Retro Kolkata Exclusive : Interview with Award winning Fine Art Photographer Hengki Lee


© Hengki Lee
For me, doing an art work is about expressing my thoughts, my dreams, my emotions, my obsessions, my feelings, my personal experiences, and my value of life. I love to make thought provoking work, to make audience see my works with their own imagination and interpretation. A symbolic way, just like poetry.

RK :Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us, We’re excited to have you. Let’s have a jump into the past. What first attracted you to photography?

Hengki Lee :In 2004 I browsed some pre-wedding photos from one local Jakarta Artist and I realized that I have interest in photography. I found photography so beautiful when I looked at those photos.

Couples of years later, I decided to join one of local Indonesian photography community website, then I bought my first DSLR in August 2009. At that time, I don't have any idea what to make with my camera. So I just tried to do some conceptual still life shots with very simple lighting method. Then I observed some artistic moody shots from several good photographers on several websites, got interested to try that genre, and doing that stuff until now.

© Hengki Lee

RK :How do you cultivate your vision?

HengkiLee :I like to read and write poetry. I also like listening soulful and poetic music like the pieces of Secret Garden, Norwegian duo musical artist. “The beauty of being different” is always be my philosophy as an artist.

From the beginning, I just don’t like to be a copycat of someone else. If I did that, may be my work would look good, but it’s just not me.

For me, doing an art work is about expressing my thoughts, my dreams, my emotions, my obsessions, my feelings, my personal experiences, and my value of life.

I love to make thought provoking work, to make audience see my works with their own imagination and interpretation. A symbolic way, just like poetry.

© Hengki Lee

RK :What kind of photography do you mostly indulge yourself in? Why you prefer Black and White?

HengkiLee :Fine Art Black and White Silhouette. I prefer Black and White because it has no color distraction so the impact of my shots will be stronger. For me Black and white Images also have poetic and nostalgic impact, since we see in color in our daily life. But sometimes I also choose color whenever I find my shot looks more artistic, and the colors give a special mood to it.


RK :What is photography for you – a passion or a profession?

HengkiLee :It’s more to a passion, although I don’t limit myself to make photography as one of sources for my income.


RK :Were you formally educated in photography, or are you self taught?’

HengkiLee :Self Taught


RK :What rules guide your process from idea to execution?

HengkiLee :Basically, It’s just freedom. I just want to be free to explore my Ideas, free to take pictures without any restriction or rules limitation, and free to edit my work as much as I like without any strict mainstream guidance.

© Hengki Lee

RK :What is your favorite image or series of images in your portfolio and why?

HengkiLee :My favorite image is ‘Melancholia’ because it’s very unique and has a strong emotional impact. I shot the image using the Lensbaby Composer Pro with the Double Glass Optic .

© Hengki Lee

RK :When you have a vision you want to create, how do you solve the problem of how to do it? For instance, if you want to create a certain look or effect, where do you turn to learn new techniques? Do you learn by experimenting or turn to books or videos?

HengkiLee :I often do some experiments, and lensbaby is very a good lens for doing that, since there are various blur effect that we can achieve with lensbaby.


RK :How important is gear in your work?

HengkiLee :For me, gear is a secondary thing. Creative ideas, aesthetic sense and the ability to manage a well-balanced composition are more important.

© Hengki Lee

RK :What has been your biggest photography related challenge?

HengkiLee :Time is my biggest challenge! Since I do business for living, I hardly find time for realizing my ideas and do some new experiments.


RK :What is your view of our fast-paced digital world? Do you think that iPhoneography or similar is a benefit or a detriment to the photographic artist?

HengkiLee :I think iPhoneography is positive, since it can give us more alternative in making an artwork. I sometimes find a situation when I better use my cell phone in shooting than a DSRL/Mirrorless Camera.

© Hengki Lee

RK :Long exposure B&W is a totally off-beat stream to venture into, very few would dare to attempt and make it successful. I am sure there must be a lot of trial and error before freezing the style that you have developed. Is your style frozen now or is it still evolving ?

HengkiLee :I think my concept in making artwork is firm now. If it’s not, then I will lose my character.


RK :There is something peculiar about light in your pictures that make very simple compositions stand out strongly. What is that one spice in your recipe ?

HengkiLee :I think a vision and the aesthetic sense are the key factors. If you can manage them well then you will know which kind of lighting is the best for your work.


RK :Every picture of yours seems to be a well thought of creation. We would like to know what goes into the conceptualizing process of every frame you decide to create ?

HengkiLee :Actually it’s very simple. I just implement my basic concepts in doing my artwork which are: curiosity, dreams, poetry and emotion. That’s why most of my images are silhouette, since it really fit well to my concepts.

© Hengki Lee

RK :What is that one thing you recommend / advise to aspiring photographers who look up to you for motivation ? For all those who are in awe of your pictures ?

HengkiLee :Just be yourself, appreciate your own work and be proud of it. Keep exploring your obsessions, fantasies and visions. By doing so, you will get a strong and unique character in your work. Don’t be discouraged if many dislike your work, just keep trying.

Don’t limit your creativity by sticking with the rules of photography. Make something surprising or explore something new


RK :We (Retro Kolkata) are trying to build one single stage for all the artists, because we believe that artists are the most beautiful creation of God and geographical boundary can never break their unity and harmony. Please say something about our initiative and any special message for your followers.

HengkiLee :Just respect others and their work because one who respects others, respects himself!

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