Questions and answers with Alvin Kean Wong.

{November 2019}

Title: Samurai Rockabilly
Home: NYC

Where was the final image from this photoshoot featured?

ID Magazine.

Give us a bit of background on the photoshoot concept.

I had this interest to shoot Yamashita, a Japanese rockabilly – also a musician, actor, dancer and model. I was introduced to a guy who connected us then I bought a concert ticket and went along to photograph Yamashita and his performance group.

Robert Longo produced a series in the 80's titled "Men in the Cities", which depicted sharply dressed men and women writhing in contortion. Robert is an amazing artist and I would not even compare myself to him, but his pictures played a huge importance on the influence of this series that I produced.

Initially, I wanted to produce photographic portraits but Yamashita and his group have been photographed this way too many times. So, I took the Robert Longo reference to capture them in motion. Everything was not planned. It was very impromptu.

I didn't really know how it was going to turn out. During the shoot, it was about finding the right spontaneous moment and composition. I guess I took a leap of faith and, of course, my education in photography helped guide me.

Why did you/your client choose the final image compared to the outtakes?

I would like to think it's because the images tell a story. I always try to tell a story and photography is a tool for me to express this about the people I meet.

Any cheeky moments during this photoshoot that you'd be willing to share?

We shot this series at a location that a ranger told me I wasn't allowed to photograph in. He asked us to leave so we told him we would leave in 5mins but ended up shooting for another 20mins. It was worth it.

What’s it like being on set with you?

I have a lot of energy. I move around a lot to find my composition. I talk a lot of rubbish and a lot of my subjects feed off my humour and energy.

Do you prefer photographing with a big or small team on set?

For personal projects, I always prefer smaller teams - the camera, myself, and the subject(s).

For larger jobs, I've worked with the same 5 people for the past 5 years. We started out assisting together. We travel, party, and holiday together. My team are my family. They support my growth and I support theirs. I get really attached to people, so when my pals grow to become photographers and directors, it's as if I lose a huge part of myself and it's hard to replace them. But I am happy for their growth and to see their amazing work, which continues to inspire me.

Describe your ideal photoshoot.

Trust. When the team trusts each other and gives their 100% that's when the images turn out best.

What makes a photograph special, in your opinion?

When you look at a photograph and it gives you goosebumps. Someone will always love your pictures, so there's no point trying to please people who will not connect with your art. People are constantly over analysing photographs to try and find faults.

Express what photography means to you.

Photography is a means to document our generation. All of the photographs you take today will be valuable many years to come. It's not about the money. That memory and the moments in between can never be recreated.

Do you photograph full-time? If not, what pays the bills?

Yes, I do and the struggle is real.

Do you have any suggestions to budding photographers out there?

You can only get better. Assisting is the best way to make a living. I know a lot of career assistants who make more money than a lot photographers. I think my assistant makes more money than me! There are no rules in photography. Never let anyone tell you what to do. Appreciate and study past photographs and photographers. Find your own calling. You know what you are best at.

Instagram and photography...need we say more? Give us your two cents.

Instagram gives photography a platform and I think it's an amazing tool. It's just a bummer that people get pissed when you forget to tag them.

Any additional info you'd like to share about yourself and/or your photography?

I am just a guy living my life taking pictures of interesting human beings.

We obviously believe this outtakes concept is brilliant, but why do you think it's important for outtake photographs to be promoted in the industry?

I should care more about promoting and I am the worst at logistics and writing to people to get my work out there. I just want to shoot and make pictures. But I hope this feature can help to promote me, ha!

Anything you're working towards with your next move in photography?

I plan on travelling more to interesting places to produce more personal projects.

Share a quote you live by.

The past and future is not important if you enjoy every moment of the present.


︎see the outtakes
︎follow Alvin on Instagram

You’ve got mail: once a month, sometimes less.