About Shing I Chen

Early works & breakout

Shing’s seminal work – “Art of Dressing and Undressing” for Christian Dior – was released in 2009 to support the launch of a new IT bag. Shing, in collaboration with Dior PR, invited an elite group of socialites, celebrities and MTV VJs: the ladies were photographed while having tea and creating new combinations of outfits. Over 150 media covered the event, including TV, daily news, monthly magazines.

Shing’s creative vision for the event was “live interactive art”. Shing was the center of attention in a glamorous Dior gown inspired by Marion Cotillard while shooting the guests. Even beyond Shing’s unique creative vision and high profile guests, the event was well received because Shing, a then-unknown photographer, shot in a stunning gown and heels – the first time ever the fashion photographer herself had become a glamorous subject, with media photographers shooting around Shing as she directed the girls to pose for her.

Immediately after the event, Shing’s shots appeared in high-end lifestyle magazines including East West and WE People. Shortly afterward, Shing achieved further visibility with a self-shot portrait of her wearing Dior sunglasses which was subsequently used by Dior PR.

The Dior luncheon was also covered in Mainland China, marking the first time she became known in that market.

Shing’s career in Taiwan received another major boost when she shot self-portraits for Dior x Harpers Bazaar and the SKII 30th Anniversary. A third major project was a series of photos taken of five other ‘it girls’ at the time.

Bringing international trends and unique style to the Taiwan fashion market

Shing was perhaps the first photographer to introduce a ring flash to Taiwan’s fashion photography scene. Following her breakout shoot, editors from top media said they couldn’t believe that their photographers had all shot at the same time and from the same angles, yet Shing’s images of the Dior luncheon looked outrageously different. Fashion brands and publications began to seek Shing out to shoot self-portraits for their campaigns, including Jean Paul Gaultier.

“I take preparation for shoots very seriously. The evening before I am still prepping mentally as if I were going to perform a complicated surgery – and just like surgery, shoots are successful or they aren’t. You get the shots or your fail. That is the pressure I give myself when I’m holding my camera, but it’s also a reflection of conviction and passion.”

Shing also distinguished herself from commercial fashion photographers by insisting on her own creative vision, as is common practice in the West but essentially unheard of in Taiwan at the time. By entrusting Shing to shoot for them, they are investing in her creative vision for editing and post-production as she seeks to capture just one image that creates maximum impact – one that can make or break a campaign.

For a brand, the perfect image can be defining, as was Shing’s shot of Elva Hsiao, known as ‘the Madonna of Asia’. The shoot was subsequently used to launch a brand called “Carry Me in”, in which her fans were able to get a piece what she liked to wear on a daily basis for a fraction of the price.

Shing chose an image of Elva sipping champagne and wearing see-through pumps. During the shot, she sneezed and her assistant passed her a tissue: at that moment, Shing captured the shot. In Taiwan, most marketing teams would never agree to use this kind of image, but Shing convinced the creative director that this was ‘the one’. True to her word, the image remained in lightboxes and on billboards throughout Taiwan’s top commercial areas for months and was an incredible success.

Later, the China Times CTW fashion director asked her how she was able to capture such an intimate shot, given Elva’s prominence and careful image management. “I’d have over 15 of her crew members covering her as she was taking a break and no one was allowed to shoot her or even mention she was holding a tissue as she was wiping her mouth after sipping champagne,” Shing recalls the editor saying. “That rocked the industry and media. It was shocking!”

The Perfect Shot

Shing believes the perfect shot is an act of creation. The artist needs ample time to set the tone, environment, scent, music, and direction. The subject has to be set at ease. Shing’s knowledge in preproduction was gleaned over years as an assistant producer in New York, working on many high budget and specialized ad campaigns.

The conversation with the subject has to be natural – one needs rapport to be able to guide them; and by telling them a story and describing a scene they are in, they become more than a photography subject. By fueling their imagination, the photographer’s artistic vision pours out from their eyes. “That’s the moment you know you have the shot: the portrait that captures their soul,” Shing explains.

Photos like that take on a life of their own, Shing believes: they are timeless because of their authenticity. Anything can be the subject of such a photo – from smeared lipstick, a piece of hair in her face, or shadows in the photo. For Shing, the defining quality is that the shot pulls the audience into it: “For portraits, you feel like you know the person. You feel their emotion.”

The curious mind and a lifetime pursuit of learning

Shing an avid reader, with a home full of bookshelves. Without a doubt, her most treasured collectibles are her books. Friends often remark on how eclectic her collection is. From rare encyclopedias to biographies and everything in between, books like the walls of some rooms from floor to ceiling.

She has a special place in her heart for non-fiction as well, which she describes as essential if she wants to continue to be a successful businesswoman — marketing, strategy, philosophy … she devours them all. Of her books on photography, many favorite works are in fact translations from German.

