Hasselblad Heroine

Gigi Chung

Distilling a complex scene into bold sculptural forms

California-based Gigi Chung distills complex scenes into bold sculptural forms; emphasizing lines, shapes and contrast with conscious inclusion of aesthetically pleasing elements. Her photography work has taken her across the globe, to galleries and elite photography competitions alike.

From Hong Kong to the USA, travel has also played a large role in Gigi’s architecture and urban photography. She detailed how she developed a style that has been seen across the world, and offered insight into her inspiration and plans for the future.

Key to equality in photography is education

As one of Hasselblad’s Heroines, Gigi believes supporting women with more resources is key to encouraging equal representation in the professional photography industry. “It’s important to advance awareness in public through education in women’s role in photography. Creating outlets and platforms to showcase women photographers’ works and increasing scholarships and grants to help women photographers to materialize new projects is also needed.”

Part of this process is having more mentors to encourage women to get into the field and show them a mirror of what that could look like – and Gigi has big plans for her future in this area. “I hope to create a mentorship or a peer review platform for female photographers to share and learn from each other,” she explained.

“I believe in inclusion and feel top editors and curators will increase their support in the voices and narratives of female photographers.

“I have definitely seen increased female interest in the digital medium format cameras. I see potential in Asia in particular as I notice more female photographers participating in photography festivals.”

For inspiration, there are multiple women Gigi turns to as she continues to perfect her craft: When asked who she was inspired be, she responded: “Vivian Maier and Diane Arbus, for their abilities to convey simple daily life into compelling art. Annie Leibovitz for her ability to put her subject at ease and create engaging portraits. And all the Hasselblad Heroines who have exemplified dedication and commitment to the art of photography.”

Finding inspiration in creative mediums

While Gigi works as an architecture and urban photographer by trade, her style is very defined. And she takes elements from different creative fields to piece together and create this style.

“I like exploring works of local California architects as well as those of Luis Barragan, Ricardo Legorreta, Richard Meier and Frank Gehry,” she explained. “ I draw ideas from dance and music. I believe all art forms are interconnected and these disciplines evoke images to come to life.

“I admire artists who show a desire to grow, are dedicated and persevere when challenged.”

When she turns her eye to the creation of a photograph in the architecture category, she evokes some of her lessons from dance and music. “Good architectural photos use light to see colours, lines, curves and emphasize space atmosphere.

“The most important element to get right when photographing urban spaces is showcasing the uniqueness of the place. Every building has its own dynamic rhythm. It is the photographer’s job to find the pulse.”

Photographing urban spaces wasn’t completely new to Gigi; a passion for buildings and architecture runs in her family. “My dad used to teach architecture. Surveying buildings and looking at facades were all part of my growing up process. I am heavily influenced by Piet Mondrian and Mark Roktho, who happened to be my dad’s favorite artists.

“Their ways of seeing steer me towards abstraction in the built environment and choreographed juxtapositions of urban spaces. By distilling the scenes with conscious inclusion, I strive for a concerted minimalist approach.”

Starting her life in Hong Kong, Gigi has also lived in Tokyo – and she is now currently based in the San Francisco area of California. Experiencing different cultures has had a huge hand in the creation of her unique photography style.

“I am blessed to have the opportunities to travel and live in different cities. I have been exposed to different art forms and architectural styles. Be it ink brush painting or zen philosophy, they all contribute to how I translate a concept into an image without words.”

These experiences have helped Gigi develop into an established architect photographer – and her work has been rewarded with multiple photo awards and competition wins. These include being named Black & White Magazine Portfolio Merit Winner; Kyotographie KG Plus featured artist; a top 5 jury pick at the Tokyo International Foto Awards; and being awarded Abstract, Architecture & Interiors Category Winner at the Pollux Awards.

Of her awards, Gigi said they have contributed to helping her move forwards in her career. “Winning photography competitions increases exposure. To me, it is an affirmation of my approach to architecture. It is always an honor to be recognized.”

She also received a solo exhibition at the Hasselblad Tokyo Japan Harajuku Gallery – one which showcased her series ‘Emergence’. On the process of creating gallery work, she always comes back to a consistent theme.

“Gallery exhibitions often involve specific themes. First, determine the kind of audience for the exhibition.

“Second, curate a body of work that shows a consistent style. Third, write artist statements and exhibition statements.

“Last but not least, submit the work on time. There will always be a background curation process done before any exhibition happens. I will keep categorizing images into different themes when I am shooting.”

Her advice for breaking into the industry is as simple as three key words: “Be brave, persistent and remain open.”

Capturing the perfect colours and details with Hasselblad

When capturing all the details of an urban setup, Gigi finds her Hasselblad kit is reliable and gives her exactly what she imagines in her mind for the shot. “The Hasselblad X1D, XCD 45 and XCD 90mm combination enables capturing high contrast scenes in architectural photography. The excellent dynamic range of the medium format sensor yields images with smooth highlight roll-offs while retaining shadow details, empowering the shoot-to print process.”

Words like ergonomically balanced, iconic and irresistible come to mind for her when she thinks about the Hasselblad brand – and being a Hasselblad Heroine is something Gigi is excited to be a part of for 2022. “I have been following the previous editions of Hasselblad Heroines since it was introduced 4 years ago. It is both comforting and inspiring to read the stories and challenges of other female photographers.

“I am excited that this program recognizes narratives of female creatives, celebrating women’s visions and encouraging fearless exploration in the world of photography.”

Plans for 2022 and beyond

As well as her mentoring program, Gigi has big plans for 2022 – “I have works exhibiting in Frankfurt, Barcelona and World Trade Center New York City in the upcoming months. I hope more people can see my work from different areas of the globe.”

She also sees big changes in the photography world over the coming years, with the emergence of the metaverse and the growing role of AI in the photography industry.

“AI enhanced photography software, drone aerial photography, art installation with immersive experience, photography and fashion cross over are all coming in the near future. I have seen immersive experiences with painters’ works but have yet to see photographers’ works showcasing in such a format. It would be interesting to see how viewers’ perceptions change with this kind of photography art installation.”