Born and raised in Hong Kong, Irwin Chan is an architectural designer currently studying in London for a Master’s in Architecture. After picking up a camera to document his time at university, Irwin realised how much he enjoyed his new hobby, and now uses it for research and when he needs a break from his studies. His photographs are featured in the new release, Trope Hong Kong Edition.
I started taking photos in my first year at university in Manchester (UK). During my second year, I made friends who were heavily into photography and that’s how I got into shooting. I also developed a real interest in film photography during my first years living in London.
I have gone through multiple changes in my approach to photography. I started by shooting film, and was very into architecture and minimal photography. Through Instagram, I explored different types of photography as trends went on. Returning home to Hong Kong in 2016 allowed me to combine my interests in urban photography with different realms, such as portrait and street photography. I continue to be inspired through friends and photographers on Instagram, and how they see a specific city or location differently.
My favourite environments to shoot in are urban settings, where humans interact with the city. I love capturing the hustle and bustle of a place, and focusing on the subjects that pass through. The energy and uniqueness of an urban city catches my eye, and I feel particularly attached to the ever-changing moments of life that we often glance over.
I want viewers to feel the moment I was in when I was taking the shot. I want them to see the beauty of those moments in life that are often neglected or forgotten. There is a beauty in the chaos. I want people to feel the urge to visit wherever my photos were taken, to see it for themselves.
I currently shoot with my Canon 5D MKIII, but I also shoot a lot of film. Using a film camera changed the way I looked at my surroundings. When I’m shooting film versus digital, I find I take a step back. I think about what it is I’m taking a photo of. It’s taught me patience. I remember having a film camera which was slightly damaged, the film pin was broken. This slightly damaged camera was a great lesson. I had to guess my ISO setting, and think carefully about the weather. It was a great challenge. I have a tip for anyone who is losing passion when it comes to shooting: pick up a film camera. It’s a great base for learning and it teaches you so much. It’s fun too. I also shoot on my iPhone for quick snaps, and edit with VSCO at the same time.
A lot of my influence comes from the film era. Iwan Baan is a huge inspiration of mine. He focusses on the realness of photography and documents the process of buildings, instead of the perfection of the completed structures.
Photography has taught me to be more aware of my surroundings, and to look at the beauty of the world. It has allowed me to become more patient. I find it almost therapeutic when I venture out after a stressful week of university or work. It allows me to clear my mind and keep creative. Photography allowed me to realise my passion for travel. Capturing images when I travel allows me to capture a memory of a place for me to reflect upon in the future.
Always carry a camera when you go out. There are always moments out there waiting for you. The first hurdle is to keep your eyes peeled. Link up with the community of photographers on Instagram and see the world through their eyes. I’ve met a lot of friends through Instagram; it’s a place where people from across the globe can find a welcoming, accepting, and creative community. And, when you feel as if you have ‘run out’ of ideas or locations in a place, try something else. Landscape, portraits, studio photography; there’s always something to learn. Photography is a never-ending process, and you will only get better by having the right mindset.
I would love to be able to merge my photography with parts of my architectural experience. Ideally, I would like to become an architect or interior designer. My interests do lie between that and photography. There are up-and-coming designers that look into experiential spaces, and I’d love to one day combine my photography and architectural knowledge. But one thing is for sure, I will carry on taking photos, and hopefully in the next five years, have my first solo exhibition somewhere in the world.