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Digital Camera World Magazine


Cinematic portrait photographer Fang Tong showcases her work

Kit Nikon D700 with Nikon 16-35mm f/4 lens at 21mmExposure 1/1,000 sec at f/7.1, ISO 800 A shot from the ‘Love Illusion’ series. Photos in this series explore the subtle tension between a young boy and a woman.

Name: Fang Tong Location: Canada Subject: Cinematic portraits Equipment: Nikon D700 and D3X with Nikon 28-70mm f/2.8, 20-35mm f/2.8 and 16-35mm f/4 lenses Website:

photography wasn’t Fang Tong’s first choice of visual media – she kicked off her career with oil painting, sculpture, installation art and 2D/3D design – but it’s the one that she’s developed a passion for. It’s the camera’s ability to isolate a moment rooted in reality but bordering on the surreal that Fang has exploited with aplomb. Her cinematic set-ups – designed, her website bio says, to “provoke audiences into creating a narrative” – are dripping with domestic tension.

Although viewers of her work are free to interpret the scenes as they wish, Fang puts in plenty of character and plot development before she goes near the camera. Take her seven-photo series ‘The Chen Family’, which revolves around the problems faced by a fictional wealthy Chinese immigrant family and a mixedrace child. “These problems include the generation gap between the Chinese traditional parents and the children who grew up in North America, and the marriage between different races,” says Fang. “The wealth can’t ease the barriers to communication between each other, and the indifference between the family members and the comfortable environment adds sharp contrast.

“After I have an idea for the photoshoot, I will usually make some scene sketches,” explains Fang. “I go into quite a lot of detail, sketching out the entire composition, the position of the models and the lighting set-up.

“The next step is to look for the right location and the people who will play the characters. I prefer to use models rather than actors, but they have to look like everyday people and not as if they’ve just stepped off a fashion runway. I use both professional and amateur models, and sometimes I call on the services of my friends as well.”

The character of the location is just as important as the people playing out their roles within it. These are no purpose-built sets, though: “Sometimes I use my friends’ homes,” says Fang, “and other times I rent a location such as a motel room or a swimming pool.

“Each shoot may take two to six hours. I typically use up to five lights on the set, with one main light source and several fill lights. I prefer not to illuminate the whole scene: I want to enhance the mood rather than simply make everything look brighter.”

Kit Nikon D3X with 28-70mm f/2.8 lens at 32mm Exposure 0.8 sec at f/8, iso 100 Scenes for "On the Road" were shot in a small room at a road side motel in North America.

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