Chealse is a rare find. Photography has such a huge impact on her life, since the day she started opening herself to it and realized that there is nothing else in this world that could make her feel that way. The 26th episode of the spotlight put the high beams on Chealse Vo, a freelance photographer based in Melbourne. That is a far stone throw from her hometown in Vietnam. We sat down and talked about a variety of topics, such as her skills in retouching, Asian films and her future trip to the United States! Divert your eyes below to read the full interview…
As a completely self-taught photographer, what steps are you taking to become a professional in your career?
Chealse: First of all, I knew that I need a portfolio to get started so I’m just trying to take as many photos as I can, from the fairly simple one like my breakfast to something more serious like event, portrait… When the portfolio is ready, the next thing is pushing myself out there, creating network, specific websites and forums are great examples. The last thing, I guess, is keep learning and developing myself. This is a non-stop world so there’s no reason we have to stop.
How did you first get into photography?
Chealse: At first I really hate the camera since I don’t like standing in front of it and have my photo taken. It’s kind of awkward for me. Then I found out standing behind it is another different story. I was still afraid of it somehow because I always want to do something more stable and I knew that photography cannot be the one so I tried to categorise it as my hobby only. It took me a year later to have guts to face with it and call it as my passion and pathway.
Photographers are often told that they need to develop a personal style to set them apart. What would you say sets you apart?
Chealse: This is the question that I ask myself every single day. Sometimes it’s easier for the outsider think for you instead of yourself and I guess this is the case. I personally love the retro and vintage feeling, something old-fashioned, simple but beautiful in its own way… Hopefully people can feel that way too.
I love your Street Life photography! You’ve captured fashion shows, festivals, bands, etc. Which do you enjoy photographing the most?
Chealse: Thank you!
With street life photography, it’s just simply amazing when you’re least expected. You can get out of your house, wander around your neighbour or go somewhere with the camera in your hands and don’t have to give a thought about how many photos you have to take, how good they have to be…. the photos can be out of photos, can be blurry, too bright or too dark… but it doesn’t matter at all. Just be there and enjoy the moment, something will come up to you.
With events photography, that’s something I would love to do as a career. I just fall for the excitement that it brings in. Yes, completely different form street life photography, it’s a fast pace world, lots of running here and there. You may have to wait like several hours just for several minutes show and if you do something wrong at first, it’s not easy to fix it later on. But that’s a good place for me to show my commitment, organisation and work ethic. It’s hard to compare those two, just like something I do for myself and something for living, but I still love them both.
What kind of camera do you use and what is your favorite lens?
Chealse: I’m currently using an entry level DSLR with several old manual-focus lenses (they’re for the film camera). I know this is a hard way to start with but I’m happy to have something to capture the moment for me.
My “current” favourite lens is the Helios 44M 58mm f/2.0, a really sharp lens. This is a kit lens from my Zenit camera and I attached it to my dslr body. I don’t usually use it that much but I have used it a lot during the last fashion week and it worked really well. When you compare the cost and the performance, I think it would beat most of the new auto-focus lens out there.
Switching gears a bit, are you a fan of Asian movies or anime? What are some of your favs?
Chealse: I do watch Asian movie/drama and anime. I really love anime/manga when I was back in my hometown. I’ve kept a collection of Sailor Moon comic books for 15 years now, lots of memory there. But since I came to Australia, there’re lots of other things keep coming up, I’m also busy with my life so I was distracted and don’t have time for it. Some of my favourites are Detective Conan, Clamp School Detectives, Zenki… There are some of them I can’t remember the name since it’s Japanese, sorry …
In addition to just photographing, you also do Vexel retouching. Are you a big user of photoshop to retouch and manipulate?
Chealse: I actually came to Vexel before photography and that’s the reason I knew how to use the Photoshop at first.
Yes, I’m a big fan of using photoshop. For me, it’s like something helps me to set myself apart from the others and open my creativity. Some people would say they like the original photos and so on but I think it’s not that important, I’d do whatever it takes to make my photo look beautiful and that’s all.
Have you ever thought of venturing outside Australia and photographing big cities in the United States such as New York or Chicago?
Chealse: Yes, of course, that’s my dream. I love travelling as well, I love seeing new faces, experiencing new culture, learning new things… There’re several places in my mind already and I would put it in my plan for the next several years. Let’s see how it’s going to work.
Do you really eat Salmon Bagels?
Chealse: [Laughs] Yes, I do. Sometimes I go to the cafe or restaurant, I think of its presentation first and then the ingredients later. But my salmon bagels are really nice indeed.
Lastly, any advice for photographers trying to branch out and grow their portfolio on a professional level?
Chealse: To be honest, I’m not that experience to give them advice but I have one thing that I usually tell myself , that is “Don’t be afraid, believe in yourself“. If you love it enough, then just go for it, it doesn’t matter which gear you have, which software you use. If your passion is big enough, you’ll find the way out and you’ll know what to do.