This column is the sole opinion of the author and does not represent the opinion of Heaven Media Ltd or the opinion of any affiliates.Zhang Jingna, a young woman born in the suburbs of Beijing, has become one of the most respected photographers not only within the e-sports scene but also the deviantART community, earning the coveted Deviousness Award, an award of excellence to pillars of the community that have gone above and beyond -- something only 152 people have received since 1999 amongst the nearly 20,000,000 users that roam the site actively.
Hi Jeff! Thank you for having me.
I was born in the suburbs of Beijing and grew up at the Beijing Shooting Range under my mother’s care. Around 4 or so I moved into the city with my father so I could learn piano. Then I went to an arts elective school instead of a regular pre-school where I learnt drawing and dance.
I think there’s a lot of stereotyping about Chinese kids being forced to pick up all these things but I had always been interested in art and music I guess, so it was a lot of fun for me and definitely made an impact upon my interests in later years.
With the previous answer I don’t think it’s hard to guess. My mum was a sports psychology researcher at the Chinese national shooting team for eight years, then later became a coach for air rifle and pistol shooting in Singapore. When I moved to Singapore I would often go to the shooting range with her while I tried to study English, so when the time came to pick extra curriculum activities in secondary school I ended up trying air rifle.
Yes, I was in fashion school at that time. As I mentioned I’ve always had some sort of fascination with art when I was young. But I think the inkling to photography really only started with my interest in Japanese visual rock. I just wanted to do something that could bring me closer to being part of it, so I learnt fashion design and went to makeup school. I think the original idea was so I could eventually be part of the image creations and make things could look like those from the jrock magazines. Then, after I got a camera, I realized 'hey I could be one to make the actual image!' Haha.
I tend to think everyone I get to work with is special, be it an unknown model or a celebrity. Because if I don’t feel excited about working with the subject, then the work itself will probably fall flat as well. But of course I won’t deny the bigger names definitely generate more interest in terms of commercial value for me, but for myself, at the end of the day, I try to do my best with every single shoot and make them all count.
To be honest I don’t really think much about it. Of course it’s always a great honor and many times unexpected. But maybe it’s training from our air rifle days about how you have to put media and achievements behind you, so as to not have it affect your upcoming performances, I just generally not let them get to me? I’m certainly not shooting to win an award. :D
This column is the sole opinion of the author and does not represent the opinion of Heaven Media Ltd or the opinion of any affiliates.Was there ever the thought of risking a stable income or career for the chance to become a successful photographer that came across your mind? It's been said as a stereotype that photography is one of the industries where you either go big or go home, and many individuals despite being drawn to the art choose to study a more reliable field and keep photography as a hobby, opposed to a career. What's your take on that, being a top tier professional that's surely seen the industry go both ways for people?
I’ve never really thought about it that way or worried about it. Sure I guess when I decided to quit school to do photography full time I did think about what I’d do if I failed and can’t support myself. But so long as you do something worth doing I think it’s better than living a safe path and regretting having never tried.
Sugizo from Japanese rock bands Luna Sea and X Japan. I first saw him in a movie when I was about 14, and I grew up listening to the music of those two bands. He’s an amazing guitarist, but besides that power, there’s an undeniable beauty and grace to the way he plays the violin that I’d always been attracted to.
Working with him was definitely one of those super surreal moments where I realized that wow, it isn’t just a dream anymore, I’m right here. I never even thought I’d one day watch their concerts live and suddenly I’m getting introduced and backstage at their reunion live and having dinner together.
I think beautiful, yet, sad.
I think colors are extremely important in setting the mood for an image, so I focus a lot on getting it right, so yes, it is intended.
I grew up with a lot of guys who work in video games, concept artists, animators, art directors. So out of not wanting to be left out on all the jokes and puns from projects they’ve worked on I make an effort to check out the games. StarCraft II kind of started that way for me.
As I made friends and started hanging out with a couple guys often, we decided to make a clan, then eventually turned it into a team last year and that’s how Infinity Seven was born. Going along with the team to various MLGs I started taking photos at the events, and when TeamLiquid featured my blog posts for the pictures on its frontpage people started to notice my pictures.
One of the really interesting things to me is the lighting at events that make images super vibrant, colourful and dramatic.
I don’t have a habit of using too much artificial colored lighting in most of my work, so it’s a very interesting exploration to work with such different setups. And of course seeing my work as Day9’s profile picture on Forbes was pretty cool too.
This column is the sole opinion of the author and does not represent the opinion of Heaven Media Ltd or the opinion of any affiliates.Michelle Phan is a personal favorite YouTuber that I've followed for many years from when she first started her videos. Recently, you've done a few shots with her. How'd you two get to meet up and are there any future projects we should be aware of?
I think Michelle first saw my work on deviantART, where I had been posting my work ever since I started photography. We never really talked, then one day someone pointed her link to me where she was using one of my photos as her twitter background, and from there we sort of just started talking.
At that time I was in and out of Los Angeles pretty often, where she’s based, so before I left we made it a point to meet up and collaborate, she was super amazing to work with! I’m currently working on moving to New York and I think we’ll definitely be doing something again after I get there.
Actually I don’t think someone can be super great at something by just studying a textbook, without your own time and passion put into it whatever it is that you’re doing it’s just going to be stale and textbook-like... ;_;
I use a Canon 1Ds Mark III and Profoto Lighting.
It’s perhaps the Chinese upbringing in me, we have a number of sayings that goes something like, there are mountains beyond mountains, people beyond people. The gist of it is there’s always room to improve, always something and someone better and greater, so I am always chasing to better myself, there’s little time to dwell on what I’ve already done I guess.
Emotional value definitely supercedes the technical aspect of things.
For sure, I’ve always been interested but feared learning and sucking at it. But recently I bought a new camera that I can do video with, so I’ll be experimenting.
It’s actually really nerdy, it means zero emotion and came about from the anime Gundam Wing.
In the show there was something called the ZERO system that could be installed in the giant mechas which pushed the pilots beyond regular human limits for pain during battle (or at least that was my impression back then), and I thought, I wanted to be strong like that.
That is usually the misconception I think, I honestly don’t think there’s any tip that could be a shortcut that people are trying to be secretive about, it’s just a lot of practice, and there’s no quality without quantity.
Anything super secretive I probably can’t really talk about anyway, but I guess I can say that I’ll be on a major reality TV show this year. I’m not gonna be in it for a whole season or anything but it’s still pretty cool! :D
Don’t be afraid to experiment, study the light and colours in images you like and take lots of pictures!
Thank you Jeff for having me, and anyone who’s read this whole interview -- my fans, my agents, my team Infinity Seven, and our grand sponsors SteelSeries, deviantART, GGWP Apparel and ScienceWerk.
Posted 8 months ago: Thu, 30 Aug 2012 19:19:00 +0100
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