NSFW Q&A: Eddie Cheng's Monograph: Visual Musings of a Creative Seeking and Analogue Perspective

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Eddie Cheng (also known as eymc275) is a British photographer who lives in London. He works as a freelance photographer and designer. Cheng studied commercial and advertising photography in college during the 1980’s, during which he became very familiar with using medium and large format film cameras. After graduating from college, he worked as a professional photographer shooting architecture and doing commercial work for advertisers. Cheng was using Polaroid film, particularly 669 and 55, but this was used for making proofs and testing lighting and exposure. Cheng has also worked in graphic design and advertising. The diversity of his background and skills influences his work greatly.  

After experiencing a health crisis and being forced to take time off of work, Cheng began to challenge himself to do genres of photography he had not yet done before, no was particularly interested in. Throughout his long and impressive career, he has challenged himself continually to learn new skills, new techniques, new ways of seeing and shooting, which has led him into new territory. This time the result of his challenge to himself has become his new project, which is entitled Monograph: Visual Musings of a Creative Seeking and Analogue Perspective . 

Monograph is Cheng’s take on fine art nude photography. For this project, Cheng decided to push himself in terms of technical ability too, choosing to use a variety of photographic media to produce a cohesive set of work. With an emphasis on shapes, poses and the differing media characteristics, he wanted to keep the technical aspects fairly simple by choosing to use a single flash strobe and a plain background in a studio. Using four cameras—Wista 45VX, Hasselblad 500c/m, MiNT SLR670S, Nikon D4—plus an Impossible Instant Lab. Part of the reason for choosing to photograph this project on four different media formats, aside from the technical challenges, was that he wanted to see how differently each format would render the photographs.

Being a photographer who does not really shoot art nudes, he wanted to work with someone who was more familiar and experienced with that genre, so he teamed up with Nic Button because she is an experienced model who specializes in art nude. Having worked with her before, he knew that they’d get along fine, that he could rely on her to create poses and shapes that would look interesting on camera.

Since he is also a graphic designer, typography and the printed page also play very important roles in his work, as well as having big influences on how he composes his photographs. Therefore, in producing Monograph, a lot of thought went into the design and page layout, as well as the material. The idea was to display the photographs in a simple, contemporary, flowing layout that is very purposeful yet unobtrusive. The viewer should not have to think about the page layout whilst enjoying the content. Finally he wanted the finish to have a tactile quality that, upon picking it up, will give a ‘soft, delicate and velvety’ feel – which is why every page has been laminated with a ‘soft touch’ covering.

As a bonus, every copy of the Monograph comes with a 1:1 signed print of the New55 instant photograph which was scanned and then printed on 300gsm uncoated paper stock and then double mounted to produce a 600gsm print. To maximize the colour accuracy to the original print, the scan went through multiple stages of colour matching and refinement until it reached a point where the printed version was barely distinguishable from the original (which was tested by placing the original amongst a batch of test prints).

PRYME Editions is proud to announce that we will be the sole distributor of Cheng's brand new monograph of which we have 50 limited edition signed and numbered editions. Each edition comes with an signed and numbered limited edition print from the Monograph. Grab yours today in our Shop!

You can connect with Eddie Cheng on Instagram and his website

You were born and raised, as you put it, in a “no-nonsense” town to traditional parents who expected you to fall into a “normal” career. What made you want to pursue a career in photography?  
This may seem like a strange answer, but it was the design of the SLR cameras that made me take an interest in photography at the very beginning. I liked the designs of the Olympus OM1 and the Nikon FM/F2, and they made me curious about what these machines could do. 

You attended university and studied Commercial & Advertising Photography in the 80’s. How did this foundation help mold you into the photographer you are today?
Actually, I choose college over university (again, probably contrary to my parents’ desires) because the course I chose was, in my view, more hands-on and would hopefully be more useful in a real-world job.

Over the course of your career you seem to take leaps into other areas of creative work that combine your past expertise to enable you to “progress” either in business or with personal satisfaction. Why do you feel you make these leaps, and how have these actions affected your career as a whole?  
Put simply, I get bored easily. Taking these big leaps of faith into different, but complementary, creative disciplines is my equivalent of a poker game’s “all-in” move. The new challenge gives me a buzz and new impetus to up my game, and, hopefully, stay fresh and relevant for my career as well as for client work.  

Overall, I think my career has benefited hugely from these leaps, as I still adore my job, and the buzz I get every time I do something creative that satisfies both myself as well as my clients is immense. Being able to have a career that I love, that feeds me well, keeps a roof over my head, gives me a comfortable lifestyle, yet makes my family proud is not a bad achievement from a “black sheep.”  

In your most recent creative leap of faith, you have taken up something you once hated, fashion photography. Can you tell us about the process and how you have evolved from hating something to becoming quite good at capturing the human form?  
This came about during the lowest point in my adult life and career. Due to serious health problems, I had to take a complete break from work for a year in the hope of allowing my body to heal. However, whilst my body was healing slowly, my mind was slowly going stir crazy due to boredom of mostly being housebound and in constant pain.  

I needed to do something to take my mind off the pain and boredom, so, once again, I resorted to setting myself up with another challenge with something I neither liked nor knew much about. That challenge was fashion photography. Within a few short months, I found that not only was I enjoying what I was doing, but I was able to create some imagery with the merest hint of a style emerging. What I didn’t anticipate was the interest I began to get from other people, and I started to get other creatives approaching me with a desire to work together.

