through the lava fields in heavy rain in Hawaii to witness molten lava pouring into the ocean.
What are the biggest challenges you encounter as a photographer?
More of it is on the physical side, especially as I get older and my equipment gets heavier (I have been using a medium format Phase One camera for the past two years and my pack can weigh over 20 kilos). Hiking to get to locations with my equipment can be physically demanding—so I hope to get to more challenging places before I get too old!
Where in the world would you like to capture that you haven’t already?
I have two trips planned that I am excited about—the south island of New Zealand and the north coast of Scotland. I’d also like to explore South America, in particular, the salt flats of Bolivia.
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I’d also like to spend more time shooting in China. There are so many fantastic locations in China that are not so familiar to those outside of the region, so I think it would be wonderful to be able to make images that share some of China’s beauty with the rest of the world.
‘Rhythms in Nature’ will be held at Alisan Fine Arts (1 Lyndhurst Tower, 21/F, 1 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central) from January 24 to March 2. For more information, visit alisan.com.hk