Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Class of 2011: Phoebetography

Like so many photographers, Phoebe Cheong's story begins with family photographs. "I know it's a cliché, but I was the photographer in my family," is the 'Once upon a Time' of the photography world.

It was in her teens when Phoebe, now a first year student of commercial photography at the University of Arts in Bournemouth, first discovered fashion. "I was 15 or 16 when I did my first photo shoot. It was my birthday and I fooled around with my friends and a camera. We hung up bed sheets like a backdrop, had a lamp and experimented with lighting. We had a summer fan and a big piece of cardboard that we waved. I remember thinking, this is so much fun."

Fun is definitely a word that could be used to describe Phoebe. As we chat her answers are interspersed by the Phoebe giggle. When I ask her how she would define her style, fun is number one. Also on the list: "inventive. Sometimes over the top. I think big - I don't know what the word is for that but every time I do a shoot I want it to be big. I am also hugely inspired by clothes and accessories. When I look at an outfit I get inspired and that's how I compose an image."

But second to fun is 'motivated'. "Nick Knight comes from my uni," says Phoebe, "No pressure then." When we talk on Skype Phoebe has only just got back from a photo shoot. Asking about her plans for the rest of the day I get an unenviably long list; mainly editing images from the frequent flow of editorial shoots Phoebe organises. "One thing I've discovered at uni is that I love editorials."

Where would Phoebe like to see said editorials? "The usual top magazines: Elle, Vogue. But I also love Lula. It's got a nice soft, feminine, Tim Walker feel."

With Nick Knight and Tim Walker already pinned on the inspiration board, Phoebe is quick to offer her admiration for other photographers. "Kirsty Mitchell is a big inspiration and I'm doing work experience with her this week. And Kai Z Feng has been a huge inspiration. Of everyone he is the person I would love to work with." Australian photographer Russell James is another influence, and the same photographer who recently awarded Phoebe first place in the 'Take your Best Shot' competition he organised on facebook.

Phoebe may have won the prize of 'best shot' in the competition, but she is hesitant when it comes to describing what makes a good photograph. "That's a really difficult question. We have had this conversation on my course and decided that there's no such thing as a perfect photograph in fashion," she says. "Anybody can take a beautiful photo of a beautiful person, but there are some elements in photography that only photographers have an eye for. It's like a good feeling, a good feeling in your gut. I call it my guttling."

After growing up in Malaysia Phoebe lived in Australia for two and a half years and Singapore for three before moving to London then Bournemouth. Phoebe the young woman may have already been most of the way around the world. But I have a 'guttling' that Phoebe the photographer is going to go far.


Follow these links for Phoebe's sites:

A Right Royal Knee's Up

Walking down any British high street this week is a challenge. You can barely move for Union Jacks and wedding banners. Turning to avoid that stack of royal biscuit tins you knock into a shelf of Will and Kate mugs. I have managed to avoid buying any royal memorobilia, save for this hilarious copy of Private Eye.*
Personal favourites..

'The Paper-Weighty-Katy': Put all your Wedding paraphernaia under the Paperweighty Katy and - hey presto! - the mess has gone and only memories remain."

"Live in the middle of nowhere? Don't miss out on the Royal fun with Street Party in a Box. Now you can enjoy all the community thrill of the Big Day with this easy to assemble cardboard replica of the kind of street parties enjoyed by all those who live in a street."

"Royal Wedding Mug Family Tree: At last! You can display all your Royal Wedding mugs in descending genealogical order!"

"Turn your Plasma Tv room into Westminster Abbey!"
"Exclusive to all papers: What will Kate's Dress Look like? We don't know"

Despite the somewhat bizarre levels of hype surrounding the royal wedding, I will still most definitely be celebrating come Friday. Strawberries, smiles and street parties agogo...

Reasons to be happy about the royal wedding
1) Excuse me sir, but there's a party on my street

It was photos from the 1981 royal wedding that did it. So that's what all the fuss is about. When I signed up to royal wedding cynicism no one mentioned the marvel of the street party. I'm sorry anarchists, but I'm a bit of a flaky cynic. A few strings of bunting, some Pimm's and a good old jolly knee's up later and I find myself draped in a Union Jack and singing 'God Save the Queen'.

At least this is what I hope I will be doing come Friday. Sadly it seems that since 1981 we have lost the knack of partying with our neighbours, but I am lucky enough to have one of the few street parties planned for the royal wedding taking place in my area. The Leonard Street Royal Wedding Street Party in Shoreditch promises to be a veritable extravaganza of live music, party poppers, barbecues and dancing down the high street.

