It was already 10 minutes after the fixed time for the interview when Peter Yung Wai-chuen hurried into the room, offering apologies. Discussion with his students had delayed him, the acclaimed photographer and film director said. Settling into his chair, Yung, who has worked in places as remote as the forests of Papua New Guinea or as irregular as the poppy fields of Burma, admitted that being confined to a regular job as senior lecturer in film at the Academy for Performing Arts could sometimes be unsettling. 'I have always been working on freelance or commissioned work; this is the first time I have actually worked for somebody full-time. 'It was a new feeling for me when I got my salary for the first time,' he said. A brief look back at Yung's career might provide answers to why he sometimes finds teaching stifling. Since his graduation from the Los Angeles Art Centre College of Design almost three decades ago - when he studied under Oscar-winning film director James Wong Howe - Yung has scarcely been seen without a camera. He has worked on still photography and film production: both lifelong passions. He looks every bit your typical academic, softly spoken with thick-rimmed glasses. However, once the conversation turns to celluloid and film, his eyes light up. 'Doing film and photography was addictive for me. It wasn't just that I was always on the road, but that it was an interesting art form too, requiring a balance between a cool-headedness in observation and a passion in pursuing the subject,' Yung said. Yung's boots were, as they say, made for walking. Since his directorial debut in 1971 in a half-hour documentary One Day in Locke, about the life of an old Chinese community in California, Yung has covered a huge variety of places and faces, with other films on issues ranging from tribal life in Indonesia to jade smuggling in Burma. One of his documentaries, The Rickshaw Boys, was featured in this year's Hong Kong International Film Festival. Yung's rare feature films were also critically acclaimed - his 1981 production, Life After Life, received six nominations in the Golden Horse film awards in Taiwan. Another drama piece, Double Decker, was praised for its alternative view of youth problems in Hong Kong in the face of an uncertain future. Over the past seven years Yung has put aside his movie camera in favour of his other passion - still photography. 'Making documentaries involves a lot of resources and time - for example, if you want to make a stunning film about the Angkor Wat, you might need to lay down tracks [for camera movement] or even employ helicopters for an aerial view,' Yung said. 'However, taking photographs is more personal and less pressurised.' Without the usual massive equipment and team of crew members in tow, Yung has spent a large part of the 1990s roaming Xinjiang and Cambodia. Yung's wanderlust has given him tremendous insight into other places. 'You should not just pack it up after you have captured all the beautiful shots - I believe that you should learn from your subjects and the area as well,' Yung explained. Xinjiang in particular had a tremendous effect on him. 'I absorbed a lot of the local Uygur culture - and I saw how the people there overcome drastic natural conditions with a great tolerance. 'Because of the arid desert climate people in their 30s had such rough faces you could almost believe they were in their 60s.' Yung recalled how on one occasion he was caught in a sandstorm in the middle of the desert. 'It was blowing non-stop for 30 hours - I was with these people who were doing their doctorates and they were in tears they were so frightened. 'The storm was so severe that you could not see your palm when you stretched your arm straight. 'Fortunately we found shelter in one of the isolated houses there and even inside it with all doors closed the sand still leaked in. I was thinking to myself how these places could be inhabited - but still there were people everywhere.' A new vitality was also evident in war-torn Cambodia, Yung said. 'The country was poor and the political situation was very unstable, but the people at the Angkor Wat showed no weariness. 'It was probably their pride in their own culture - there were not even people running after you asking for money. Children tried to sell me soft-drinks but none begged.' Last year Yung publicised the results of some of his travels, in the book Bazaars of Chinese Turkestan, documenting his pictures of the oasis townships in Xinjiang, with the collection for Angkor Wat to follow later this year. A selection of the pictures is also on public view in the exhibition Crossroads '97, in the Arts Centre until Monday, which also features a third series of pictures titled Termination - photographs Yung took in 1980 recording the end of the line for the former train terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui. 'The exhibition documents how three different peoples arrive at their respective crossroads as the millennium dawns, how they were faced with choices - with the upcoming elections in Cambodia, the ethnic unrest in Xinjiang and the handover in Hong Kong,' Yung said. His experiences in desperate places have made him more peaceful, Yung said. 'After all these years - which actually started off with my projects in the Golden Triangle and Indonesia back in the 1970s - I realised that here in Hong Kong we have everything we want so we should enjoy it while we can. 'I have also learnt not to complain that much,' he said.