Shing’s mind is always looking for quotes. “Perhaps it’s the soul of a photographer to read like that,” she muses. “A quote is to a book like a photograph is to real life – something that captures the essence of something.”

Influences and School of Thought – from Bauhaus to Lindbergh

Shing was trained in the Bauhaus school, combing arts, crafts, science, and a geographic look. Bauhaus’ outsized impact on industrial design, bringing a sense of aesthetic to functional things, also deeply influenced Shing.

The atmosphere of confidence and purposefulness creates uniformness and a sense of modernity. At sc heavily influenced by President of Magnum Charles Harbut my 35 mm Documentary Photographer in History _ and International Center of Photograpy in NYC.

And many Industry color printers who works for Steven Meisel, Ellen Von Unwerth and many notable New York City photographers, I was shown and mentored by their color printers in the dark room, so I know what a so called proper exposure yet with the Unique photographer’s eye such as Ellen Von Unwerth and Lillian Bassman would re- create another version so different from their original shot on film.

I am definitely inspired by the Idea of the Greatest architect where the Most incredible Building serves has it’s Beauty, Allure. And it makes an entirely different value of settings and sense such as Fashion Designers originally Architects such as Gianfranco Ferre, and Tom Ford eye for overalll composition in terms of Photography but in FASHION it’s the Deconstuction of a New Movement or Style created in Geographic

From whether it’s influenced by Pop Culture arts, film cinema, music, or News event . Interior Designers such as Kelly Wearstler if one of my Most admired talents in the World.

And Nan Golden ’s provocative work by documenting her surrounding abuse by her husband and the poorly mistreated and after hours of a dark morning where the drag Queens would go visit her and shoot heroine in the Alphabet city or NYC east village as before the booming 80’s and mayor Guilliani fixed up NYC it was hell on the streets. Pimps, Gansters defining their territory through graffiti work.

Travels and first-hand exposure to iconic works

As a child, Shing travelled extensively with her father, a cruise fanatic. As a child, her father gave her a camera, which she would use to capture the world around her. Venturing around the world, from Scandinavia to South Africa, to Mexico and many ports in between, the way the image and lighting register, how particles and the sunlight hitting earth diffused or saturated, fascinated her.

“As we learn in school, the Camera reads light in its very own way whereas a human eye and brain are automatically triggered and register images in a different way,” Shing explains. In school, Shing would learn to dissect classical paintings and, through this, understand the suble interplay between light and subject, mind and image. From Courbet to Caravaggio, from the Renaissance to Impressionism to Modern Art, Shing’s photography has been deeply influenced by careful study of manually created images.

Shing was fortunate to have been raised by parents of means, allowing her to travel to so many countries and witness the actual paintings or prints of the original artwork firsthand, greatly enhancing what she calls her ‘mental library’ that is her ultimate source for inspiration and creative vision.

Her inspiration extens beyond the traditional fine arts to pieces of sophisticated workmanship and timeless artistry, such as the jewelry of Russian empress Catherine the Great on display in the Hermitage Palace of St. Petersburg. “I don’t see these pieces as being of any lesser artistic value than the most renown works by the Flemish painters,” she explains. “In fact, the artistry you see in the empress’ jewels and the impression they left on me are a major reason why I am so successful when shooting high jewelry. You have to know what to look for … for what the creator was intending to bring to the work. Like a photograph of a human subject, in pieces of jewelry you can find the soul of the craftman that made them,” Shing says.

Shing believes truly great photography, like paintings or high jewelry, must create a story. Many industry insiders have remarked that Shing’s prints give a sense of a documentary. “I see a lot of the young Mario Testino in myself,” Shing notes. “We were both trained in documentary — its like seeing so many of Henri Cartier Bresson’s prints to Mary Ellen Mark’s stories.” Motion picture was another major influence, and particularly the figurative language used in film. Shing notes works such as Citizen Kane and Stanley Kubrick’s Love in the Air as particularly impactful on her later thought and works.

Taking inspiration from industry greats, including female pioneers

Pioneering female photographers such as Sarah Moon, Ellen von Unworth, and Lillian Bassman were key figures that confirmed Shing’s belief that, like them, she too could become an iconic photographer. Like so many great female photographers before her, Shing has endeavored in the Taiwan market to play a similar role. Shing recalls how “many people in the industry didn’t believe I could make it. Fashion photography in Taiwan was always a man’s game before me. No one ever thought a glamorous woman could be not the subject but the one behind the lens.”

Asked about which industry greats are top of mind for her, Shing can’t go without mentioning Paolo Roversi and his art-like images; Helmut Newton’s racy and provocative flair for shooting women; and Herb Ritts’ eye for shooting any model, “not simply because she’s wearing a brand name but actually adding style and class through his way of posing and directing her. He is able to use her to seduce you – even if she’s just wearing a white shirt.”

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