This month, our featured X-Thusiast photographer is bringing social responsibility to the forefront. Her photos from locations around the world incorporate nostalgia and people’s interactions with one another, and are both intriguing and inspiring works of art.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and where you are from?
My name is Simone Cheung and I live in Sydney. Largely self-taught, I’ve always had an interest in photography since I was young when I used to take my parents film camera around and take endless photos.
How did you develop an interest in photography using Fujifilm equipment?
I love travelling and street photography, and I hated lugging around my heavy, bulky SLR. I wanted to downsize my kit without compromising quality and the Fujifilm X-T1 did just that. And let’s be honest, it also makes me look less like a dork photographer!
How would you describe your photography style and strategy?
Photography has always been a way for me to combine my big passions in life — travel and promoting social responsibility, human rights and social equality. As a result, I do a lot of street photography to show that every single person regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion or social status has that magical moment just waiting to be captured.
I enjoy photo documentary and bringing out those social issues through my photography. I have been a volunteer photographer with various not-for-profit organisations including Oxfam, Global Sisters, Women’s March on Sydney and others.
What inspires your photography?
“Goya” in Urdu means the suspension of disbelief that occurs in good storytelling. That is what my photography is all about — capturing those simple, ordinary moments in a special way where goya occurs; where the “as if” feels like reality.
Night Swim: Sydney, Australia. Fujifilm X-T1 + XF23mmF1.4
Where are your favourite places to take photos and do you prefer a certain type of light to photograph in?
The beauty of street photography and photo documentary is that you can find a stunning image anywhere, at any time, in any light. The premise of a lot of my images is that even though they are taken in different places at different times around the world, people’s interaction with light is the same, highlighting that we are in fact “more alike than unalike,” in the words of Maya Angelou.
Looking through my own photos, I tend to be drawn toward scenes of nostalgia, of places past, lives lived and the glories that used to be. I tend to love photographing in abandoned sites and old shopfronts, and also shooting at night.
What is your favourite memory from a photography session?
I was recently lucky enough to do a workshop with Andrew Quilty, who is one of my favourite photo journalists. We spent the afternoon on the Manly ferry and the Corso where I was able to watch Andrew in his element and learn from him.
Can you tell us what your favourite Fujifilm camera to use is and why?
I have only tried my XT-1 and I love it. It fits snugly in my hands and I love the manual dials and just the overall feel of it. Because it is so compact, I take it with me everywhere and my husband no longer has to carry my camera gear anymore when we travel!
Which Fujinon lens or lenses do you prefer to use with your Fujifilm camera and why?
I love all of them! I have the XF14mmF2.8, XF23mmF1.4 and XF56mmF1.2 and they are all fantastic. I particularly love the XF56mmF1.2 as it gives nice creamy portraits and is also great for low light.
What sort of workflow do you use in your photography? Do you shoot in RAW or JPEG?
I shoot in RAW and I process everything in Lightroom. I am not very good at editing, so I usually only make minor adjustments such as contrast, exposure, etc. I also love the Wi-Fi function of the X-T1 so I can upload straight onto my phone and share on social media. This is particularly handy when I’m travelling.
Do you have any technical tips you’d like to share? Perhaps suggestions on the best lighting, shutter speed, white balance, aperture or ISO? Other preferences?
The main advice is that there is no one magic setting. The more you shoot, the more you will understand what each function does and the impact on your image. Eventually, you will know what settings to use in what environment with only minor tweaking. I tend to shoot very wide apertures to isolate my subjects, which is particularly important in street photography.
Schlafwagen: Budapest, Hungary. Fujifilm X-T1 + XF14mmF2.8
Do you have advice for new photographers or the next potential X-Thusiast?
I spent many years taking photos (some good, some bad) until I found what my style was. I still experiment a lot with techniques and try to learn and draw inspiration from others. Your gear is only one part of being a photographer; your eyes are the other part.
In the shadow: Tumbarumba, Australia. Fujifilm X-T1 + XF23mmF1.4
I think we need to raise the visibility of women street photographers. When I try to look for inspirational women street photographers, I notice that there are significantly fewer women in street photography than men. Maybe there are less, or maybe they are less visible in the sense that they don’t submit to collectives as much or they don’t receive as much exposure, but we should definitely start celebrating them more.
Interested in becoming our next featured X-Thusiast photographer? Check out our full X-Thusiast Gallery and submission details.