Despite the spotlight, I eventually became bored of what I was shooting and started to look for diversification to see if I could evolve, maintain the standard, create something interesting, and still enjoy what I was doing. Bit by bit, my creative curiosity was leading me towards erotica, not just because I find the human form beautiful, but also because it allowed me to portray emotions, atmosphere, shapes, abstraction, narrative, and to loosen and broaden my horizons. Erotica is now, arguably, one of my favorite genres to photograph due to the level of creative freedom it gives me.

In your most recent Monograph: Visual Musings of a Creative Seeking and Analogue Perspective, you have challenged yourself to utilize many different film media, from 35mm to large format, to capture artistic nude images. Just like earlier in your career, has this been another method or catalyst to make a sort of “progress” by challenging yourself?
Yes, absolutely. Without these periodic challenges, I very much doubt that my work could be as diverse as it is now. The decision to use several different media and the choice of artistic nude as the subject matter were deliberately aimed at not just being a challenge, but as an aid toward improving my technical skills, as well as my creative thinking, which, in the longer term, will be beneficial to both my work and my career. It’s my way of evolving and progressing.   

Your artistic nude work presented in Monograph shows an emphasis on shapes, poses, and the differing media characteristics of each film. How did you go about creating and compiling your images for this specific project? Were they all created especially for Monograph? How did you choose which images to include and how to sequence them in the book?  
The images seen in Monograph were photographed specifically for the project, and because of that, I wanted the subject matter to be different from my norm. In this instance, as artistic nude is not really in my realm of expertise, I chose to work with a model —Nic Button— who had specific experience in the genre and could, therefore, provide more interesting shapes or poses. When I was conceptualizing the project, I had a very specific “look” in mind, which was based on low-key and darker tones. ] From this, I decided to create most of my imagery in black and white but with a few key pieces in color. Due to my design and commercial background, the production and execution of this project was sone in the manner of a graphic design project, rather than a photographic one. Therefore, the typographic elements and imager grids played a large part in forming the overall look of the magazine and, to an important extent, dictated which photos made the final selection and where in the layout they fell.  

After using so many different types of film and camera equipment for the project, have you learned anything about yourself through this process?
Not anything “new” per se, but it has confirmed that large format (especially instant) photography is still firmly embedded at the top of my loves, but is followed very closely by Polaroid. It has also made me think about producing some more artistic nude work and trying to improve on what I have done so far.  

If you had to choose your favorite image from this publication, what would it be and why?
That is an easy one to answer— the color New 55 photograph. Peeling that print away from its cover sheet and seeing the result gave me the same incredible buzz that I get with every “great” image I create, but at perhaps 10x the buzz level. It is perhaps one of my favorites ever created.  

As the graphic designer and printer who put together your own Monograph, it really combines all of the skills you have learned and utilized over the course of your career. What can you share with us about making this project from the perspective of design? How did you decide on the size, design and materials used?  
For the vast majority of photographers, the imagery stops a the image itself. However, in my opinion, to present a body of work so that it can be appreciated as broadly as possible in today’s multitude of media formats, a lot more than just imagery must be considered. Everything from the typography— font usage, ligatures/glyphs, leading and kerning (spaces between lines of text and space between individual characters/letters), the “flow” of text/paragraphs, color and volume of text— to the type of material, choice of production process, types of finishes (lamination, die cutting, embossing, foiling, varnishing, and many more)... These all have to be considered as part of the overall composition.

As an example, every page of the Monograph has been finished with a “soft touch” laminate to give a very specific tactile feel. I want the viewers to not just see the imagery, but also to have a sensation of almost touching skin when they hold it. The typography has been designed to be informative, elegant, beautiful, yet “light on the eyes,” so that it does not intrude when it does not have to, so that is is elegant but not overly intrusive when it does. It has also been designed so that the viewer is not only led by the imagery, but also by the typography through the course of the magazine. Everything on each page is where it is for a (mostly creative) reason and is part of the overall composition.

Do you plan on showing these images anywhere in an exhibition setting? Do you have anything else planned with the images from this project?  
The imager were produced exclusively for the Monograph, though I do hope to show the New 55 and maybe a few of the other images beyond the scope of the magazine. There are currently no definitive plans as yet.  

What are your photography plans for 2018?
I am hoping to be part of a joint exhibition in London, and if so, then some of the Monograph images might just make it into my selection. I am also keen to try and produce a new Monograph with more pages but using different materials and/or finishing techniques. You will likely see mo producing more work on medium and large format-- I have quite a few boxes of Polaroid and Fuji film in my fridge that need to be used. I will also, in conjunction with Airbnb,be hosting some Polaroid workshops on the streets of London, aimed at beginners and/or people looking for a more creative perspective for their Polaroid photography.  

Finally, along with two or three other photographer friends, I will likely be taking part in at least one Chop Gear Challenge. It is based on the TopGear TV series where the presenters go to foreign destinations to carry out challenges. We do the same but using Polaroid cameras and film-- one day in a foreign city, three packs of film each, 16 of the “best” photographs from each participant are then voted on by other participants.  The winner is the one with the most votes. 


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Anne Silver is an instant photography aficionado who lives in Paris, France and is a member of the 12:12 Project. Connect with Anne Silver on her Website and on Instagram!