Gini Rhee

Gini Rhee

How did you get started in photography?

I’ve always loved taking photos. Even as a kid I had a toy camera. But my love for photography came about in high school, when I took a course in black and white photography. We shot with Pentax K1000 35mm film cameras and learned how todevelop our own film and prints. Our assignments were varied, and included portraiture in natural light, action shots, still life and shooting patterns

and textures. Developing prints in the darkroom was so much fun. Seeing your photo develop in front of your eyes is pretty magical. And learning photography in black and white makes you focus on the bare bones of a photograph – the lighting, the tones, the textures, the shapes. 

What role has your iPhone and Instagram played in it?

After that course in high school, photography always remained an interest but I didn’t really pursue it seriously because I was under the impression

that I would have to invest in a really good camera, which I never got around to, and still have yet to! However with the iPhone, taking photos and editing them became so easy and accessible. And instagram showed me what mobile photography was capable of. Previously, taking photos was a means to document my life and capture memories, but now, I’ve become more creative with my approach and take photos for more artistic reasons.

How has London influenced your perspective? 

London is such a great city to photograph. Many pockets of areas that are different from each other which keeps it interesting. Great architecture, fascinating people who come from all over the world, and some great street scenes. I’d say this has all influenced my perspective and the way I shoot. I like to shoot people in their surroundings. And capturing strangers going about their everyday lives is very accessible in London. 

Where are your favorite places to go in London? 

Galleries, museums, the streets, the parks… I love exploring London because there is always something new to discover. And instagram has really encouraged

me to go out and explore. If I had to pick a few favorite places I’d say the streets around Shoreditch/Bethnal Green are great for wandering (it’s my neighborhood and also has some great street art), Barbican (love the architecture), Tate Britain (beautiful building and great collection of British art), Hampstead Heath (large green park that offers a great escape form the city). And an old favorite of mine is just walking along the Thames, day or night. A classic London walk. 

What are you inspired by? 

Usually I’m drawn to lines and shapes and colors. And natural light. But I’m reallyinspired by people, friends, fellow instagrammers. A huge part of my instagram experience has been connecting with and being inspired by others. The iPhone and platforms like instagram have encouraged people to get

involved with photography and it’s made it so much more accessible to a larger group of people. So I love seeing what people from all around the world are sharing because it’s all about how they see the world around them. 

Also - TRAVEL! I love London but sometimes you need a change of scenery to be inspired. And traveling always does this for me. I love exploring and experiencing new places. And it’s interesting to see how different the light is in other parts of the world -- the colors, too. When I look back at my travel shots, there is definitely a certain color theme for each place.  

What are some of your favorite shots? 

I love being pleasantly surprised with how a shot came out. Sometimes the best shots are unplanned and spontaneous. So one of my older favorites would be a shot I took of my boyfriend when we were in Santorini last summer. I was trying to capture the scene and he started running and leaped just as I took the photo. It was unplanned but I love those kind of moments. Another favorite is a shot I took from our houseboat in the backwaters of Kerala early one morning. It was so peaceful and the sun was just about to come up. I also like capturing strangers going about their daily lives. So the neon-haired girl who strode into my shot

was perfect for that background. As well as the guy at the Columbia Flower Market -- he had no idea I was there and so you know his expression and body language is completely natural. A recent favorite would be the staircase at Dongdaemun Design Plaza on my recent trip to Seoul. The afternoon light was so great and lit up the place beautifully and I love the shadows of the trees. The shot of my friends Nuno and Catarina at the top of the grand staircase at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel is another favorite of mine. I was lucky that the sun was shining through the window at the right moment. And sometimes it’s the simplest of things that make a photo, like everyday objects looked at more closely or the lines of a shadow. 

How does color play into your work? 

I love color. I think it is evident in some of my photos. Colors add emotion and richness to a photograph. Changing the intensity or hue of the colors can alter the mood to the photograph. I do appreciate black and white photography but after awhile I would start missing color.

Currently, what is your favorite color? 

I don’t really have a favourite color as it depends on how I feel at the time, my surroundings, the time of year. But if I had to pick right now, I’d say green and yellow (sorry that’s more than one). These colors lift me up emotionally. And I need it as the days are so short right now.  

When you took your B&W class, what were you shooting during that time? I’m sure it’s felt interesting to later break out of that monochromatic world and enter shooting with the freedom of color.  

I recall taking a lot of portraits of friends and family. That seemed to be my preferred theme at the time because I love B&W portraits. Portraits work well in B&W because without color, the focus is all on the subject. The person’s facial characteristics, the expression and the way the light is hitting the face. I enjoyed shooting in B&W at the time. And would like to revisit it more. But my style at the moment involves color. It’s like how people say life is better with music. Life is better with color, too. After all, we see in color.

Do you think you’re ever going to invest in that “really good camera?” If so, what’s stopping you from taking the plunge? If not, why not? 

Yes, I most likely will. Just because I’ve always wanted to and it will be something new to explore. And there are certain shots that it would be better for. And it’s always good to take on new challenges. But, at the same time, I’m not in a great rush because I’m quite happy shooting with my iPhone. I love the ease and convenience of it and I love how you can quickly turn things around on it. I also want to get my hands on that Pentax K1000 camera again and try shooting in film again, to get back to the roots of my photography journey. 

When shooting strangers, did it come pretty easy to have the confidence to shoot them or did it take some practice and getting used to? What have you learned that has made it easier at this point? 

I haven’t gotten to the point where I approach strangers and ask to shoot them. I’mquite shy and need to build that confidence. But I do shoot strangers from a distance and sometimes they notice and sometimes they don’t, which I don’t mind. The iPhone is great for this, as it’s small and not as noticeable, and people aren’t as intimidated by it. I like to capture people just going about their business

so I act natural and try to be quick. Plus, for me it’s about the person in the setting, so I’m usually focusing on the bigger picture rather than pointing the camera straight at the person. Burst mode is also quite handy for capturing people moving through your shot.

Interview by Jack Sommer

Kevin De Los Santos