In part two of his City Perspectives, Victor Cheng (@veeceecheng) talks strategies for capturing minimalism and clean lines in a city as bustling and diverse as Toronto, and shares how his background in multimedia and communications informs his photography.
You were born in Hong Kong and have moved around a bit since moving to Canada. Do you consider Winnipeg, Calgary, or Toronto your ‘home’? What distinguishes Toronto from the other cities you’ve lived in?
I think that because I’ve been living in Toronto for most of my life now, it only makes sense to call it my home. Toronto is a large, diverse metropolis. It’s much more populated than both Winnipeg and Calgary and there was a lot to get used to when I first moved here, like taking public transit and walking through big crowds during rush hour. As a foodie, I appreciate living in larger city; food options are plentiful here and there are so many great restaurants in close range. Weather-wise, the cities are very different too: Winnipeg is insanely cold and Calgary is a bit warmer. Adjusting to Toronto was definitely a drastic but most welcomed change.
You say that the city of Toronto inspires you to shoot minimalism and clean lines; can you tell us a little bit more about that?
I want to portray Toronto’s artistic features and its culture. Although there are lots of high-rises and complex architecture in the downtown core, there’s also plenty of opportunity to shoot minimalist, clean shots. For example, I love big empty spaces or huge walls that I can use to capture creative portraits that show an individual’s character or emotion. I tend to capture places and spaces with the best symmetry; sometimes it even makes me frustrated if a line doesn’t meet a corner.
What techniques or strategies do you use to photograph a city as bustling and diverse as Toronto in clean, minimal ways?
I don’t think I use any special techniques, but what I do think is helpful is that I explore as much as I can on foot. So many people walk by beautiful, unique – and even sometimes common – areas on their commute to work or school, and they don’t even notice the space that they are in. Patience in waiting for a clear shot is necessary is sometimes necessary, too.
You major in Multimedia and Communications. How does your chosen field of study inform your use of Instagram as a tool for expression through images — artistically, commercially or personally?
My major has definitely helped me understand social media as an interactive portfolio. Through Instagram, I’ve been able to meet so many new people with the same interests and passion, and together, we’ve created new, artistic content. I’ve also been introduced to and have been able to work with brands that I would have never had access to otherwise. It’s just an amazing feeling knowing that people all around the world appreciate your work and support you.
Finally, you design menswear on the side. Toronto isn’t as well-known for fashion as New York, Paris, or Milan; what distinguishes Toronto’s clothing style? What are your favorite local shops?
I’ve been designing menswear for about a year now and I am still inspired daily by the amount of diversity you see while walking on the streets of Toronto. The style here tends to range quite a bit, from dapper gentleman all the way to clean-cut hip-hop, and just like our culture, it’s hard to define or categorize everything in one word. That’s what I love so much about the city – there’s no pressure to ‘fit into’ or conform to any one type of style.
One of my favourite stores is Club Monaco. Both of the men behind the brand are Canadian designers and the first store that opened was on Queen Street West; in fact, it’s still there today. Oliver Spencer is another favourite because of their quality and classic colors. You can also find that store on Queen St West.