Portfolio of Kimberly Johans

A collection of articles created during my stint as a journalist at The Macau Daily Times

Shooting the Asian male’s an expensive hobby, says Norm Yip

Posted by Kimberly on August 20, 2007

By Kimberly Johans
Published in The Macau Daily Times
August 20, 2007, page 2 (1,046 words)

It’s like an expensive hobby. A time consuming one at that. Yet regardless of how Norm Yip describes his series of books on Asian males, successful is surely an adjective to include in the description.
The 44-year-old photographer will be showcasing his latest publication, ‘The Asian Male Photography Book: 2A.M.’ on August 23 at Bex Café.
Presented by Rosh Events and sponsored by Tagus Portuguese beer, the unveiling at 8pm will involve the sighting of and signing from, some of the models, a free door entry and the usual happy hour, not to mention a DJ from Hong Kong that will ensure the atmosphere is a lively one.
Norm admits that the second time around wasn’t as difficult because people could see the sort of work he had been doing but the process could hardly be described as easy.
“It was actually quite difficult to do the second book. The first one was hard but the second one has a different set of difficulties,” he said.
He remembers having a discussion with friends four months away from the physical creation of the book about whether he should go ahead with its publication.
Despite needing some convincing, the pride at the end result if obvious as he discussed the process behind the labor.
“It’s primarily a one-man show. I do the layout, the re-touching. I publish it myself at the printers,” he said.
“I’m at the printers physically watching them print the images out so it’s really quite a personal project.
“But it’s a lot of fun,” he added.
There are no repeats of the models used in the first book, Norm pointed out, adding that “the difficulty is trying to find someone who has the character and the kind of body shape.
“I have had people in front of the camera but they’re not natural,” he said.
There are no make up artists or hair stylists, because, as Norm is quick to clarify, “it’s not a fashion shoot.”
“It’s nude so they have to really trust me and having a camera pointed at their faces and their bodies,” he added.
He admitted that the first book, 1A.M. took a long time, five years beginning in 2005 in fact, because of the trouble in convincing people to agree to the shoot, as they weren’t familiar with his work.
“So that’s how I worked, slowly one by one, person after person.
“I don’t know how many rejections I received,” he said.
With the first book, Norm approached close to 100 people to end up with 21 models. The second book has 23 models but required a little less work “because after the first book was released they could see what it was like and then it was easier,” he said, adding that the second book only took about two and a half years “from the beginning of shooting to the time of the book’s publication.”
He found it hard to quantify exactly how long the average shoot took, suggesting that for some people it could be a short as ten minutes.”
But on the other hand, one model required photographing over the course of three separate occasions before Norm found an image that really worked.
Which means that he ended up using an average of five roles of 35mm film per model, which Norm admitted was a “costly project.
“Sometimes it just takes time. Or a drink!” he added.
And there’s been a positive side effect to all the years of photographing that Norm’s undertaken: “Now I can tell when I see the person if I can get a good shot or not. It’s usually the eyes that are the telling part,” he said, adding that “I’m getting better at it but it takes a bit of time to develop that.
“If you photograph enough you develop a sense for if a person has that quality or not.”
A Canadian of Chinese descent, the Hong Kong-based photographer began as an architect but eventually started to realise “that architecture was not my passion so I started to switch towards painting, photography and drawing.”
He cites Herb Ritz as an inspiration, particularly for his approach to the body in an artistic way, “in a non-sexual kind of way,” he said.
With that in mind, he collected enough images for a book although that was hardly his intention in the beginning.
The year of transition, from architect to photographer was 1999, as year Norm describes a “a pivotal one, because I had a really difficult time letting go of architecture.”
He liked the image and idea of the profession, but adding that “I was so unhappy being an architect. I didn’t enjoy it.”
After a few months of soul searching he realised he wanted to work for himself.
“I was starving to do something creative but I felt like I couldn’t go ahead and do it.
“But once you make that decision you feel free,” he said and so went out and bought a camera, which began his whole journey.
He added that while one of his dreams had been to create a book, having accomplished that goal meant finding a new pinnacle.
So, besides his “day job” of wedding photographer “I do a lot of wedding photography in Hong Kong so that keeps me busy on the financial side” he’s also planning an exhibition in Melbourne early next year as a collaborative effort, of “Asian photographers shooting Asians.”
Once that’s out of the way, the possibility exists for a 3A.M. Book, perhaps one that focuses on the female form instead.
“I’ve had a few ladies approach me after seeing the book and have asked the same question.
“If I get enough models I could do something like that.
“It may happen but it depends on the material,” he said.
Perhaps more important than any of those ambitions is his dream of showing his photography or his graphite “Zen” drawings in a New York exhibition, with a visit to the famous city coming up soon.
While 2A.M. Can only be bought at HMV or Page One book stores in Hong Kong at present, Norm hopes to reach an agreement with a local store soon.
In the meantime, the only way those interested in obtaining the book is by attending the showcase.

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