An interview with Ricky Pan follows the exhibit images
Ricky Pan Interview
VSonoma: Welcome Ricky, and will you tell us a little about your show at VSonoma Gallery.
Ricky Pan: My show, “Into the City” captures San Francisco from two different perspectives. As you step through the pictures in my exhibit, they shift from a distant scenery view to a closer perspective from within. I want people to see the city I love from a distance as an outsider and from within as an everyday citizen. No matter how many times I visit San Francisco and the surrounding area, I always find something new to photograph. I'm just one person in this beautiful city and I’m only able to capture just a small part of it...which is why I keep going back.
VSonoma: How did you initially get interested in Photography?
Ricky Pan: I got in touch with National Geographic magazines when I was in high school and fell in love immediately. The photos taught me that a good picture is able to tell a story by itself. Sometimes a picture can even describe a feeling that cannot be said with words. I was only able to admire the pictures in the magazine until I got my first camera when I came to the US to study in 1986. It was a basic point and shoot Canon camera, but I treasured it. I was able to capture the new world around me and send it back to my family to show them I was happy and well.
As I started working as an engineer in the San Francisco Bay Area, I allowed my interest for photography to grow because I had more money to spend. I bought my first real SLR camera, a Canon Rebel and then became interested in older cameras such as the Olympus OM-1/OM-2 and several other vintage lenses. I learned all my skills from using these manual cameras and lens. I still keep them with me as a reminder of where I have come from.
VSonoma: ...and when did you get serious about it?
Ricky Pan: When the digital camera and internet came in around 2000, my inspiration for photography was reignited. Cameras could give instant feedback and I did not have to worry about the cost of film and printing anymore. The internet provided a way to show my work to a group of people and receive criticism to further improve myself.
The cameras that I used follow a common pattern. My first digital camera was Olympus C-2000, and then C-5050 and then I jumped to a Canon Digital EOS. These digital cameras marked the beginning of my exploration of all kinds of photography — landscape, macro, portrait, nature, birds, B&W...you name it! I'm still exploring different types of photography today because I am always eager to try new things. I want to express my feelings through the lens and share what I see with others.
VSonoma: What are your favorite subjects or area(s) of interest?
Ricky Pan: I like to keep my options open, so my favorites tend to change a lot. Sometimes I chase after birds, and other times I focus on macro for weeks. Sometimes people will ask me to join them for a trip to Yosemite, and then I’ll start a week of landscape photography. I particularly like travel photography because I am given the chance to explore a new place that reminds me again of those National Geographic photos. But unfortunately, right now I don’t get that many chances to travel.
Minimalist photography is a genre that I unconsciously tend to always come back to. The idea of minimalist photography fascinates me because anything I shoot ‘can be minimal’. I just have to find it! It is basically finding beauty in everyday ordinary life. I have to clear my thinking and clear my view, in order to see the 'minimalist world'.
Wedding and portrait photography are also on my list of favorite subjects. I enjoy building the story of a new couple through a wedding shoot. Building the emotion and story into my photographs is a challenge, but a fun thing to do. Portrait photography is also challenging and fun in a different way. How do I capture each person's special characteristic in a photo? The constantly changing subject in portrait photography continues to invoke challenge and in the end, can be very satisfying.
VSonoma: Please tell us a little about your style and process...
Ricky Pan: I am willing to try and experience new and original ideas. When I come to a new place or encounter a new subject, I always want to be try different things. Maybe a different angle, a different composition or a different lens. Even if I fail, sometimes the result can still turn out amazing. I use Photoshop all the time, but I believe the main purpose of Photoshop is for refining. I do not heavily rely on it because I want my photos to retain what the camera captured. Post-processing is used to enhance the mood and "highlight" of what I want the viewer to see.
Most people want to take photos of famous places or subjects (for example, the Golden Gate Bridge or Yosemite Falls) and try to copy it exactly like a poster or a postcard they've seen before. I am not an exception. I enjoy those shots, but I won't stop after I take those poster-like photos. I dare to be different, regardless of the risk of failure. Most of the time I prefer shooting alone, so I can walk around and clear my mind. Sometimes I just sit and wait for something, even when I‘m not sure what it is I’m waiting for! Photography is something that can't be rushed. For me, photography takes time and a lot of patience. It's essentially like painting or music. Good work takes time and heart to create.
VSonoma: Do you cite any other photographers, past or present, as mentors or as having a special influence on your work??
Ricky Pan: As I mentioned, I admired the National Geographic photographers when I was young, and I still do today. It's hard to name specific ones, but I still like them in general. Later I was drawn to the B&W work of Ansel Adams and how he captured emotion in his photos. Besides those photographers, Impressionist painters such as Vincent van Gogh and Claude Monet have influenced me. You can express yourself in your photo. Whether I am happy, sad, lonely, dark or bright, everything is in the photo.
VSonoma: Where do you see yourself 5 years down the road?
Ricky Pann: I am still stuck in my engineering job and retirement is a 'far reach' for me. I hope I can continue to grow my photography skills and sharpen my senses and have more opportunities to capture weddings and portraits. I would also like to travel more and capture different parts of the world.
VSonoma: Last question...If you could choose a location for a 'grand photo expedition', where would it be?
Ricky Pan: Every city has its own characteristic and style, big or small, local or remote. I want to visit them one by one if I have a chance. But if I can only choose one, I would pick Taiwan, the place I grew up in but am actually no longer familiar with. I want to recapture my old memories by finding the images that may still be hidden there.
VSonoma: Thanks for this interview Ricky!