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


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. 


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!

Q&A: Graeme Webb's Photobook Last Vestiges - The Exhumed Project

Graeme Webb is a model maker, bookbinder, and Polaroid photographer who lives and works in London, England. He trained as a darkroom technician during the late 1960’s, graduating to architectural and commercial photography with a smattering of 16mm film work and editing. After leaving the industry in 1983, he trained as an IT project manager and returned to the world of media in 2002, where he worked as a media consultant. Since 2006, he has been creating meticulously detailed, staged photography that plays with elements of scale, texture and lighting and the never ending cycle of nature modifying man’s achievements. The constructions, which are built from scratch, are either 1:12 or 1:6 scale (and sometimes down to 1:87 scale) are often collage.  They also subvert the usual distinctions between interiors and exteriors, bringing the outside in and the inside out. 

Webb's miniature surreal worlds are then photographed and lit using torches and LED’s, atmospheres are created using water misting, projection and smoking techniques over extended exposures. No photoshop collaging or digital special effects are used in the process of producing the final photographic images. Small sets have been used in animations, short films and music album covers, more recently he has created 1:12 scale dioramas cased in ornate cabinets for corporate clients. Webb has exhibited at London's Barbican, Cottons Center, Holborn Studios, Linear House, the Strand Gallery and the Gallerie Huit Open Salon in France in 2011, Arcimboldi Studios.  He has run workshops at Saint Mary-le-Strand Church in Piccadilly, 4D Model Shop, and a special event workshop at the Apple store in Covent Garden in 2013. During 2016 he brushed of his Polaroid equipment. which had been stored in the loft for a number of years, and tried incorporating it into his diorama photographic work flow. This has led to experimenting with Instant integral and pack film cameras and roll film. Graeme Webb also runs Arcimboldi press, which publishes limited-edition books and 'zines specializing in Polaroid and analogue photography.

PRYME Editions recently had the pleasure of speaking with Graeme Webb about his new self-published zine, Last Vestiges - The Exhumed Project, and his  experimental Polaroid manipulation technique. It was by complete accident that Graeme Webb came across this photographic technique in 2016. Webb threw a disappointing Impossible Project exposure into the dustbin in his garden. What he didn't realize was that his aim was so poor that it had slipped down the side and into the little area that traps dust fallen leaves and other bits of garden debris. Six months later he was clearing the garden and he came across this forgotten instant print, covered in dirt with several species of invertebrates scuttling around on it. The image was fading (but not completely) and the colors on the emulsion layer were subtly changing. The layer had a fine reticulation: odd blisters, mold, scars, and the plastic frame was falling away.

Webb carefully cleaned the frame and when it was dry, scanned it. At a very high resolution scan, sections of the image showed fantastical new worlds of crumpled silk, Turneresque skies, and metallic landscapes. Here and there parts parts of the original image still survived and looked out at him like a ghostly figure from some arcane and forgotten world. It was in this moment that he decided to pursue a project that would utilize this serendipitous technique and start experimenting with different dyes, inks, and additives to try and influence the outcome. Some of his experiments worked, most didn't. Webb discovered that high temperatures quickened the process but gave a totally different feeling to the slow, freezing conditions. All in all his technique gave control over to nature to do with his images what she pleased.

In the pages from his new self-published zine, Last Vestiges - The Exhumed Project, you will find the results from this first project. PRYME Editions is proud to have 5 limited-edition versions of this 'zine for sale in our shop! Head over there now and savor these transformed Polaroids and discover some of the miniature universes that Webb discovered himself along his journey of Polaroid manipulation. [These limited editions are available in the US only]

 Connect with Graeme Webb on Instagram and Etsy!

Graeme, can you tell us about your history with photography in general and specifically your history with instant photography?  When did you start shooting?  What drew you to use instant photography as a medium?
After I left school, I trained as a darkroom technician in a photographic studio.  This was around 1973.  As well as Kodak and Cibachrome colour printing, I specialized in large format interior photography for the likes of Biba, Cecil Gee, and Selfridges.  One day my boss returned from a trip to the US with this weird looking camera called a Polaroid SX-70. He raved on about how Polaroid and its instant film was going to put us out of business, but it didn't stop us being wowed by the magic of this technology and spending a couple of hours on the pavement photographing passing cars in Golders Green. If I remember rightly we burned through seven packs of film. We eventually acquired several Polaroid cameras, also backs for 5x4 cameras so we could use pack film.  These were ideal for showing clients ideas we had for shoots. Eventually I left the industry around 1979 and lost touch with photography as I pursued a career in IT project management.

Aside from your recently acquired instant film obsession, you have spent years creating and photographing miniature surreal worlds using hand made models and scenes that any other individual would have to create digitally. How does your background in miniature set design cross over into your photography?
After a few years in IT, I was looking for a new direction and moved to a job in media, film and video production. A few years later I was made redundant and took up the challenge of trying to do it on my own. During this time I trained people in post-production and produced corporate videos. I also got exposure to stop motion animation through working for small independent film units, and this is where the interest in the small scale sets started. I started to return to photography using the sets as subjects. The Bleak House series started quite by accident and would fill another interview on its own, but it lead to several exhibitions of work and commissions for cabinets containing little worlds.

