Ones to Watch 2017: photographer Joyce NG
It’s Nice That’s Ones to Watch is our chance to showcase 12 creatives who we think will be making an impact in 2017. The people featured have been whittled down from a global pool of creative talent and have been chosen for their ability to consistently produce inspiring and engaging work. Each one practices across a diverse range of disciplines and continually pushes the boundaries of their creative output. Ones to Watch 2017 is supported by Uniqlo.
We caught up with each of our Ones to Watch, to talk about their work so far and their hopes for the year to come.
The most captivating photography that has the It’s Nice That team gawping at their screens is often work which displays true personality. It’s a capability that photographer Joyce NG has naturally, and is a skill that is only developing as her editorially fashion-led portfolio grows. As a graduate of the Fashion Communication degree at Central Saint Martins, her route into photography hasn’t necessarily been a natural one. However, it is Joyce’s fresh perspective on the industry that creates projects of awe; her photographs display the characteristics of those featured, and her own disposition behind the lens.
Joyce’s style as a photographer is one that even she feels is “so difficult” to describe. Despite holding the role of photographer, Joyce considers the models and the environment, rather than just the final composition. It’s a learning she’s developed from her studies, from which she graduated two years ago. Her communication-led course encapsulated all areas of the fashion industry, “other than design itself,” Joyce explains. “You kind of just steered projects to whatever you were interested in. I always had a camera and took photographs but I never thought that was what I wanted to do.” It was once Joyce began her final year project that her talent for photography was realised, surprisingly only picking up the camera for ease, “just to save myself time and stress I just had to start taking photos myself because at the end of the day, when you want to do creative direction it’s about creating that whole image.”
Joyce’s style is repeatedly influenced by the subjects photographed, often beginning with the casting process before the shoot. On her casting choices, Joyce comments that “it usually starts with people for me,” elaborating that her decisions often depend on authenticity. “There needs to be something genuine in the subject, they don’t necessarily have to know themselves, or be 100% comfortable just yet. I end up casting a lot of people with a bit of over compensated confidence as that is kind of what I have, and I try to find that connection. Once you find that connection in people somehow they result in really good images, like naturally they’ll trust you enough to be photographed.”
This authenticity is an attribute evident in one of Joyce’s favoured projects of the past year for student-led publication 1 Granary. The series depicts a half Sri Lankan, half South American family of six children, who she met at Hackney Carnival. The experience and consequent photographs are heart-warming in content and aesthetic. “I met the family two years ago and they’ve grown so much since then,” Joyce explains. “It’s just quite nice when you’re shooting and you really get to know the subjects. Since I shoot and free cast mostly you can’t just jump straight into it. It was really nice though, quite a self-healing process as I’m quite shy and they were really shy, we grew closer together.”
Photographed in the family’s home Joyce stylistically likes to mix natural elements and placed set design. “You start with something quite real, something everyone is comfortable with and then bring in props. I always try to work with a set designer to mix things up.” Joyce pinpoints this stylistic decision to her upbringing: “I grew up in Hong Kong, so in other words I grew up walking through advertisement after advertisement. You’re surrounded by advertorials or product placements.” As a result her photographs pose questions from the audience. “I’m often asked, ‘is this real?’ or ‘was that originally in the house’, I just enjoying mixing the real and the fake, to push the style and subject.”
As we spoke to Joyce, she was about to embark on a trip to the Ivory Coast to photograph a designer’s first collection, one of the many projects to look forward to from the photographer in the coming year. Looking towards 2017, Joyce hopes to expand her practice even more so, hoping to gain more confidence in the realms of fashion photography. “I don’t think I’m comfortable there quite yet, but I do love fashion. It’s something you can expand on because it is so commercial and appeals to the masses. You can build on that, you don’t necessarily have to categorise it. You just need to push it, and not do what everyone else is doing.”
Joyce NG: Mushpit
Joyce NG: Bros for Martine Rose
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.