When you click "About" on Xi Sinsong’s website, you get a simple six-word description. "Xi Sinsong is an image maker." While some may dismiss such a terse description as simply being clever, in Sinsong’s case, it seems more from a desire not to be hemmed in and typecast. The young photographer creates images that show a sophistication far beyond her years. In this interview, we focus on Sinsong’s "Wahine" project. For this fashion series, classically beautiful models were clad in warrior garb and adornments. The images show strength, will and beauty all at once.
I have been playing with photographic imagery for about six years now. The first time one of my photographs was published was two years ago during my second year in college. I only work in still photography. I have been thinking about trying out motion, though.
Did you start with actual film, or have you always been shooting digitally?
I shoot digitally, but I have shot with most of the formats of films before, from 35mm to 4×5.
How have digital cameras changed or defined the way you work?
It is a completely different workflow than working on film. The process is instant and allows more flexibility in the process and the end result.
What piece of advice would you give to a photographer who’s trying to break in?
Keep on creating and refining your work. And look at other forms of art besides photography for inspiration, as well.
Do you think it’s possible for a young emerging professional photographer to create polished sophisticated images? If so, how can a young photographer working on spec create images that have the look and image quality of a big-budget shoot?
I think it’s definitely possible. One key element is attention to details. If the budget for a shoot is small, stay with something simple and practical, and make the best out of the resources you have. Most of my shoots have little or no budget, but by partnering with other young artists—like models, stylists and makeup artists who are equally interested in creating great work for their portfolios—we’re able to collaborate and make great work regardless of the budget.
How do you get your photos seen by a wide audience?
Finding popular online photo websites and blogs is a great way to start. A lot of readers nowadays tune in with online publications, and many industry professionals look at those sites, too. I’ve worked with many independent online fashion and lifestyle magazines to promote my work.
In your "Wahine" series, which we spotlight on these pages, are the images meant to be seen individually or as a series?
The "Wahine" series is meant to be seen as a series.
The proliferation of accessible tools that can create a high-end look has been dramatic. How do you think this has changed photography for young, emerging professionals? Has it been helpful? Do you think students today start from an elevated position because they have been inundated with images their whole lives?
Students nowadays do start from an elevated position in some sense. It definitely makes a lot of things easier as we are now able to access high-end gear compared to before. However, as we are now so used to seeing images and familiar with fast-paced technology, some tend to overlook the details and craftsmanship of visual arts. Even though the equipment and techniques of the current era are extremely advanced, there is not really any shortcut to obtaining professional-level skills and precision.
You can see more of Xi Sinsong’s photography at www.sinsong.com.