Lucy Feng – It’s all about respect and inspiration!

I met Lucy during an editorial shoot, we posed together and had the possibility for a little chat. I guess there was not much time apart for me saying “you are so beautiful” and her thanking me and openly smiling, she has her own special look when she is pleased, it comes out spontaneously but not too often. When she poses she changes a lot and it made me wonder about who this woman really is, I wanted to spend more time together, so in the end I asked her to pose for me and she did the same, we are both photographers and models with really different ways of working and seeing this art, so it’s been really interesting to share this experience.
She deeply inspired me behind and in front of the lens and I finally have the opportunity to share our conversation and her point of view on the modelling world and some of her works.

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How do you determine which people to work with? What makes you accept a photo shoot?
In any situation in life, it’s important to surround yourself with people that respect you and make you feel comfortable. This is essential no matter how high the payment or how big the name of the client. It’s essential for the sake of one’s wellbeing. There was one time where my judgement had failed me and a client ended up erupting in blind fury when I composed an extremely polite email chasing the month-late payment. In the end, my decision was to cut all contact and lose the payment and never even see the resulting images. It was completely worth it to remove that negativity from my life. Respect is all I really need from a client. Everything else falls into place once you have this. However, with collaborative shoots, I’m much more picky. I have to feel truly passionate towards the idea and feel inspired by the people involved and ideally, everyone else involved should feel this way too. Otherwise, I think we’re all wasting each other’s time. I apply this to my own shoots too. As a photographer, I generally would never work with anyone that has told me in the past that they only work for pay, even if I have a decent budget and hugely respect them as an artist. This is not because I don’t value other people’s time, it’s just clear to me that they don’t feel inspired by my work, for whatever reason, and therefore, will not be putting their all into it. I respect this of course, but I can’t have less than 100% from everyone involved in a project.

Does the fact that you are a photographer too influence your modelling perspective?
Hugely. When I model, I might be looking at the camera, but in my mind I am behind the camera looking at myself and basing my shapes on how it would look through the lens. Also, if welcomed, I am much more able to contribute my own suggestions. It also makes me care more and that I’m not just thinking about my small role, I’m thinking about the end result and I will do everything I can to make the final images strong. I often find myself letting people put me through more too. For example with bad weather or holding uncomfortable poses. This is because I know that my own shoots aren’t always the easiest and I do expect a lot from the people I work with.

Do you ever get the feeling that photographers might get self conscious because of your photographic knowledge?
Yes, I do, as they frequently have done in the past. Hugely confident, skilled photographers often crumble to being shy, nervous and incompetent as soon as I mention that I’m a photographer. It’s a shame, because I personally feel that it creates a stronger connection and understanding between us and therefore, better results. Though occasionally it’s a positive thing for them and they encourage me to contribute more to ideas and we can both learn and grow more from the shoot.

Do you recall any weird experience as model?
It depends what sense of the word “weird”. I think I’ve been quite lucky with regards to creepy weirdness, but I’ve done all sorts of strange things in shoots. A few things that stick out include lying in fountains, nipple-painting, wearing floor-length false eyelashes and drooling Nutella… So plenty of weirdness!

And what about your toughest shoot ever?
Modelling in the ice bar in a latex mini dress was pretty tough. Every five minutes, a blanket was thrown on me and we’d have to rush out so I could take fifteen minutes to stop trembling before dashing back in again. It didn’t help that the rest of the team was wearing compulsory purpose-built coats! Though the team were absolutely lovely, so the toughness was somewhat balanced out in the end. I guess the worst shoots have got to be when just one or two team members are being completely disrespectful and rude or inconsiderate. If everyone was awful, I’d be perfectly ready to simply walk out, but when there is even just one cool person, who truly cares, I could never do that as I’d be letting them down and past experience means I can really put myself in their boots!

How does your career affect your everyday life and your relationships?
One of the benefits is getting to decide my own schedule and working hours. Luckily for me, my boyfriend is also a freelancer, so we can synchronise our schedules much more easily and spend more time together. Another pleasant effect is that I end up getting to discover so many cool places both in and out of London. My favourite place in London, the “Hill Garden and Pergola” in Hampstead, was actually introduced to me as a shoot location. It’s still early days for me, but I do hope to end up travelling abroad for work at some point. I think this is when it could start having a real impact on my life. In both positive ways and negative. I’d certainly find it tough being away from the people I care about.

When you pose, is there anything different that flows in your consciousness, something you do not emotionally experience in other situations? What is it?
I focus very inwardly when I model. I model best when I am able to forget about everyone else in the room. Just before shooting, I try to adjust my mood to what I’m trying to convey. Unless that mood is happy, I prefer to avoid engaging in conversation directly before. I’m usually rather a cheerful, friendly type, but if possible and socially acceptable, I withdraw within myself and try to enter a more serene state of mind when shooting is about to start. Music helps me find this mood. Another thing I experience, is a very focused energy. I’ve had on-going problems with chronic fatigue in the past, but even on a bad day, I can somehow model energetically throughout. The same applies to photography.

Tell me one thing that keeps you passionate about posing. Why do you keep doing it?
I find it strangely relaxing I guess. It’s exhausting, but once you get into the flow, you don’t really have to think. I guess with modelling, a team is sort of managing you, whereas with photography, you’re the one managing. So it’s great to have the balance of both. Also, it’s very much the kind of job where you go home and leave it behind at the end of the day. But I guess the main reason is that it immerses me even further into the world of photography and gives me a much broader perspective. I learn a lot from it.

Why did you choose this profession in the first place?
Well my photography started in the form of self-portraiture, so it sort of followed on from this. But one of the draws was certainly meeting more interesting creatives and learning more about photography. Of course income is more manageable when you have multiple sources too.

I think it’s amazing we can be part of a whole creative process as human beings, because of our body and expressions we are willing to show through a frame. But sometimes people outside the artistic world see us differently, not necessarily bad, but maybe strange. What do you think about it?
A lot of people seem to view modelling as completely void of any skill or effort. Though I do agree that anyone with the right look can model, there are only a very select few people I know that can model well. It certainly feels like a kind of performance art and it can actually be quite beautiful and engaging to watch a talented model. I think it’s partly just something that most people haven’t had first hand experience with. Very few people outside of the industry will have been behind the scenes on a photo shoot. So if I just saw pretty people in adverts, maybe I’d feel the same.

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Interview by Nina Sever:
Model Lucy Feng:

February 19, 2017