A while ago while preparing an article for Kitty Cee, I took notice to Teban’s work. Teban is the photographer who took one of my favorite photographs of her. As I started to look more into his work, not only was I amazed at the quality of his photography, but also the beauty of the Asian models that he has worked with. Naturally, I wanted to learn more as well as bring some attention to his work, so I am appreciative that he took the time to answer some questions that I had for him.One thing that I wanted to do since I started writing articles was to conduct more interviews so that I can provide more insight into a particular model or photographer. This particular article took a long time to create, but I am glad to see it through to its completion and finally have it published on the web.
I also found out that I used to avidly check out Teban’s street photography when I used to visit Flickr every morning until my original account became deleted. But I was unaware of Teban’s professional work until now. So I hope you also check out his work as well.
Me: How did you get into street photography and later into photographing Asian models? I used to look at a lot of street photography on Flickr until I had to create a new account, and now I am wondering if that photography was your work as well.
Teban: Growing up, I always seemed to be the “family photographer” and was really into photography in my teens. After graduating, however, I stopped taking pictures for quite a while.
My street photography account is here. I started getting into street photography because I actually stumbled upon Flickr – saw other street photos – and said – hey, I can do this too! I started with a point and shoot. The quality wasn’t too good – and the style looked a bit unprofessional and did not truly represent the beauty/fashion I was seeing.
Then, I went to Japan in 2008. This is where I really got into the street photography, because the fashion and the style of the girls in Japan is frankly amazing. Unlike any other place. I upgraded my equipment, got more confident, and developed my own style. (The style is quite simply that I do not hide, I stand openly, and actively engage, where possible, my subjects.)
I got into model photography when a friend of mine suggested I take pictures highlighting some nail work she recently had done. She liked the results and that I had raw talent and should explore it, which I did.
Me: What is it about Asian women that make you want to photograph them exclusively?
Teban: First, I think photographers take pictures of subjects that interest them. I have always found Asian beauty to be particularly attractive. Secondly, I did not think that Asian beauty was being accurately represented. There are a lot of stereotypes and I wanted to show a different side of Asian women. Lastly, I wanted to create a niche- to keep my photography focused and develop an expertise.
Me: Probably many people are looking to make their start in photography. I would like to one of these days if I wasn’t constantly busy. Do you have any tips for those who are looking to make their start?
Teban: Tough question. Although it may not seem this way, his is actually a serious hobby for me. I still have a day job. I guess, simply put, if you find your passion, you’ll find time for it.
Me: What made you decide to share your original work in Flickr? I know many photographers do not like to share their original work for many reasons such as people using their work without their permission, so I am always appreciative of those that do.
Teban: I find this is a challenge and in fact, recently started putting watermarks on my photos for the first time. I started with Flickr, because, well, this is where I saw other’s work. My mentors are on here. Flickr is also probably one of the widest viewed photo sharing websites- and so I get a lot more feedback than I would anywhere else. And finally, Flickr has a pretty strong presence in Asia, which is one of my target markets.
Me: Is there a particular model that you love photographing?
Teban: Yes, my muse. Cici. She’s just amazing. 100% natural beauty. Sweet as can be. Fun. She’s become a friend. But I also like her because she puts me in my place. I should say, however, that each of my models has become special to me and each of them is great to work with for one reason or another.
Me: Is there a particular model that you haven’t worked with but would love to do so?
Teban: Ironically, yes – in fact, we’ve had something scheduled twice but failed both times due to schedules or unforseen emergencies. One thing you may not realize is that I generally photograph models “on the road” and so, even when meet a model I love to work with, I may not get back to where they are for 6 months to a year! But this model is Stephanie.
Me: How do you go about highlighting a model’s natural beauty?
Teban: I get to know them. Before the shoot ad during the shoot. I watch them… the first few minutes of a shoot are critical. There must be a bond. Chemistry if you will. IN fact, I always say, the last outfit in a shoot is always my best. And models I’ve worked with more than once usually result in better images.
Me: I haven’t had the chance to look at every photo on your photostream, but my favorite is still the woman wearing the cherry blossom kimono. Is there a story behind this photograph?
Teban: Ah, you are taking about Sae! It was a full kimono too. Not just a costume, but a real one… with all the proper layers of under kimonos, etc. Many Asian models want to work with me because of my ability to capture Asian beauty.
Me: Sae is the model in the kimono that I am referring to. Now that I finally had the chance to look at that entire set, questions that come to my mind are how did the idea to shoot her in a kimono come about, where was the shoot located, and will you ever work with her again because she is a beauty.
Teban: The kimono shoot with Sae was the second time I had worked with her. The first time we shot, it was more contemporary – perhaps more “cute” in style/theme. Sae is originally from Japan – and does traditional dance. She had the kimono here in the U.S. and suggested we do a more traditional concept. It is a FULL kimono by the way – not one that just looks like one – but a true kimono in that sense of the word. For example, she wore all of the proper/traditional layers. Being as I try to represent an Asian theme I was more than happy to agree and this remains one of my most favorite sets.
It was shot along Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills (Los Angeles, CA.). I’d love to work with her again. However, as I am from Seattle, it is more of a matching of our mutual schedules which can often be difficult.
Me: Can you tell me about Mon? I got one look at her and thought that she really is magnificent.
Teban: What do you want to know about her? Haha. Try this, it’s her Facebook fan page. Beyond that, she’s probably one of the most friendly models I have worked with an we definitely have plans to shoot again.
Me: I know it’s going to be difficult to pick one photo, but if you could pick one photo from your photostream to show people as the definition of Asian beauty, what would that photo be?
Teban: Yes it’s very difficult. It HAS to be Cici, for sure… my muse.
OK – let’s go with this one because it’s the most understated. Cici has modeled with me with a bikini, and just bubbles. But honestly, it’s the simplistic beauty here, that I think highlights true Asian “girl next door” beauty.