Haoming Wang: Portraying Real Life

Born in Wuxi China in 1985, Haoming Wang moved with has family to Singapore where he lived for five years before emigrating to his present home in Sydney, Australia. He became interested in photography starting in 2007 and acquired his first Leica shortly thereafter, which sparked his interest in photography as creative expression. Inspired by the work of legendary photojournalists and street photographers, he documents the small ironies and ordinary events of everyday life with honesty, compassion, humor and wit.

Q: What camera equipment do you generally use?

A: I use a Leica M and M9 with 50 mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH., a 24 mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH. a 90 mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M. About 95% of the time I shoot with the 50 mm f/0.95 Noctilux. I also use Leica film cameras (M3, M5, M6, M7).

Q: What are some of the characteristics of the 50 mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M that make it your favorite and that you find especially useful in your kind of work?

A: It’s a very good lens, close to perfect, and it’s the best 50 mm lens for what I do. It provides high sharpness, even at full aperture, its low light performance is excellent, and in some cases you can shoot pictures that cannot be captured by any other lens. Its background blur at f/0.95 is very charming and it gives still photographs a sense of life and movement. With this lens you don’t just take a fixed picture of Buddha at a given moment, but imply what has happened before and immediately afterward by achieving a complex composition that highlights the main subject and separates it from its environment.

Q: How would you describe your photography?

A: Real life portrayal, not contrived.

Q: When did you first become interested in photography?

A: At first I did not think too much about photography as a serious endeavor. I just wanted to have a good camera of my own. But with the passage of time, I thought to myself, why not have a good camera and also use it to create some good work. I started looking for a theme and inspiration, perhaps my perceptions of people living in their environment. And began to study the work of many photographers, especially Magnum photographers that I appreciate most. I also included many Chinese photographers’ work, because my background and upbringing made it more accessible and easier for me to comprehend. In fact, my largest source of inspiration comes from life itself.

Q: It is fascinating that acquiring a good camera was one of the things that inspired you create more good work, that is to say images that have meaning and significance and are more than simply casual photographs, and you also note that the largest source of inspiration comes from life. Can you say something about how you evolved into a serious photographer, and do you think your day job of running a café has had any influence on the style or content of your picture taking?

A: In fact, you can say I like exquisite things and that Leica meets my expectations. I also want to be able to create images in the same vein, worthy of the camera used to capture them. Inspiration is often a passive force in my life, because every day I must work more than 12 hours running the coffee shop, from 5:00 AM to 5:00 PM, which doesn’t give me much time to take real photographs, but even this situation serves to inspire my creative desires. I receive inspiration by listening to music or looking at someone else’s photography, paintings, or sculptures. Indeed, everything I experience or devote my attention to inspires my imagination.

Q: Do you consider your photos to fall in a specific genre?

A: Most are street inspired, but when a particularly good opportunity presents itself I will take some abstract photos. I also shoot landscapes as well as products.

Q: What approach do you take with your photography or what does photography mean to you?

A: Photography is my life, my passion, my all. I use photography to tell people what I see, what I say, and what I am thinking.

Q: All the images in your portfolio are presented in black-and-white yet your cameras are capable of shooting in color. What is it about the black-and-white medium you find so compelling, and have you ever considered acquiring or using a Leica Monochrom, which delivers black-and-white images of unsurpassed quality and tonal gradation?

A: In fact, black-and-white photos let you see more of the real thing. They’re not susceptible to interference; the theme is very clear, which is why I love black-and-white photography. Currently, I mainly use the Leica M and M9 in RAW mode and convert the files from color to black-and-white. Before shooting digital I used common black-and-white films including Kodak T-Max, Ilford HP5, Delta 3200, and Agfa. As for the Monochrom I’ll have to consider it, but sometimes when using a Monochrom you’re likely to encounter a street scene you want to shoot in color, which can be awkward. Nevertheless many of my friends have bought Monochrom cameras, and it is indeed a very good camera I would consider buying.

