D’SCENE’s Deputy Editor Ana Markovic meets fashion photography duo Chuando and Frey to see what life is like on the other side of the camera. Ana talked to Asia’s most prolific photographers about their career, celebrities they worked with, inspiration and the fashion industry.
How did you start working together as a photography duo?
CHUANDO: Well it all started when Frey was assisting me back in the late 90’s. Very soon I realized the chemistry was tremendous, to put it shortly, I thought we were having the same mind! We basically see and think the same way, to a point where we know what the other is thinking even before we speak our mind. Hence, after a while, it is only logical for the both of us to team up as there is so much more to offer with what we have together.
FREY: Yes – though I’ve left Chuando’s studio after 6 years of assisting him and started on my own work, I always found joy whenever I went back to his studio where I grew to love photography. I would assist him whenever I was free from my own assignments at that time and Chuando would always happily have me included in the creative work. I was very glad because that was when I saw the both of us creating the best work for ourselves.
CHUANDO: In pre-production we were always excitedly throwing in ideas after ideas and in the actual shoot we would almost fight over the camera as we just wanted quickly to capture the idea in our head before the new one comes overlapping. That is the reason why it all started.
And when did in your separate careers discover the interest for fashion photography?
FREY: Definitely the influence came from years of assisting work in Chuando’ studio.
CHUANDO: Many people might not know this, but my late teens were actually involved doing some modeling work in Milan, Paris and then later, New York. So I’d say, the answer is obvious.
Where do you find inspiration and what is your creative process like? Do you like to have full control overseeing everything (hair, makeup, styling etc) or do you incorporate team’s ideas with your own? How important is communication during a shoot?
CHUANDO: Just like all artists, I believe inspirations could come from anywhere. We are influenced from the things we see, food that we eat, books that we read, or even from a car accident that you might have just seen from the corner of the street – it really is all about the state of mind you are having at that very moment. You will never know
FREY: With the inspirations in mind, we’d further develop our ideas into much finer details. Not that we are picky, but we could see so much into all that. We don’t want to say that we are control freaks, but we definitely would prefer someone who can create something along the lines of what we have as an idea, and develop into something more using their expertise, may it be hair, makeup or styling. So yes, communication is very vital here for sure.
What makes a great fashion photograph?
CHUANDO: There might be many commitments within a fashion photograph that many people might not know of, we are talking about certain brands to be featured, or certain crops should not be employed, etc. Despite all of it, it is our job as a photographer to make the best out of the situation, keep the shot exciting, and withstand the test of time. That makes a great fashion photograph.
What do you like best about your job?
Frey: Creativity has always been the biggest part of me, maybe I should say it is the whole of me. Also to be able to have the freedom to create and do this as my profession, I’d say it is heaven!
What fashion means to you? Also could you tell us about creative differences when you shoot editorial as opposed to doing advertisement?
Frey: Fashion is about creating a look which leaves a strong impression on others, it could be photography, fashion design, hair style, make up, or a certain model.
Chuando: Editorial gives much more room to explore in terms of creativity, whereas advertisement really depends how much leeway the client gives you. They usually have certain guidelines, hence it involves numerous pre-productions, planning, before proceeding to the actual shoot.
It is hard to forget Janet Jackson in your images (her best shoot to date) however is there anyone that you didn’t work with yet but would really like to see them on your set? Who did u have most fun with from models/celebs you already worked with?
FREY: We love Janet Jackson, she is one of the most influential icons in the world, but out of our expectations, she’s one of the most down to earth people we’ve ever worked with! She was very shy actually, but as soon as she was in front of the camera, she was a completely different person! She brought great energy on the set and was a breeze photographing her for the “Discipline” album.
CHUANDO: We would love to work with anyone that interests us. It could be anyone really and not necessarily a top model. What we are looking for is someone who shares the same enthusiasm and excitement during a shoot, someone that cooperates and gives their 100% just as we do, and believes in only achieving the best results.
In that way, we’d be able to explore and then create something entirely unexpected in the story. Every shoot is different and we are also looking for the “Right” fit, top models or new faces, as long as they inspire us, we will go for it!
You’ve worked with a wide range of top models and celebs, how different is working with celebs from working with models?
