Victor Cheng’s inventive use of perspective, height, light and symmetry creates a Wes Anderson-esque aesthetic as he captures Hong Kong’s vibrant atmosphere. The Canadian photographer has also shot in Tokyo, Bali, Madrid, Barcelona, London and India and worked with the likes of Google, Uber, and Nike. His work is satisfyingly ordered and balanced, in a way that creates an image of calm in what might otherwise be a chaotic image.
Firstly, could you tell our readers a bit about yourself and what you do?
My name is Victor and I am a Hong Kong based photographer from Toronto, Canada. I have an affinity for traveling and drawing creative inspiration from various cities and cultures. I shoot a wide range of subjects and topics, but focus my style on natural light, clean composition and unique perspectives. To all my areas of work, I apply a unique whimsical style. Some of my work has been featured in publications such as Forbes, CNN, Condé Nast, Vogue, The Telegraph, Huffington Post, GQ, and Instagram.
How did you get into photography?
I started photography just as a small hobby with an iPhone 5. It was quite special, I used to shoot a lot of random outfits, food, family photos on Instagram.
I would say that the perspectives you manage to capture are not only unique, they are almost inconceivable. Many of them remind me of our smallness and insignificance compared to the enormous world around us. Was it your intention to show this?
Moving to Hong Kong and living in this city makes you feel small immediately. There's just so much to see and everything is built vertically since land is quite rare (and expensive). I try to capture what is called "organised chaos" where things are so dense but in a very clean setting.
What is it that makes an image satisfying to you?
The way that something so normal can be captured in a perspective that has not been thought of. A busy street, a normal commute, a building facade but shot in a perspective that is not normally seen.
You have photographed so many amazing places, but Hong Kong is the city that features most heavily and perhaps most vibrantly too. How would you describe Hong Kong’s aesthetic in one sentence?
Chaotic. Colorful. Crammed. I think Hong Kong offers everything from food to nature to architecture. It's basically a photographer's paradise.
How much do you plan your day’s shoot?
Sometimes the best photos are unplanned. Such as a nice sunset, you don't expect it to turn out so vibrantly. You were just there at the right time and luckily carried a camera with you.
One of your Instagram captions reads, “Sometimes when you stay still and observe the people that pass by, you can get some pretty interesting subjects in frame!” Why do you think strangers make for interesting subjects?
Because it's candid. Sometimes strangers provide you with the most interesting types of outfits, poses, and simply stand in the middle for the most pleasing symmetry.
How do you go from observing and recording with a camera to developing a voice or a style of your own?
I think it comes to having a specific aesthetic or style to your photos. Sometimes it can come down to the tones, colours, and how you composite photos that make people instantly know this is your photo.
I have read that you have an interesting history with drones — that you weren’t convinced at first. This is surprising because you seem to have mastered drone photography and adapted it to work with your own style. How did you manage this?
At first, when drones first came into the market, I didn't really think of how it could be such an influential equipment to photography. I think drones have unlocked a whole new level of achieving any angle of photo you want whereas before you couldn't reach those heights.
I have to ask, what is it that draws you to basketball courts?
Living in Hong Kong. It's the only place where you see so many rooftop courts. This is mainly because land is too rare to build a court on ground level so the only way is to build them on rooftops. That's why I think it's so unique. Also, there are so many different courts that are painted in their own unique way.
What about cargo ships? Your photographs capture their mind-blowing proportions. How did you first discover your interest in capturing this?
I first discovered this by flying a drone up into the ocean to see if there were any cool vantage views of mountains or buildings. I noticed this insanely large cargo ship and decided to see if I could follow it and it turns out it takes a whole drone battery to capture one single photo since the cargo ship may appear to be moving slowly but compared to the drone it's going at full speed!
On your YouTube channel, you have explored the positive and negative effects of social media, especially Instagram, on travel photography. What are your own opinions around this topic?
Instagram has its good and bad side. The good side is: it lets you share your work to a big audience around the world. I also get most of my commercial work from this platform. The bad side could be that you get exhausted of seeing the same content over and over again as there's no more original work.
Have your thoughts on this been changed at all by the pandemic and travel restrictions?
In a way, the pandemic forced me to explore more of my own city and travel to corners of town that I didn't even know existed!
Where would you like your work to take you next?
Maybe one day I could photograph in container ports. I’ve always wanted the opportunity to photograph containers on land!