“I approach everything by observation first. I’m not a fast photographer. I look and look, then pick up the camera and wait for the right circumstances to fill my frame.”
Rona Chang (born in 1978) is a photographer from Taiwan, currently based between Jackson Heights, New York and Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania (USA). She studied photography at “The Cooper Union School of Art”.
Interview with Rona Chang
Rona, what was your first camera and photographic experience?
I bought a Canon AE-1 right before my first photo class in H.S. at a benefit flea market. I lucked out in picking a great beginner’s camera and shot enthusiastically through all of my assignments and became pretty obsessed with printing in the darkroom. I loved the hands on process of it all.
Why did you become a photographer?
I was always a maker and when I took that first photo class, it was natural for me to dive right in and stay put.
What does photography mean to you?
A way and means of seeing and thinking about our surroundings.
Which photographer has inspired you most and why?
I’ve long admired Joel Sternfeld’s work for his canny ability to capture the absurd or the brilliantly curious moments in our everyday landscape. His palette is superb. My college professor and longtime mentor, Christine Osinski, provided me with much insight and nurturing through my formative years as a photographer. Her large format images of Staten Island, Notes from West Brighton, from the Eighties are out of this world. And I wish I were as tall, quick, and witty as Martin Parr.
“The easy bit is picking up a camera and pointing and shooting. But then you have to decide what it is you’re trying to say and express.”
Your favorite photography quote?
Not sure I have one, I have a horrible memory for things like that.
How would you describe your photographic style and way of working? How do you realize a shooting or assignment?
I approach everything by observation first. I’m not a fast photographer. I look and look, then pick up the camera and wait for the right circumstances to fill my frame.
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic style and how did you achieve it?
Owning who you are. It took lots of overseas trips to finally realize that my childhood spent in Queens, the most diverse place on earth, propelled me out there. Queens was also here for me to photograph when I came back. (Here, I am referring to my work “Moving Forward”, “Standing Still” – notably the Queens edition.)
What qualities does a good photographer need?
Patience, practice, and a bit of good luck.
What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes?
Composition, content, and good color (or rich tones for B&W).
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
Everyday life – it’s looking carefully at the elements that comprise a scene and keeping an open curiosity that keep me interested and motivated.
How do you keep up to date with new developments in photography, to keep on learning new things?
Though I’m not the first in line to acquire a piece of equipment or software, my needs as an image maker constantly evolves and encourages me to learn from my work, what I want to do with the work, and my colleagues – many who are educators or out in the field and share their passions with me.
Digital or analog?
Shooting film was the only way I made work until this summer. I’m still transitioning.
(*Side note – I’ve shot digitally for my job for over a decade, which has kept me informed and in-line with industry standards and practices.)
What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use?
Mamiya 7 and now the Fuji x-pro 1.
What’s your favorite website on photography?
I don’t have a favorite site per se but I do love the images that Flak Photo sends to my inbox each day.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a professional photographer?
It’s not the easiest path so come with an open mind and intern as much as you can to test the waters of the different aspects of the field.