FREY: First thing that comes to mind is Models are sample size, whereas most celebs aren’t. And then, Models are versatile in terms of looks, most celebs aren’t. For models you could almost go wild with your ideas, whereas Celebs have certain restrictions and sometimes, with personal preferences etc, despite it all, whatever it could be, we just have to make it work without letting the readers know what actually happened behind those beautiful images.
Chuando: Having said, just like what we’ve mentioned above about Janet Jackson, you would be surprised how some Celebs are easier to shoot with than a model. From most of our experiences, those celebs that are really successful are always the nicest. We have more bad experiences shooting with top models than shooting with celebs to be honest.
How much time do you spend taking photos, versus post-production? How far is far enough with altering reality by adjusting images in post-production?
CHUANDO: Shooting is about the spur of the moment, so I guess it only makes sense to capture what you have in your mind as soon as you can, I think 45 minutes the most for a cut is the reasonable timing.
FREY: Post-production is usually handled by different people and it depends on how much work has to be done on one single image. Some images take a couple of hours and some could take days as you would want to revisit the shot again to determine what had been done on the image was to your expectation.
CHUANDO: Of course everything should come with moderation, for example, if a photograph was with too much alteration to a point where a model’s face was unrecognizable, it is indeed too much.
As successful fashion photographers, do you still sometimes have to make compromises? Also how often do you have to step out of your comfort zone for creative reasons?
CHUANDO: In today’s commercial world, if you are popular, the secret to be able to stay on top for a longer time is to be able to compromise, at the same time produce the best work and make all parties happy. Also do not forget, to make your audience happy. If you can do that, you can be the king of the hill.
FREY: Yes we make compromises if we have to. You just have to accept it and then work around to get to the end results no matter what. There are always uncertainties in this world, haha. I think we are reasonable people and we will do whatever to get the project going even if it means we have to “step out of our comfort zone”. At the end of the day, it’s Team Work!
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome as a fashion photographer?
FREY: We are all facing challenges every single day and there are always hurdles, but we would like to think “positively” so nothing should come across as a problem and so far we’ve been quite blessed.
CHUANDO: Life is a big challenge, what else can I say.
Comparing where you are now with where you were when you first started, what would you say is the biggest difference? What is the most important lesson you learned after 10 years in the industry, and where do you see yourself in the future?
CHUANDO: It has certainly been quite a journey and we are enjoying every minute of it, in fact, we’re enjoying it so much that it feels as if it was only yesteryear when we first started shooting together! Time passes, with it our bonds grew stronger, the biggest difference would definitely be that, we have learnt how to work in both of our best interests without crossing the line and respecting each other at the same time; it has not been easy we cannot lie. We’ve come a long way, with our hard work; I could only see all things positive in the future.
FREY: We started off using films, and we were one of the last in Singapore to adopt “Digital”, because when we first shot in digital, we were not overwhelmed by the result at all as compared to films, too many qualities were lost.
But then it came to a point where clients were spoiled by the fast-paced, churning out services by photographers who shot in digital, we had no choice but to adopt digital reluctantly.
How do you feel about online censure of nudity even in fashion photography?
FREY: We feel it kind of robbed all photographers of their freedom to express. There is so much more to an image than nudity. If an image needs nudity to convey a message, why not? It’s not always about sex haha, but for a lot of people the very first thing they see is the bare naked body and not the message behind it. Why can’t there be a warning on an image before viewing it on instagram or Facebook?
Chuando: At the same time, we do understand there are minors and we have to be very careful what they are exposed to and see in the end. It is a thin line to draw.
Tell us your opinion of instagram and social medias in general?
FREY: They are great tools for anyone to get noticed! I really think it connects a lot of people you’ve never dreamt of meeting.
CHUANDO: Social medias mold the world today, love it or not.
What projects are you working on now?
CHUANDO: We are getting our US Visa sorted out as we speak, ready to soar in year 2016 onwards.
FREY: Guys, you will be seeing more of our work hopefully, to infinity and beyond haha!
What advice would you give to all of young fashion photographers who read D’SCENE?
FREY: Never accept failures.
CHUANDO: I’d say go with your gut’s instinct and never give up, live by your dreams.
Chaundo & Frey photographed the cover story of our D’SCENE Magazine’s Winter 2015.16 issue with supermodel Jarrod Scott (get your copy in print or digital) as well as the cover of our beauty supplement for the same issue.
Find more of Chuando & Frey – www.chuandoandfrey.com