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: