Issue 36
Kai Z Feng
From sob stories to success, photographer Kai Z Feng
is the true testament to the globalization of fashion creating distinctive evocative images for international brands and publications.
Since he arrived on the fashion scene, Kai Z Feng has been making big splashes. He has already worked with the biggest fashion houses like Burberry and Aquascutum. His works have been featured in the most established fashion publications from GQ to L’Uomo Vogue to Vogue. Also, his celebrity portfolio is pretty impressive: Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett, Susan Sarandon, Katy Perry, Eva Mendes, Christopher Bailey among others. But don’t let this list fool you that he is all about work – take a peek at his Flickr blog and you would be surprised to find pictures of Kai in his most natural setting. Moreover, his ‘To Do List 2014’ is any indication that Kai is not only a passionate talent, but also a true devotee to authentic life.

Here, Kai tells Playing Fashion about his thoughts on photography, work and aspiration in life.

CHILDHOOD IN CHINA WAS COMPLICATED - divorced parents, poor, moving around, sob stories like a lot of other kids… The only things I treasure about my hometown are my parents. (Then) I went to London to take a job in graphic design because someone sponsored me. New York has always been my dream place since I was a child. It was my photography career that brought me to New York eventually.

WHEN I STARTED TO TAKE PICTURES IN LONDON, I was doing a project called Face, so I photographed a few agencies' models. It (was) so fun, adventurous and creative. I had the best time with my friends.

MY FAVORITE (CITY) RIGHT NOW IS LA purely because I don’t like the cloudy cold weather in New York and London during winter time. LA is more for talent and location shoots. London is more creative because there are so many things and people to inspire you there. And New York has a lot of commercial work and here you have access to the best team in the world.

THE ECONOMIC GROWTH OF CHINA HAS CHANGED a lot of things, fashion is a melting pot over there right now; luxury designers all trying to get into the market, almost too eager and fast that they lose their values a bit, they used to lead but are now becoming toys to please consumers. People who have money don’t really appreciate the brand culture or design, it's more about social status. Only a small amount of people really appreciate the artistic side of it.

MY ART EDUCATION AFFECTS MY VIEW ON LIFE in general, for me photography is only a tool to express some part of it. I love Richard Avedon because he was not only true to his personal work but also had his unique input on commercial photography.

I DO PREPARE FOR PHOTO SHOOTS. Commercial photography is teamwork, you have to let go of egos and make what's best for the situation and the client.

Of course you try to push as an artist, but at the same time it's hard, because people are inclined to be safe and are scared to allow us to push too much. For personal work I do anything I want.

I SALUTE BURBERRY. It was really the first brand who saw the value of my pictures when I was new to the whole industry and it taught me about brand spirit, commercial value, and team work. I think they are still constantly searching for new and exciting talent.

MY STYLE IS PEOPLE FOCUSED. I love people and talking to them. It takes a long time to capture the extraordinary, it's a process. Fashion should support the subject I’m capturing and not cover it.

OUT OF ALL THE CELEBRITIES I HAVE SHOT, I have to be honest I really enjoyed the early shoots with Alex Pettyfer, Nicholas Hoult and Andrew Garfield, because it was just very personal and fun, not too controlled. My way of dealing with strong personalities is to always just be myself.

I HATE BEING IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA or media, but the Bvlgari project was for the children. It was a fundraising project for children from rural China, for Save The Children.

I WORK BEST WHEN THERE ARE FEWER PEOPLE AROUND, less commenting during shoots, just me and the subject would be the best. Getting to know the subject I’m shooting makes me most creative and fun. I get inspired by everything. Currently I’m really getting into reading and outdoor activities.

DURING MY FREE TIME? Outdoor activities, spending time with friends, traveling to new places and talking to local people.

Photography by Kai Z Feng.
Opening Image: Melissa Tammerijn.
Words by Sunny Park