Interview #25 - Rhiannon K.

Rhiannon K. is a fine art conceptual photographer from Sabah, Malaysia. Her work consists of self-portraiture, being highly inspired from her feelings, sight and dreams. She also incorporates poetry into her photography.

She recently has been featured into Favourite Five

Just briefly tell me about yourself?

Hey there! My name's Rhiannon and I am born and raised in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. I have been taking photos for about 8 years now and through all the experiments I’ve done, I found my calling in conceptual photography. I am currently residing in Subang as I pursue my bachelor’s degree in Advertising. An interesting fact? I have this weird habit of forgetting to blink as I pay close attention to things - which just happened as I thought of this haha.

What’s happening recently in your life?

The past few months have been a whirlwind. I just ended my studies in diploma and managed to finish it off with a high distinction, which feels amazing. I am currently in my hometown for my semester break so I’m devoting most of my time here in creating new photography pieces for my current project called “Identity”. I have also been rekindling my almost rusty drawing skills as a way to cope with having a creative block.

Do you remember the moment you picked up a camera for the first time? 

I do! Haha, I would have never thought my burning passion for photography started with the first photo ever taken - a shot of a blue teddy bear keychain. I was 13 at the time. Feeling upset over something, I decided to occupy myself by playing around with my 2MP camera that was attached to my phone. I started taking photos as a way of diversion. 8 years later, I tell stories and express myself through photography.

Do you remember your first ever shoot?

I remember going to a bunch of random locations with my good friend and we would takes photos of just about anything. But I would like to think my first ever proper shoot was in 2012, where I took the liberty to plan and create props. It was a flower themed series which featured two of my high school friends. The little project gave me an opportunity to experience what it was like to collaborate with others.

What draws you into photography, specifically shooting portraits?

I grew up trying out different creative hobbies like writing, painting, knitting, playing the piano and probably a bunch more that I can’t recall. But I always had a feeling of boredom and dissatisfaction hence, I kept jumping from one thing to another. When I discovered photography, it was like a breath of fresh air - I finally found something I genuinely love doing. I never leave my camera ever since. 

How’s the photography scene over there in your perspective?

It’s definitely growing and becoming more competitive with the comings of mobile photographers. I haven’t heard much of conceptual photographers in the local scene though so hopefully that will change.

What are your challenges being a photographer?

Definitely, creative blocks! That is one of the most frustrating state to ever be in, haha. It visits me every so often when I’m full of motivation; but I have slowly come to appreciate it in a sense where, it’s a reminder to take a step back and re-evaluate myself. Aside from that, executing my ideas is another challenge I face - in terms of creating the right props, scouting for the perfect location as well as, compositing

How does the environment you’re living in influence your photography?

My family and friends are always open to listening to my philosophical self, questioning the essence of life and what it has to offer. Having deep conversations with them provides me with a wider perspective on certain topics and issues. It indirectly helps me generate more ideas. From there, I begin to conceptualize my ideas.

Do you have certain aesthetics or method of shooting?

Most of my work has an ethereal and surreal feeling to it. I am always playing around with dark tones and smoke, to create a different world. But on some days, I tend to switch things up a bit with simple portraits and using soft coloured tones instead. I am constantly experimenting as I grow with my photography.

Why are you interested in doing self-portraits?

To me, self-portraits is personal - it welcomes you with open arms and tells you it’s okay to express what you feel. For the first 5 years of experimenting with food, landscape, nature, and event photography, I couldn't fully express myself. Until this one evening, I couldn't shake off this feeling of discomfort and found myself unconsciously grabbing my DSLR and tripod out to the garden with me. There and then, I started to capture what my soul truly felt at that given moment. I somehow managed to translate my feelings into a photograph. I reached an epiphany whereby I knew, self-portraits was something like no other. It builds me, it teaches me, and most of all - it is a home I can go to whenever things go south.

How do you prepare when you create your image?

