Interview with Hong Kong Street Photographer – Ivan Chow

  1. Hi Ivan, please introduce yourself?

    My name is Ivan, I’m a street photographer from Hong Kong who’s currently living in Toronto, Canada.
  2. How did you get started in street photography?

    Growing up, I was fascinated by the work of photojournalists and documentary photographers. I would flip through magazines like National Geographic and just get blown away by the stunning images that told different stories from around the world. 

I knew very early on that I would never have the courage or be able to make the necessary sacrifices to put myself in the same positions as these photographers, so I turned to documenting the streets instead. It was the easier, more comfortable version of photojournalism for me.

  1. Your YouTube channel has really grown, what made you decide to start producing YouTube content?

    Thanks, it’s still a fairly small channel, but I’m thankful to have a community of people that are always encouraging and appreciative of the videos I’m creating.

I’ve been a fan of Samuel Lin Taro’s YouTube channel for quite some time. I really admire the work that he’s been doing for the street photography community. I wanted to do something similar, but specifically for the scene in Hong Kong. My original plan was to get a channel started, gain some kind of following and then start featuring some of Hong Kong’s street photographers when I had more eyes on the channel. There is so much talent in Hong Kong, but no one is really producing quality content on YouTube to showcase it. Now that I’m in Toronto, it’s going to be a lot harder for me to follow through with that plan. But we’ll see.

  1. What advice you would have for people that want to enter the YouTube sphere?

    You’re going to give yourself a hundred different reasons not to, but just go for it.

    I spent the longest time debating if I should start my own channel. I didn’t want to be labeled as a “YouTuber”, or even worse, a “YouTube photographer”. I’m also an introvert. I hate being in front of the camera and I’m horrible at public speaking. Definitely not YouTube material by any means. But I had a strong passion for street photography and I wanted to share my work and experiences with other like minded people. It was also a perfect way for me to learn how to make videos. So I stepped out of my comfort zone and just went for it.

    I’ve been doing this for around a year and I still can’t put three sentences together when I’m speaking in front of a camera. YouTube is not easy, but if you stick with it, you’ll eventually figure out a formula that works for you. Have a plan, be authentic and just do it!
  2. Has the pandemic changed your shooting style at all. What have you learned?

    Without a doubt. I don’t get as close to people these days, for obvious reasons. I also got really bored of photographing people in masks (everyone in Hong Kong wears a mask when they’re out). The reason I got close to people in the first place was to capture raw emotions, it’s just not the same for me when you can’t see their faces. So instead of sticking to my old ways, I made some changes to keep myself interested.

I started studying the work of street photographers who specialized in urban landscapes. I wanted to learn how to make interesting photos without the help of human emotions. One of the photographers I spent a lot of time studying was Mark Power. He’s a magnum photographer who made photographs of empty urban spaces across America. It’s crazy, cause many of his photos actually look like they were shot during a pandemic. I slowly incorporated some of these ideas into my own work and got more comfortable shooting from a distance.

  1. Who are some of your favorite street photographers and why?

My favorite street photographer has to be Daido Moriyama. You probably can’t tell from my photos, but he’s my greatest source of inspiration. I think it’s his casual approach to street photography that speaks to me. He keeps it simple, walks the streets everyday and creates art with a little point and shoot camera.

Some other favorites include Alex Webb, Geourgui Pinkhassov, Saul Leiter and Joel Meyerowitz.

If you could have one street photographer document your wedding day who would it be and why?

This is an interesting one! I think it would have to be Alex Webb. His style is perfect for event photography. There’s a lot happening in weddings and he’s a master at layering his photos to tell a story. Also, if you hire Alex Webb, you’ll probably also get Rebecca Norris Webb as a second shooter.

What are some of the positive influences Street Photography has had on you?

Street photography has given me the ability to notice and appreciate the simple things in life that most people often overlook. I spend a lot of time watching people on the streets. I know it sounds creepy, but what I’m seeing are stories of people’s lives. Interactions between strangers, lovers in a quarrel, warm exchanges between parents and their children, the list goes on. These are all things that you’ll never notice if you don’t look. We go about our daily lives worrying about the things that we have to get done and we never stop to just soak in the many beautiful moments that are unfolding around us.

Street photography has also introduced  me to an audience who actually appreciates the art I’m trying to make. My friends and family never understood the type of photography I did, I’m often asked why I take photographs of “nothing”, and honestly, I could never explain it. You either get it or you don’t, and I’m glad I found a group of people who do. This has given me validation and the confidence I need to pursue what I’m passionate about. The other day, someone messaged me and told me that he started street photography again because of one of my videos. That was amazing and it’s really all I need to keep going. 

How do you plan out your YouTube content? Do you have a content calendar and do you shoot everything in one day?

I don’t have a calendar, but I do have a list of video ideas on my iPhone’s notes app. I’ll just pick and choose from the list whenever I feel like the time is right for that video. It’s still kind of messy right now, I should probably work on a calendar and be more organised about it.

I’d say most of my videos are shot within a day, but it depends. Actually a majority of my time is spent on writing, scripting and planning for the shoot. That process alone could take up to a week to get right, the actual video shooting and editing is the easy part for me. That’s why I’m terrible at vlogging, I can’t do “off the cuff” videos, I always need to have a structured plan to work with.

Where can people keep up with your work?

YouTube: Ivan Chow
Instagram: @ivun.street


I’m quite active on Instagram and will share most of my updates there. I also try to answer all the messages I get on YouTube and Instagram so feel free to get in touch if you have questions about street photography, videos or if you just want to nerd out on camera gear.

Published by timhuynhphotos

Streetphotographer from Oahu, HI

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