HOMEHIGHLIGHT ▸ Fashion snappy

After dabbling in fine art photography, portraiture, editorial work and film stills, Max Chan is now ready to build a career as a fashion photographer.

By the age of 27, Max Chan has already amassed a wealth of experience as a photographer. Having first picked up the camera for his visual arts homework in high school, he started working as a photographer’s assistant while an undergraduate student of Creative Media at the City University of Hong Kong, and later became a photographer for Tao Magazine. In 2017, he received a scholarship from the Education Bureau to pursue a master’s degree in fashion photography at the London College of Fashion, which he will finish by the end of 2018.

Chan’s personal works have always leaned towards fine art photography, including “Unfolded” which received the Hong Kong Contemporary Art Awards 2012 from the Hong Kong Museum of Art. Having lived in old districts such as Sham Shui Po as a child, Chan is fascinated by those large buildings with a central courtyard in public housing estates and it was this that inspired the award-winning work.

“These old buildings are like animals such as tigers and bears. People hunt them down to get their furs, which are then stretched out as displays. I tried to apply this idea to those buildings so that more people could notice them,” says Chan.

“There are four facades to the building, like a box, so I had to take a photo from each of the 28 floors and then put them together in post-production. One of the main challenges was to take all photos within a two-hour window so the light didn’t vary too much,” he recalls.

As Chan toured the building to take pictures, he observed people going about their daily activities, and how individual homes looked different. “Unfolded” was about what the photographer considered beautiful architecture, and also a record of a place he called home.

Another of Chan’s better known works is the movie poster for the award-winning “Mad World” (2016), featuring Shawn Yue and Eric Tsang.

“I knew the director Chun Wong from university and he’d asked me to take film stills before but a movie poster was a much bigger responsibility. It was a top shot taken in a real set in an old walkup building with low ceiling. It was a very tight space. We had many meetings and had to plan thoroughly. On the day, we had only around 15 minutes with Shawn and Eric,” says Chan.

“Like many of my photos, it’s all about perspective and the line of sight pointing towards Shawn. It had to be very accurate and I’m happy with the way it turned out,” he adds.
“Photography is my way of communicating with people, and a medium to present my thoughts,”

While working for Tao Magazine, Chan dabbled in portraiture and fashion photography. He enjoyed working alongside stylists, hair and makeup artists, and for this reason he decided to pursue a master’s degree in fashion photography.

Being in London around creatives from all over the world has been an eye-opening experience for Chan. “There is a confidence when you work on a project here. Whatever crazy ideas you come up with, they have seen crazier.”

It is also a time for reflection. Chan finds photography is a lonely pursuit, and probably why he has chosen to focus on fashion photography from now on. “In Hong Kong, there is simply not enough support for creatives either from society or even your own family. It is not considered a real career, but having said that, even my Italian friend got asked by his family ‘what is your real job?’ There are so many talented people in London, but there are not enough opportunities.”

After graduation, Chan sees himself being based in Hong Kong but is willing to go where work takes him. “I had some bad experiences working in Mainland China as a photographer’s assistant maybe because I looked so young, so I didn’t quite like working there. But I’ve met so many talented creatives from mainland China here in London that I want to work there again before I make up my mind.”

Chan dreamt of being famous when he was young, but is now keen to improve himself. “For my final graduation project, I want to do something that helps me break with bad habits.”

All photos by Max Chan
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