Being a tactile creator, I start off with sketching out my ideas and writing poetries wherever and whenever I feel inspired. On days where I feel a creative block coming ahead of me, I’ll start looking through other photographer’s work on Flickr or watch crazy creative videos on YouTube to spark something. I do everything myself, from creating props and coordinating the outfit. Shooting is pretty straight forward - I've got my tripod and remote control.

I spend a few hours on editing a single image. It takes awhile because I love getting into details and making sure everything is up to my liking. After I’m done editing the first round, I’ll look at it again the next day - it helps me view the overall photo with a clearer mind. If I notice faults here and there, I’ll repeat the process again until it perfectly depicts my visualization.

Are you telling a story behind your photo?

Yes, I am. I process my heart, emotions and experiences into my art. I enjoy translating my feelings into photography as well as my writings. There is always a hidden life lesson behind every single photo of mine. I’d like to believe my purpose in life is to share my perspective towards the world and ultimately, inspire others to fully utilize the beauty of expressing one’s self through art.

Any other works or photographers that you follow?

Brooke Shaden was the first to inspire me to venture into conceptual photography - I even got her book! It’s my favourite. She’s so full of drive, optimism and passion, and that’s what I admire most about her and her work. I also lurk around Bella Kotak, Joel Robison, Alex Currie, David Talley, and Alex Stoddard’s Flickr for inspiration.

Do you value quality or quantity?

Quality! I believe no matter how many photos you take, it won’t be as good as that one photo captured the perfect emotion and composition. It gives audience an opportunity to think outside the box and to really explore the littlest details within that one photo.

In what ways does camera gears or cellphone apps matter to you in producing the work?

Aside from the higher quality photos I’ll get through using my camera gears, it provides me with more flexibility like changing up the aperture or shutter speed. I don’t really do much photography on my phone, but it is definitely great when I’m on the go and I see something picturesque. Ultimately, it is important to keep in mind that gears are there to assist as opposed to dictating one’s talent and capabilities.

Do you earn enough as a photographer?

I currently do conceptual photography as a hobby but I would definitely love to create for someone.

How do you publish and share your work with others?

I mainly share my work through popular communities like Facebook, Instagram, Flickr, 500px, and YouPic.

How much do you think people will value your work?

I think people who find value in my work are those who appreciate my thoughts and perspective towards life. They enjoy delving deep into their mind, heart, and soul. I have had quite a number of people telling me that they tend to link their feelings to my work; they interpret my message/story on the basis of their own experiences. I am glad that my work has the ability to touch others and am always thankful for being surrounded and supported with so much love.

How do you cope in getting the attention through social media or word of mouth?

I don’t get much aTenRon but I do get featured on creative platforms once in awhile, so it is definitely a wonderful feeling to know more and more people are aware of my work; in return, it gives me all the more reason to continue creating with a bigger drive and motivation.

Any music that you listen to lately? Books that you read? Movies that you just watched recently?

Oh, yes! I switch things up every month, and this time I’ve been listening to a lot of James Morrison. It stirs a lot of soulful feelings especially with his track called “I won’t let you go”. As for books, I’m currently reading The Creative Fight by Chris Orwig. It is by far the most interactive book I’ve ever read, haha! It’s filled with creative exercises so I’m always writing as I dive into the chapters. Other than that, I have been watching tons of movies but the ones that caught my utmost attention has to be Big Eyes and Joy. I’m into those sort of films that gets me wanting to do even more with my life.

Anything that keeps you excited in the future?

I am really eager to work on my Identity project. It is all about self-exploration so I'm taking my time as I work on it. I have also met quite a number of creatives along the way so I am definitely looking forward to collaborating with them in the future. In general, I am really excited to be creating again and exploring more of my imagination.

Any last words?

Once you find something that you can connect with, don’t ever let that go. Along the way, you’ll find yourself stuck between giving it up or holding on to it, but fight for it anyway because nothing of worth comes easy. You are capable of so much more, so use your talents to empower yourself as well others.

You can more of Rhiannon's work below: