Wesley Chang: Photographing Fascination
Words by: Scott Herder
Photography: Wesley Chang
Most photographers get their start with a point and shoot, or at the very least some sort of camera, not Wesley Chang. Chang, a Guatemalan native originally from California, first got interested in photography through Photoshop.
“When I was a kid my dad found a copy of Photoshop 2 floating around. It was a step up from paint and I spent countless hours playing with it. I used to manipulate pictures I got off the Internet but it started my interest in photography.”
A photographer was in the making.
Eventually the novelty of manipulating images wasn’t enough. Chang wanted full control over the images he was creating and in high school got himself a whopping 4 megapixel point-and-shoot so he could take photos of himself that he would Photoshop. Becoming more and more fascinated with the photography side of creating.
“I needed my own photos to manipulate so I could really feel proud of what I had done.”
It’s been five years now since his glorious days with that 4-megapixel beast and the results speak for themselves. What inspires me most about Chang isn’t just the way he is able to create unique portraits of each of his subjects. But how he has been able to use his move to Korea to grow his vision behind the lens.
“When I first came to Korea I was studying Korean and had a lot of time on my hands. I decided to go out and take a photo every day.”
It’s that decision to go out and create everyday that I believe is a common trait that separates the good from the great. While it’s not necessarily difficult to go out and create images every day. It is extremely easy not too. It is our habits that define us over time. Chang made a simple decision, which had a profound effect on his photography.
“Taking a photo every day taught me so much in such a short amount of time that it is one of the best decisions I ever made.”
There are many ways to stay motivated as a photographer. They can be through self-given assignments, life-long projects, or in Chang’s case, a blog. It would force Chang into deadlines, which would create pressure and help speed up the learning curve.
“This built pressure for me to do better so I’d spend more time and try more things. It could be a bit of a chore at times but it was totally worth it.”
On the other side of the lens, capturing moments and emotions motivates Chang. When he sees’s a detail, or a person that beckons for his attention. He wants to share how he was feeling at that moment. For Chang it is the moments in time that is special, a way to share a moment, a feeling, and to have a space to sit, reflect and feel.
“Photographers see and are fascinated by things that most other people are not, and we each strive to share that fascination with other people by taking pictures in our own way.”
It is always exciting to be able to learn from other photographers and discover how they go about their creative process. Learning how they go from inception to execution is always fascinating because no two photographers have the exact same approach. Especially when it comes to people. For Chang it all begins with a theme.
“I usually don’t have much more than a theme or feeling in my head. When it comes to shooting people it’s usually someone I’ve met who had an interesting look. I then try to match something to that look and ask them if they want to model. The rest kind of just happens on set. It’s experimenting until I’m capturing the feeling I was looking for.”
As an aspiring photographer I enjoy Chang’s honest look into his process because it is easy to feel like we need to know our vision in an instant. We can allow ourselves to let our ideas marinate until they manifest into our vision or theme.
“There are some people that you see them and go “I need to photograph this person.” I do not end up photographing most of them, but when I do, it’s a matter of thinking about how their look made me feel for about a month until something comes up.”
But just because Chang loves to go off to far distant places a pretty image or location isn’t good enough without purpose.
“If it’s a location shoot then the location has to add to that feeling as well, not just be pretty.”
When Chang isn’t coming up with his photographic idea’s he’s contemplating his next destination. An avid traveler, Chang is always in search of the unfamiliar. It combines his two passions.
“Aside from food and shelter, I make money for 2 reasons. Photography and travel.”
Chang shares that it’s not just food, and pretty destinations that make him fall in love with travel. Although they definitely don’t hurt. Instead it’s the stimulation coursing through his body in being somewhere new. Where each rising sun unveils exciting new horizons with unlimited possibilities. New stories to capture and moments to be made.
“There’s the feeling of being far away from anything familiar, and there’s the time to reflect and think and relax.”