If a street party isn't your style, head to the Ritz instead for a regal brunch and high tea. Granted it will set you back £200 but surely that's a reasonable price to pay for keeping your diamonds in tact, your pearls unrattled by ruffians and to watch the proceedings whilst sipping champers in the Palm Court?

2) A marriage baked in heaven

These regal biscuits are surely a cause for celebration?

3) Ridiculously Royal

Some of the things people come up with do make you wonder at the human condition. What makes things all the more puzzling is that Kate and Wills tea bags, gnomes and tooth picks (that last one might be an exaggeration) are flying off the shelves.

I personally would advise anyone of sound mind to steer clear of commemorative wedding biscuit tins or suspicious portraits painted on plastic plates. But if you really must buy a royal souvenir I would suggest making your own sock love monkey. Just because.
Teapot vase, £7 at Talking Tables

4) You're Great, Britain

One thing we Brits do well is moan. And one thing we do extra well is moan about our country. For one day at least I for one would be happy not to hear the words 'coalition' or 'recession' and to see the flags flying instead. Because as Hugh Grant so rightly says in his (admittedly rather dubious) role as prime minister in Love Actually: "We may be a small country, but we're a great one, too. The country of Shakespeare, Churchill, the Beatles, Sean Connery, Harry Potter. David Beckham's right foot. David Beckham's left foot, come to that."

Get those Union Jack's out.

Because other than planted atop a sand castle there just aren't enough occasions where we see these pretty paper windmills. I speak as someone who always envied the grubby kneed children who had a windmill, the creme de la creme of the beach, atop their sand fortresses. Now that I class myself as old enough to be frivolous if I want to, I plan to stock up.

Ditto paper chains. I remember many Christmases where my primary school was transformed into a paper chain sweat shop, but since then this nostalgic decoration seems to have all but disappeared. A resurrection was long overdue.

7) Summer Fair Chic

Bunting, in my opinion, is highly underestimated. You are speaking to the converted: all in all I own a total of 7 different kinds of bunting. There is just nothing quite so cheerful as a string of colourfully flapping flags that hark back to village fetes and may pole dancing in the playground. If the Royal Wedding encourages you to string up some bunting my main advice would be to buy a few different kinds. Or maybe 7.

You don't have to be a royalist to appreciate a day off work. Yes wedding fever may be running a little high on the temperature front (please see previous reference to Will and Kate gnomes), but has anyone else noticed that the streets seem to be positively smiling with Union Jacks and congratulations ('Good Luck Will and Kate' on the doors of Primark)? The wedding has captured people's hearts and imaginations. And quite simply: we have the royal nuptials to thank for a three day week.

If you're still complaining then do by all means sit at home watching reruns of Relocation, Relocation, Relocation. I'll be in the sun drinking Pimm's with everyone else.

I don't need much of an excuse to get my apron on, but any excuse is still a good excuse.
Cool bag, £18 at John Lewis

10) Picnic Party

Picnics are quite simply wonderful. Get making those sandwiches...

Sandwich stand, £14 at Talking Tables

An excuse for big little girls to relive their childhood dreams.

12) Love is in the Air

I'm a die hard romantic at heart (how would you have guessed?!), so it's nice to see everyone getting the love bug...
13) Bags of Pride

Carry your Royal Wedding supplies (strawberries, champagne and a victoria sponge) in these patriotic shoppers, £14.50 by Sweet Home London at Not on the High Street.
Pants, £4 at Topshop

14) Holding out for a Hero

Because we all need our prince charming...

The question is, of course, what do you wear to celebrate a royal wedding? My advice? This is one occasion where more is more. I will be sorely disappointed if I don't see several walking Union Jacks come Friday. Straw boaters, floral prints... pile on the Britannia like there's no tomorrow. If you're going to partake in something quite so old school as a Royal Wedding then there really are no half measures. At the very least: head to toe red white and blue and a sprinkling of love hearts are a must.

Wrap a Union Jack scarf in your hair or tie into a big bow and pin proudly to your blazer / twee summer dress.

Come rain or shine... This is England, after all. But don't let April showers dampen your spirit.

Wear your heart around your neck...

What's the time? It's love o'clock.

So what will I be wearing?

* I lied. As well as Private Eye I also bought a set of gold crowns. I will be spending Friday dancing down the street in my pink Union Jack dress, swinging a Union Jack basket filled with sandwiches and with a crown right where it should be - on my head.