Photographer and director Wing Shya has captured many of Hong Kong cinema’s greatest stars while working for filmmaker Wong Kar-wai, who made “Chungking Express” and “In the Mood for Love,” as the official photographer for his films.
Shya recalls his first time working for Wong, becoming so mesmerized by scenes that he took unfocused, off-center, and error-riddled photos.
“Of course Wong Kar Wai yelled at me,” the award-winning photographer and now film director told CNN. “Imagine some guy coming to photograph Leslie Cheung and everything comes out blurred. You’d wonder, what’s this guy’s attitude?”
But Shya has always defended his own work.
“Things are only mistakes if you think they are,” he explained. “Technique, don’t even worry about it. Just focus on your heart, and everything else will work out.”
Shya wanted to become a photographer when he was only 15 years old, holding a camera for the first time and thinking it was so cool, like “George Lam in ‘Boat People’”, even though he didn’t have much photography experience.
“I always wanted to differentiate myself from everyone else,” he told Lifestyle Asia. “At the time, everyone just wanted to go to the disco or the cinema. All I wanted to do was take photos.”
After graduating from the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Canada, Shya decided to return to Hong Kong when his classmates poked fun at the art from his hometown, and wanted to do something creative to help.
“There was a mood. I saw how everything was loud, lit up, like a collage of life. To be imperfect, that is Hong Kong: A place filled with little mistakes. When you add it all up, it’s really beautiful,” he said of Hong Kong, then a vibrant city under British rule.
His inspiration comes from films and their soundtracks.
“Inspiration is often spontaneous and it develops freely while you’re at work,” Shya told the magazine. “The people around you, the ambience, the setting, clothes and subject can all be inspirational.”
Every photograph of Shya’s are set up like movies: scripts are written for his editorials, complete with a fictional backstory; and shots are organized and lit by Hong Kong’s best film crews.
“When you look at a photograph, you should see a life there,” he said. “I’ve been playing with these methods for years.”
Today, Shya has been shooting conceptual videos, teaching art workshops and scouring social media for new talent.
“The fall is the fun part. I’m waiting for the moment — after we pass a certain point, that’s when the new things blossom,” he said.