Creativity & Photography with Hong Kong Photographer Elaine Li
From an early age Elaine Li of @lielaine has had creativity radiating from her in many different forms, be it Art Direction, Design, Content Creation, or Photography. Born and raised in Hong Kong, she studied and lived abroad in Melbourne, Australia for over 7 years, collecting a BFA degree in Visual Communication Design and endless moments behind the lens of her camera along the way.
Now back in her hometown, she is combining her love of the unknown with her design background to build herself, not only a career in advertising as an Art Director for Ogilvy & Mather, but also gaining a large personal fanbase by highlighting the subtle beauty of people from all walks of life and her urban explorations through the use of social media and her love of photography.
She can always be found thinking up her next project and seeking out previously unexplored canvases in her own city, reminding us that beauty and art are all around, and taking the time to explore what is right in front of us can be a glorious adventure in and of itself. For this reason, we felt she adds an interesting twist to our Women & Travel segment. See her answers below.
Your photography is beautiful and you have gathered an interesting community of followers. How did all that happen?
Thank you for appreciating my work. I’ve always enjoyed photography from a young age of 12. Four years ago, my friend introduced me to Instagram and I’ve been sharing random snapshots. I then learnt about hashtags through my sister, which gave my work more exposure to other people, which led to meeting Instagrammers, learning about the community, and spending more time taking photos (instead of just snapshots), and taking the app more seriously.
In a world so vast and with many photographers out there, how do you draw a distinction in your work?
I don’t try to distinct my work from others deliberately, I just shoot whatever I like and experiment with different things and subjects. A lot of my work ties in heavily with what I do and places I go, whether it’s on the streets, or exploring lesser known places like rooftops or abandonment. Most of the time it’s quite spontaneous and not staged.
Have you always had this photographic style or has it evolved? And if it has, how?
It hasn’t changed in terms of the way I shoot – I still take snaps of things I find interesting. The only thing that changed is I feel like I have a better grasp on telling a story or evoking emotion through my images, rather than just making a pretty picture.
Have other photographers or artists influenced your work?
Growing up, I’ve been really inspired by Diane Arbus and Cindy Sherman’s work. I also really like Gregory Crewdson’s work. Nowadays, I draw inspiration on more social platforms like Instagram, Tumblr Pinterest.
As a woman in your field, what are some of the stigmas you’ve come in contact with and how have you managed them?
I’ve been lucky enough to have not come in contact with stigmas. Maybe because a lot of my recent work are connected with more extreme subjects. Being a female in a male-dominated urban exploration community actually helped my work stand out.
What would you recommend to a woman who wants to start a career in photography but is still on the fence?
I would recommend any person (not just a woman) to just keep on shooting. The more you shoot, the better you’ll get, and eventually you’ll get there. Also, with social media these days, it’s a lot easier to get your work out there and be noticed.
How do you keep your Insta feed fresh when you are lacking the inspiration?
I sometimes take a break from shooting, and just sit down and brainstorm some ideas. What is it that I’ve never shot before and always wanted to try. I recently started shooting more portraits and people, experimenting with lights (both natural and neon lights) .
From a photographer perspective, what is Hong Kong for you? How would you describe it?
Hong Kong is very diverse, in terms of geography, culture, people, food etc. And it’s so small that it’s really convenient to get to different places. One minute you can be surrounded by densely populated buildings, another minute you can be out in nature hiking. It’s great for photography, as you can get a wide range of different subjects and things to shoot.
What’s your favorite spot in the city you like to go to decompress or regroup?
Probably somewhere by the harbour, where you can listen to the water and waves while enjoying the harbour view.
Thank you, Elaine for the interview! You can follow her work on her Instagram profile.