The work in Last Vestiges is centered around the reincarnation of failed Impossible Project images. In 2016, you pioneered the technique to turn "wasted" Polaroids into unique works of art and inspired multiple photographers to adopt your technique of accidental genius. Can you tell us how you came to understand this technique?
I don't think I can take all the credit, there are lots of artists out there manipulating instant film stock and 'failureroids' with a lot of success, and all have their personal techniques with quite unique results. My experiments started after I threw a TIP print in the dustbin and it missed, falling behind a fence. I found this about 6 months later and was intrigued by its appearance.


You have been working with this technique now for over a year. Can you share with us how you have come to master and control the way your Polaroids age and transform? Do you have a favorite way of manipulation? What produces the "best" outcomes?
I started trying to influence the results by injecting the prints with acrylic inks, dyes, burying them with corroded metal and copper sheet in trays covered in peat and leaving them out in the rain and frost. After a while the adhesive that holds the frame together comes apart and insects start getting in along with soil bacteria which subtly start affecting the emulsion. I have found soaking in milk and burying, although unpleasantly smelly, gives quite an interesting result. It's all hit and miss and some work but most don't. The ones that work better are the images that still retain remnants of the original image. I feel that the print or film stock I have exposed is the start of the creative process for me. I spent many years in a technical straight jacket leaving nothing to chance, and this serendipitous approach to image making is very therapeutic.

The title of your publication, Last Vestiges, literally means the last a mark, trace, or visible evidence of something that is no longer present or in existence. How did you come to call your latest book this and what does it mean to you?
I'm fascinated by ruins and the patina on ancient objects which can be witnessed in my diorama work. I spent my childhood playing in the post war destruction of south London, where trees and mini meadows grew in the interiors of the bombed out homes of Greenwich and Deptford. I feel these little prints are the sort of thing I might have found buried in the cellars of these buildings a trace of something that may have once lived in the sun.

How did you go about creating and compiling your images for this specific project? Were they a curated set of images you have previously produced or were they created especially for this book? How did you choose what images to include and how to sequence them in book format?
These images were specially created; the subject matter and compositions needed to work with the chemical reactions, so compositions and colors had to be strong. Most are original camera images which have been scanned and then printed via the impossible Lab.

You have been a bookmaker and bookbinder for 8 years and you have self-published two books through Arcimboldi Press based in London. How did your past experience help you accomplish and prepare for Last Vestiges?
Most of my bookbinding skills had been used on renovations up to this point, and 'zine production was something new to me.  I had made books with Blurb but wasn't very happy with the output and always felt that the handmade book was the way to go. I invested in an OKI laser jet printer, and the first one I produced was the 'Instant Possibilities' experiments with with instant film. This was a good learning opportunity on how to design and put one together. I think making this an edition of 100 was a bit optimistic, although I think I'm up to the mid-fifties in sales now. I try to keep it simple with materials and binding as the process can be quite time consuming. So now I have a pattern for producing straight forward books and 'zines simply.

Not only does Last Vestiges include your revived failed Polaroids, but it also offers us close and intimate views of the fine details, textures, and color transformations that your images went through. What inspired you to present your images as a whole, as well as in pieces, showing the specific details of each image?
I wanted the viewer to see the intricate textures and patterns created by nature on the emulsion I scan at 2400dpi, so one can drill down on the detail and view some of these strange worlds.


If you had to chose your favorite image from this publication which would it be and why?
I think it would be the monochromatic 'Tree Line' image center pages 16-17, it feels very ancient to me, and the emulsion scars and aberrations look like swarming birds.

I would definitely classify your work as on the "cutting edge" of photographic expresionism, ironicly using instant film. How do you see the evolution of your type of work becoming a larger part of the photographic community?
The instant film community is very kind to my work and others who are not so knowledgeable seem to appreciate the images when the technicalities have been explained to them. The work crosses over quite well, and I have been asked to supply very large images to people who thought they were abstract prints. I think like most things in life you can only go so far, so we shall have to see.

You are releasing Last Vestiges on your etsy shop in a limited edition of 20, and a limited edition of five for us here at PRYME Editions. How did you choose which print to include with each edition and can you tell us how each edition differs?
The Books are basically the same except for different covers. The main difference is the edition of 20 has two prints, a diptych of The two Brighton Piers printed on Permajet Platinum Lustre paper these two images have proven to be quite popular. The Permajet paper is similar to Kodak 'Endura' which has a metallic finish to it. I think the instant prints especially, when the white border has been removed, really pop off the paper. The PRYME Editions version of five has a larger print, one from the book, in fact the first one I ever discovered, the leaf was stuck to the front of the print, so I kept it for the scan collaring it. As well as having my own hand made marbled paper bound into the book, the box is lined with another sheet. The print in this edition comes with a certificate of authenticity.

Do you plan on showing these images anywhere in an exhibition setting? Do you have anything else planned with the Last Vestiges?
I plan on getting some large images printed on the metallic and cotton rag paper as I have had some interest from collectors. My experiences of exhibitions over the years haven't been positive, so I don't have any thoughts in that direction, other than to continue with the books. Coming up is 'The London Sessions' with Trevor Crone, and I have a project planed with 3D stereo-graphic photography around London's Borough market. Finally in the pipeline is another collaboration which, although it features instant film, will essentially be a multimedia project.