Back East; New Images From Familiar Territory

Regular readers of this column know that Asia in general is a favorite place of mine. In fact, I cut my teeth in Asia: prior to being a travel and stock photographer, I was an editorial shooter, doing magazine stories and contributing images to books. I also did commercial, corporate, and annual report photography all over Asia.

All Photos © 2006, Jack Hollingsworth, All Rights Reserved

Now I have a new venture in a familiar place. You'd think that my knowledge of China would make the job easier, and in a way it does. But because China is emerging so quickly, and at such a frantic pace, there's a lot about it that's new and different to me. The one thing that hasn't changed--and the thing that gives me a true advantage--is that I still have the same passion, fascination, and love for Asia that I had 30 years ago.

Here's why that's so important:
After I finish writing this column I'm going to be picking up my camera here in my Austin studio and going to work. I'll be shooting lifestyle images of two gorgeous models for a commercial stock job. It'll be an eight- to 10-hour shoot with the models in 10 different outfits posing on three or four different studio sets. There's a full crew here, and they're all just about ready for me. All I have to do is get into the zone. I've got a shot list, I know what I need to get and I know how to get it, but I first have to get in the mood. I call it a matter of my feelings catching up to my feet.

If I'm not inspired, then I'm mechanical, not creative.

But put me in China and I'm immediately in the zone. I'm there even before I get there--I'm excited on the plane, anticipating what I'm going to do. After 30 years, you'd think I'd be at least slightly jaded, that I'd be thinking, well, the pictures will be all the same because I've seen all that this country can offer me. But it doesn't work that way. Each time I return there's something new for me to see and to photograph, simply because I love to be there.

There's another thing about shooting in China that's different for me. I'm a very organized person; I definitely have my act together. I go into a job with plans, contacts, itineraries, and shot lists; everything is in place. But in China, or anywhere in Asia, I'm not quite so buttoned down. My work is more intuitive, less planned, and I'm definitely more relaxed. Frankly, I don't work as hard on the preplanning stages of the shoot when I go to Asia. I'm more spontaneous and, I think, more confident.

In general I prefer locations to the studio. Although the studio environment is more controlled, it's also more mechanical, more contrived. On location the images seem to spring naturally from the locales; in the studio, it's the locales--the sets, that is--that are created for the photographs. The choices on location are more organic, more interesting, even though I don't have the degree of control I have in the studio.