The MISSBISH Photography Workshop | Phoebe Miu
Photographer: Phoebe Miu
Location: I am based in Vancouver at the moment but my roots are in Hong Kong so I spend a good amount of time between both cities and go where work takes me. Vancouver gives me room to breathe, to feel grounded and to smell the flowers. Growing up in Hong Kong, it was easy to get lost or swept up in the hustle and bustle of the city, you sometimes forget about what really matters or what little things could make you feel alive. With the beach and the mountains at my doorstep, I’m very lucky to call Vancouver home. I’m not one to say forever, though - I’ve been having difficulty staying in one place, so who knows - I might be moving on soon.
Style: Sometimes photojournalistic? And other times candidly curated? Honestly, I think it’s fluid as I’m often easily affected creatively (and emotionally) by my environment and the energy I get from it. I'm also a little impulsive. One thing I do know is that I make my work about the human connection. That said, I do enjoy shooting people most - people doing things, people in the raw, anything to expose the complexity of each person’s life and ultimately how that links us all together. There are entire worlds unknown in every passing stranger or stories untold in the eyes of a friend, and I want my photography to speak for that.
Equipment: I use a Nikon D610. My kit is simple, I shoot mostly in natural light so I don’t need much other gear. I swear by my Sigma 35mm f/1.4. It's wider than what most people would shoot portraits with but I don't like to feel constricted! It gives me a lot of flexibility. I also shoot with a Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 and a Nikon 20mm f/1.8.
How did you get into photography? Tell us about your first experience.
When I got my first DSLR 4 years ago, right before making a trip to South East Asia - photography and travel for me have since come hand in hand. Visiting and exploring new places really motivated me to use my camera as a tool to tell stories and share my perceptions of the world.
Tell us the story behind one of the most memorable photos you’ve shot…
An old man sitting by the window of a pink house in Cartagena.
We spent a few days exploring the town and I fell in love with its vibrant walls and happy people. Every corner I turned I saw something to shoot - kids playing on the street, elderly men or women hanging out on the sidewalk, vendors wheeling around carts full of coconuts and plantains. People were open, their doors were open, and the place was bustling with life and community. It was special to me and pleasant to see coming from the urban jungle where everybody exists within their own personal and virtual bubbles.
What is a constant source of inspiration for you as a photographer?
I get inspired by life - movement through life, the victories, the losses and all the challenges in between that influence my creative eye/how I look at the world. I also get inspired by travel, which is a big reason why I can’t stay put. Traveling gives me a lot of clarity and is like a reset button for me. So when I’m feeling lost or worn out I’ll get away for a bit, and I always return refreshed, re-inspired and ready to roll.
“Own your intuition, follow your gut and do what you feel."
Photography is all about capturing that moment. What’s the secret?
Keep a weather eye out. My favorite shots are the spontaneous ones, so being present, observant and quick are essential. Most of the time you only get one shot and then bam, the moment’s gone. Photography teaches you that time is precious - once it’s gone you don’t get it back so do what you gotta do.
Who has been a great influence or mentor to you and what did you learn from them that you still carry with you today?
The women in my life - my grandmother, the social butterfly who taught me that you could never have too many friends, my talented friend, and partner in crime, Isabel Lee, who’s vision and hunger for creativity is a constant reminder to make things happen, find complexity in simplicity and art in unsuspecting places. Most of all, my mom, who encourages me every day to pursue my dreams. On top of that, she’s a supermom who runs her own business and takes care of everybody around her. She’s taught me to be strong, be kind, play smart, and know my worth as a woman - and those are valuable lessons that I carry with me in all aspects of my life, not just in my work.
Tell us three photographer tips.
1. Connect. If you’re shooting portraiture, have an ongoing conversation with your subjects. Take interest in their lives, open up to them a little and let them open to you. Make a new friend or bond with your own. Ultimately, someone who has learned to trust you and feel comfortable around you is more likely to give you something more innate, more raw, and that’s what I want.
2. Be spontaneous. Act fast and don’t be afraid to ask for what you want like “STOP GO BACK TO THAT SPOT RIGHT THERE [please]” or to approach a stranger and ask to take their photo.
Own your intuition, follow your gut and do what you feel.
3. Collaborate. This is an art, not just a business - many people seem to forget that because trying to survive in this big world isn’t easy, and so things can get hostile sometimes and the industry can be viciously competitive. But collaboration and passion projects are great for reminding us why we got into this in the first place. Time and time again, working with or even just meeting other photographers has been inspiring and incredibly motivating for me. So find like-minded people, forge valuable friendships along the way, create community and realize the magic that can be made when creative people collide. Besides, we are always stronger in numbers!
Finish the sentence..
If I weren’t afraid I would… drop everything and travel the world.
I wouldn't be where I am today if... I didn’t listen to my gut.
I've been listening to... HONNE, SG Lewis, LANY, Prinze George, and the La La Land Soundtrack.
Kids these days... are way cooler than I was when I was a kid.
I look and feel my best when… I’m surrounded by positive energy and get to do what I love.
When no one is looking I... eat all the leftovers I said I was saving for lunch tomorrow.
Traveling... is awakening. Reminds me of what matters and why I’ve been put here.
I respect... the courageous, the kind and all those who are hustling hard to make a difference in the world.