Interview Irina Romashevskaya
The mysterious world of Paul Phung’s photography captures a memory, a moment in the life of a stranger, that’s both intriguing and mundane. There is always a story, hidden emotion or an unspoken truth in Paul’s black and white imagery. It’s technology combined with unique artistic vision that brings something simple under a different light and opens an alternate world of expression.
“I guess the first time I ever picked up a camera I was 15 and in my final year of school. At the time I had a really strong passion for painting and my art teacher told me to photograph my paintings for my sketchbook. He lent me his 35mm film camera and sent me home to photograph all of my work. But back then I had no idea how to use a camera. And when I got the photos back, pretty much everything was underexposed. Strangely enough, I remember thinking that these photos I’d taken had a really nice feel to them. After I left school I started a graphic design course but I knew it wasn't for me, so I quit and eventually, after another three years of doing nothing, I decided to join a photography course. I don't really remember thinking that I wanted to become a photographer, but I was doing it because it was quite enjoyable and I didn’t feel completely useless at the subject. It all changed for me when I got to the final year of my degree: I build up this huge passion for photography and knew I didn't want to do anything else.”
It is sometimes difficult to find the right words describing this intangible craft: all the importance lies in the tiniest of details. “I’ve always found it quite difficult to explain my work, a lot of people have mentioned it being really dark, but I’m not sure if I see it that way. I concentrate a lot on creating strong moods and atmospheres within my photos.” Inspiration comes in a variety of ways; it is always a process, a movement, an unfinished conversation with the viewer. For Paul it’s cinematography. “I’m greatly inspired by cinema, from directors such as Andrei Tarkovsky all the way to Wong Kar-wai. I’m still constantly learning from every shoot I do and know I’ve got a long way to go until I can be fully satisfied with my work. I also love the photographic series ‘Homes at Night’ by Todd Hido and I think that really inspired me when I was studying photography.”
“I concentrate a lot on creating strong moods and atmospheres within my photos.”
Every photographer has a preferred way of work, sometimes it’s the location that produces a great shot, and sometimes it’s the overall feeling that makes an emotional connection. “Currently I love shooting against strong and bold architecture, I’m always on the lookout for locations, but I think my favorite time to shoot is at night. I wish I could always shoot in the night time. I just really love how peaceful it is at night and how mysterious looking the photographs come out as.”
Sharing his future plans and dreams, Paul adds, “I would love to visit Yosemite National Park one day to explore and shoot. I think that would be a dream place to visit, but I’m traveling to China soon, so I’m really excited for that and will hopefully start some new personal projects whilst I’m out there. I am also in the process of bringing out either a book or a magazine soon. But at the moment I’m just really enjoying my time as a photographer and I don’t really think too much about the future. I just try to make sure that every shoot I do is better than the last, and that’s all I can hope for at this time.”