Creative forces: Rachel Ip

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 March, 2013, 4:21pm

For Rachel Ip Hiu-yin, photography is more than a quick snap. It's an art.

"While more and more Hong Kong people are taking photos with professional cameras, their idea of photography stops at whether a shot looks good or not," the curator cum photographer says.

Local magazines on photography are mostly about the latest camera models and consumerism, she adds. "I wonder if there are other ways of looking at the art form."

To find out, Ip is taking an artistic approach to photography in her part-time teaching job at the Hong Kong Art School.

"It's not easy to get people to commit to a degree programme in photography," she says, "and most short courses around town are merely technical."

The Hong Kong-born artist launched her Photography as Contemporary Art classes in January at a space in Jordan. A follow-up course will begin on Friday at an artist's studio in Kwun Tong.

In addition to the basic manipulation of aperture and shutter speed, Ip's lessons cover topics from surrealism and storytelling to portraiture and still-life photography, illustrated with seminal works by Man Ray, Irving Penn, Cindy Sherman, Hiroshi Sugimoto, among many other artist-photographers.

Ip started to give talks on photography when she was working as the manager at The Upper Station Photo Gallery in 2010, and continued to do so until the Sheung Wan space closed down last year.

Somewhat surprisingly, the photographer began her career in public relations upon graduating from the English department of City University in 2000. She then joined Broadway Cinematheque the following year, to manage its membership and film programmes.

"My world suddenly became so large," she says, marvelling at how inspiring art-house cinema was to her, as it exposed her to different ways of life led by filmmakers from around the world.

She hoped for the same expansive effect from photography.

In 2006, when Ip decided to go back to school to learn about "what art is" - a quest that she finds naive today - she chose photography out of the three majors she was offered at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology programme at the Art School.

"I thought photography could take me out to explore the world," she says, fearing the other two mediums - painting and ceramics - would lock her up in a studio.

Now she's thankful that photography - or, rather, art in general - has opened many doors for her, prompting her to think outside the box of Hong Kong's "materialistic" and "routine" mentality.

"I'm not whining about my hometown. I'm just thinking what I can do to make a change," Ip says of why she runs photography courses aimed at reshaping attitudes through art. "I think artists should not only make art but also share the responsibility to promote it."

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