started, as many photographers, with landscape shots. A part from the excitement of witnessing iconic locations, started to bothered by the fact that many photographers tend to produce photos with high resemblance and he lost a bit the emotional connection with the landscape genre till he suddenly realised how many phenomenal moments and scenes were surrounding him in the city and felt in love with street photography, looking for lines and geometrical shapes. He calls himself a 'street angler'. Time to explore his superb body of work through this fine interview.
Tell us about yourself, your hobbies and other jobs, Ke Liu. And what attracted you first to photography ?
As a technology & engineering guy working in IT services industry, photography is one of my off-hour hobbies. I still remember the first time I held onto a film camera by chance when I was a teenager, seeing the world through the viewfinder with the manual focusing mark on centre. That made me feel like I was freezing in time, and the world I saw through the viewfinder looked so distinguished from what I used to see. This feeling was seeded at that very moment and for decades I have been taking pictures as long as I could afford to do so. This feeling made me still willing to pick up the camera day after day, to see the world differently.
Describe your overall photographic vision and tell us your most important experiences that influenced
Like many others, I started from landscape shots at the beginning. I spent numerous dawns and dusks in the coastline around, chasing typhoons, embracing sunsets and sunrises, even the coastline was not stunning enough for a great seascape photo, it was still enjoyable. I also embarked on several amazing expeditions to the far west, went for the landmark trails and national parks over the years.
However, in addition to the excitement of being able to witness iconic locations, I started getting bothered by the fact that whoever visiting the same location tends to produce photos with high resemblance. This made me lose the emotional connection with the landscape genre. In addition, it takes more dedication and deeper exploration to establish a connection with the wild, so that one can feel the cold, the heat, and the power of nature. But that requires too much and not affordable to my personal situation.
As time passed by, in 2018, things changed again. My wife and I were blessed with a new life in a new house, and the birth of our son, the little miracle of life occupied most of my daily time. Those changes made me paying more attention to the surroundings that I usually ignored in the past.
As a result, I started to point the camera to the streets in fragmented hours, on the transit or on the way for lunch, etc… And suddenly, I realized that apart from the stunning grand landscape views, there were so many more phenomenal moments and scenes around us, but we had just been too closed to see them. We live a busy life in a busy city, so it is easy to overlook all the beauty around us.
I fell in love with the streets.
You have your very own style but your work is very diversified. Can you explain why this is ?
There are many different styles regarding street photography, some chase people, some are after colours, some hunt stories. I am not really a street hunter but more of a street angler. I always look for lines and shapes that can form an interesting composition. In other word, what fascinates me is the geometry shapes. I like the harsh daylight casting constrastful shadows on the side walk, or the jagged stairs like a sawtooth cutting out the door behind. Quoted by some other, I’m shooting a landscape on street with a person in it.
Does it count as real ‘street photography’? probably not, but it doesn’t matter to me.
What is more important to you, the mood, story behind your images or the technical perfection ?
I mostly took BW in the recent years. The reason merely is because we all live in a colourful world. Seeing things in a different aspect allows me to be pulled away from reality a little bit. The shadows playing around highlights is creating a kind of atmosphere that reinforces the feeling of the scene. I tend to convince people how a scene makes you feel outweighs and what the scene tries to tell you. But even that feeling can be inexplicable from time to time.
What generally is your relationship to your subject matter beyond being an observer ?
In my interpretation, the beauty of street photography is that we are not only witnesses, but also a natural part of the subject, which is closely attached to our lives and every day scenes are subtle and moving.
On the other hand, as part of the subject matter, we also need to step out a little bit so that we can observe from outside, just like looking at ourselves in the mirror. That reminds me how lucky we are compared to our elder generations.
Do you carefully prepare the locations where you are intending to photograph ?
Usually not. To prepare or plan carefully is one of the reasons I lost enthusiasm for landscape photography in the first place. Planning makes the procedure of shooting much less enjoyable. As a matter of fact on the street, planning is almost impossible as the pedestrians are rapidly moving, so is the light. I just prefer walking into any street or alley randomly and search for things that attract my attention.
What gear do you use (camera, lenses, bag) ?
My current setup is Nikon Z7 with 24-200 zoom lens, and I also have a small Ricoh GRIII in the pocket, carrying it everyday everywhere. Unlike most of other street photographers I am not a fan of prime lenses as I never get used to them. But it does not mean I have sticky feet. Whenever I see a scene, I usually find the perspective changing and resulting in an unsatisfying composition when I get closer, so I’d rather stick to where I am and what I see, making some sense straight out of it, then get closer shoot at a wider zoom later on, possibly.
What software do you use to process your images ? Can you tell us something more about your work flow ?
In most cases just Adobe Camera Raw. Only when necessary, I might need to take the edit into Photoshop, otherwise the entire series will only be done very quickly in Lightroom. I no longer overprocess my photos, but just a few tweaks around the contrast through the image. I like the Monochrome profile from Nikon.
What is your most important advice to a beginner in Photography and how do you get started ?
In short, the impression of your own images matters more to yourself than to others. Follow your own heart.
Who are your favourite photographers and more importantly, how has your appreciation of their work affected how you approach your own photography ?
The photographer I admire the most is Fan Ho. His photos portraying Hong Kong in 60s are always inspiring. His brilliant use of geometric shapes and light in composition makes him a real magician. As matter of fact, the impression of his photos has become the foundation and motivation of the way how I shoot today.
Describe your favourite photograph taken by you and why it is special to you ?
My favourite photo by far is “On the edge of light”. which was taken on a summer day noon, the sun is straight down, not a typically good time for a photo shoot. I came across this place after lunch, noticed that the edge of balcony formed an eye shape with the shadow beneath. I waited a few minutes until a pedestrian walked right on to the spot. I like the simplicity and minimalism of the scene.
Many thanks, dear Ke Liu, for your fine collaboration and for letting us know more about you.
Roberto Marini PRO
it's always nice to see photographs of other authors, even more beautiful when you know their history and passion. I think it's a great idea so congratulations to the "Street Fisherman" and the 1x editorial team.
Larry Deng PRO
Congrats Ke liu +++ Thank you Despird for the wonderful interview and also Yvette for the published.
Congratulations, Ke Liu ! Good luck and thank you Despird for the wonderful interview and also Yvette for the published.
Roxana Labagnara PRO
I enjoyed this article so much! Not only because Ke Liu's work is fabulous but also because I also love angles, geometry, shapes. Congratulations to him and thank you Yvette for such wonderful work.
Thanks a lot.
Yvette Depaepe CREW
Thanks Roxana ... Despird and Liu collaborated so well to provide the readers this interesting interview. I just published it ;-)
Congratulations Liu! it was a pleasant yet unforgettable interview having witnessed such an incredible experience from your unusual photography path. Also thank you Yvette for publishing it. Best Regards from Des
Unusual is the new usual isn't it :))
Yvette Depaepe CREW
My pleasure, Despird ! Congrats, Liu ... Indeed, the unusual is the new usual ;-)