Q: There are two images of street musicians, an attractive young woman playing a violin, and an intense looking young woman seated at a circular bench surrounding a tree playing the cello. Both appear to be in a state of reverie that transcend their immediate surroundings, and this feeling is enhanced in the image of the violinist by very shallow depth of field. Can you tell us what attracted you to these subjects, how and where you took these shots, and what they mean to you?

A: I like classical music, so I would naturally be attracted to like people who play musical instruments. I think the girl in is very beautiful, and where she is playing the violin gave me the opportunity to shoot a nice close-up portrait. And the other was taken at Sydney Town Hall, a crowded, very noisy environment, but not so noisy as to discourage her. She really needed a quiet environment to play the cello and her location is obviously substandard in this respect, which is one of the things that inspired me to take the picture.

Q: I love your iconic image of four teenage boys, three on bicycles and one holding a skateboard because it seems to capture the essence of being a teenage boy and yet it has a certain timelessness and nobility of character that goes beyond the typical image of this kind of subject. It kind of reminds me of a Norman Rockwell painting but the black-and-white medium gives it a more classical feeling. Am I over the top here, and what were you thinking when you pressed the shutter release?

A: When shooting this image I did not think too much, I was shooting while walking on the sidewalk, but at that moment I felt that this perspective could be used to good effect on these kids and I just took the picture for my satisfaction.

Q: Many of the images in this portfolio are ordinary images of everyday events but when you look at them closely they convey a mood and capture the texture of the place, time and a sense of the lives of the people who appear in them. A good example would be the image of a young man sitting on the tailgate of a van. There is a certain grace and timelessness. Do you agree, and why do you think this is so?

A: These are elements our lives, but also the most likely ones to be ignored as too ordinary, common to every person, everyday things, like a drop of water. It’s not surprising or seemingly noteworthy, but it might be droplets of that water back up river, make part of lake or sea; it could be rain, but each time there will be a different effect. Not every one is an eye-catching masterpiece, but that doesn’t mean that only those special photos are worthy of our attention. These are also worth supporting; they are like a converging sea of water droplets.

Q: There is something enigmatic and amusing about the images showing what looks like an adult and a young boy wearing helmets and perched atop well-groomed horses in the midst of urban traffic in front of a kebab and pizza shop. Where did you shoot this image and what’s actually going on here? Also the technical quality of the image is impressive; can you provide the tech data?

A: I spotted this scene of “Australian Mounties” when eating noodles at the restaurant across the street as I do every day. At that moment the traffic light was red and they were stationed in front of a pizza shop. I ran out of the hotel to pick up the Leica and took the shot. I think this is very interesting because, first of all, as I understand it, it is part of an Australian Mounted ceremony, not really the law enforcement police. Secondly, in the city today it is unusual to see the horses. The Mounties and vehicles in stark contrast, and the background being a pizza shop enhances the surreal feeling.

Q: What do you think you accomplished with this fascinating portfolio, in what city or cities was it shot, and do you have any plans to exhibit or publish these images anywhere else?

A: My photos were all taken in Sydney, Australia. I really hope these photos can be promoted, and I am greatly honored to have them appear here.

Q: How do you see your photography evolving over, say the next three years. By the way why do you shoot products (which is usually considered as branch of commercial photography) and what kind of products have you shot?

A: As for the next three years, I’ll be selling my business as early as this year so I can devote more time to photography. I hope I can travel around the world. I have a great yearning to visit Europe, because of my love for Western classical music. I also like the European architecture. If possible I would like to live in Europe for some time to gain a deeper understanding of European culture and European society while shooting pictures.

As for my product photography, this commercial aspect of my photography cannot be regarded as personal expression since I did these photos for commercial purposes. However for the record some of their items I shot included cameras, watches, dolls, etc.

Thank you for your time, Haoming!

- Leica Internet Team

To see more of Haoming’s work, visit Flickr.