While some Vancouver street photographers use flash as a club with which to bludgeon the unsuspecting, our newest member, Skyid Wang, has taken the more sophisticated and calculating approach. He may hang with a tough crowd, but his flash work is precise and consistent. This dude paints with light, clear determined strokes that often lead to amazing photos. Recently returned from the San Francisco Street Photography festival, we cornered Skyid for some inane questions and his gracious insight as to how he does what he does.
Q: Why in the world would a smart guy like you want to flash complete strangers in public?!?!
A: I wear glasses, but I don’t really see myself as a smart guy (people always see me as a nice guy though… until I took their photos… LOL). Anyway, I do love taking photos in public space. I don’t see myself as creative enough to stage a photo, so I have to look for something interesting to photograph. The street is a perfect place, the world is happening on the street. I started street photography without flash, but after living in Vancouver (a.k.a Raincouver) for a couple years, it has been a huge challenge for me to make any interesting photo during winter times. I can’t shoot without good light. Thanks to my buddy Tyler Simpson who introduced and encouraged me to use flash… we started with the pop-up flash on Ricoh GR and then upgraded to off-camera flashgun, now I almost can’t shoot without flash. Flashing complete strangers in public sounds a bit scary, but in my case, I don’t see people in street as complete strangers, especially after taking their photos. I see them as friends, I put them in a frame and live with them visually, and in some cases, we made friends in real life (or at least, on Facebook, LOL). Anyway, I feel comfortable taking photos of people in street with flash, people are different, they have different mentality. I do it with respect, if you don’t like it, I stop, say sorry and move on; but if you are okay, then thank you! I am a nice guy after all!
Q: Is you real name actually Steven Chan?
A: No, my real name is Ji, but I also go by Skyid which is given by my Tibetan friend.
Q: What’s with this meat fetish thing that Tyler’s on about? Something like you try and feed him a bunch of different meats over at your place and then watch with anticipation and giggle when he takes a bite?
A: Haha, no, he didn’t take a bite, not even a nibble, he barely looked at it… I mean the deep fried quail! We were planing to cook some seafood for Tyler when he came over, but he doesn’t eat seafood, so we decided to cook him some authentic Chinese food from my hometown, beef stew, wild mushroom and deep fried quail, but it turns out that he can only eat beef stew, and can not even look at the quail! LOL… It really surprised us, and we couldn’t stop laughing, I hate bragging, but the quail is so good… I kinda like the theory of “you are what you eat”, if you know what I mean.
Q: Who’s your favorite photographer?
A: Wow, it’s a tough question. For me, I am still learning photography in terms of history, theory and technique. I have been and will continue to be inspired by many photographers, and I am exploring new favourite ones on regular basis, it’s really hard to name one as my favourite. But there is one photographer I would like to mention, a Chinese one, from my hometown Yunnan to be more specific, his name is Wu Jia Lin, not many people know him, not even in China, he has been shooting in street photography style since 70s, but he never sees himself a street photographer, so he is the quiet one who introduced me to the exciting world of street photography.
Q: If you had to choose between being Justin Bieber’s down comforter or Khloe Kardashian’s sleep apnea mask for a year… which would you pick? *You have to pick one*
A: I have to choose Kardashian’s sleep apnea mask in this case. I hope nothing bad will happen, LOL…
(UPDATE: Khloe Kardashian is pregnant. We will see in 9 months if anything has happened.)
Q: What are your long term goals with your photography?
A: I am bad at long term goals, I have a lot of uncertainty in my life, but all I know is photography is my passion, I do it out of love. I believe love and passion create positive energy, and I like to keep this energy going through my life and my photography, I will keep doing what I love. Beside shooting, I am also into making prints, zines and photobooks, which I am currently learning, sharing means a lot to me, as a way of communication, photography helps people to express and understand the difference. Personally, I hope my photography means something to others, but more importantly, I hope it could help me see the world in different ways. Life is short and I want see more. As an unique way of seeing and observation, I also see street photography as a style of making images. I wish I could develop my own style someday, I know its very hard, but i will keep working on it.
Q: How would you describe your technique?
A: At my current stage, I can’t say I have mastered a certain technique since I am still learning and practicing different forms. In that way, I would describe it as more of a personal guideline. Like most street photographers, when I am out shooting, I would first find a spot with good light and interesting background, then look for interesting characters as well as other visual elements. So fresh eyes, patience and sometimes luck will definitely help. But my interest is not telling a story in a real world, what I am interested is to use those interesting elements to create a mysterious moment (which may suggest a story, but i never intend to tell a specific one) with a surreal sense, something absurd, odd or weird. It’s a quite challenge for me, the most difficult part is everything has to be done perfectly in a split of second, so i guess it is safe to say that street photography is a quick business, an intensive practice, this is extremely true when shooting with flash. So be quick would also help. (Tyler is a quick shooter, I am REALLY slow compared to him). I also try to visualize a photo before actually taking it, sometimes I feel like I could stage a photo in my mind LOL.
Q: Have you really enjoyed any zines or books lately?
A: Yes. My most recent purchase are Harry Gruyeart’s photo book and Full Frontal’s Flashgun Vol.1, truly original and very inspirational works!
Oh, one last thing Skyid. Araki called, he said he wants his glasses back 😉