The thing that impressed us most when we were perusing Dylan James Ho‘s portfolio was how tasteful & appropriate his editing was. Some photographers can tend to over-process their images. Some can also tend to just “batch all” in Lightroom or Aperture and all of their images look the same. Dylan is able to capture the essence of a shutter click but then invites you to the enjoy the ambience of the surroundings.
Dylan carries the Union Street Messenger Bag in Smoke.
ONA: How did you get into photography?
DJH: I first became interested in photography when I received a hand-me-down Canon manual camera during my high school years. I liked the idea of studying photography and decided I wanted to attend Art Center in Pasadena, California, but my parents felt that photography was more of a hobby than a profession and sent me to a 4-year college to explore a more “lucrative” field. I come from an Asian family if you couldn’t tell in my photo. In my college years, I still had the craving for photography and would photograph and develop my own film in the photo lab. 5 years later, I had a new-found love for food and documented everything I cooked and ate on my blog. While writing the blog, I met my wife, who has a food blog as well, and after years of following each other, married her. If it wasn’t for her, I would not have had this rekindled passion for photography because she was the one that pushed me to become better. Photographing our food and travels became so natural for us – it ultimately defined who we were. So here we are now, still photographing food and traveling together.
ONA: What camera do you shoot with? What is your “go to” lens of choice?
DJH: I shoot with Canon digital and film cameras, mostly digital for jobs. I’d like to shoot film more but it’s just too expensive to develop. Sometimes I’ll shoot with my Contax 645 if I have money to waste on film. My go-to lens is a 35 mm lens, which I think is the perfect travel lens. It’s wide enough to capture scenic shots and lets me get close enough to food or faces simply by moving back and forth. I don’t like relying on wide-zoom lenses because it makes you lazy.
ONA: What sort of project drives your creativity? What is your dream project?
DH: Anything that deserves storytelling. I enjoy writing as much as I like to photograph and I will usually write and post photos on the blog. But sometimes a subject or situation can be so powerful and intense that words are unnecessary. Did that sound too National Geographic-cliché? My dream project is to traverse the Silk Road starting from China into Eastern Europe with my wife.
ONA: What is the best thing about being a photographer?
DJH: Photographing people. My wife and I travel internationally a lot and when there’s a language barrier, it’s all about earning someone’s trust. You never know how someone will react to you and that’s one of the things that keeps portrait photography interesting. It’s one thing to walk around with a camera in a foreign land, it’s another thing to point that same camera at someone who does not know your intentions. In Shanghai, I’ve had a man run up to me angrily after he saw me photographing his food. In Los Angeles, I’ve had a street taco vendor mistaken me for the Health Department and freak out. If you don’t speak the language, the only thing you can do as a photographer is show that person that you’re not trying to exploit them but rather place them in a positive light. A simple smile, a head nod and a lot of times, a small purchase can change things around. When it comes to other culture’s food, people can get defensive/protective because its how they make their living. But if you tell them you like the food, they’ll be happy and be more than glad that you’re spreading the word. I also think the experience of photographing weddings really helped fortify our confidence and approach to shooting food and travel. For 8 hours, you’re photographing people you’ve never met and it is your job to make them look good. We learned to be comfortable with strangers pretty quickly.
ONA: Describe your style of shooting.
DJH: It really depends on the situation, subject and the mood I’m in. I think a good photographer is one that can adapt to a situation and present it in an aesthetic way. For me, it’s critical to create mood and I’m able to do that best when I’m traveling. I like being out of my realm and forced to shoot things in raw form, not interfering with the pace of life.
ONA: In one sentence, what advice would you give to a photographer just starting out?
DH: Never stop improving yourself. I learn something new every time I shoot.
ONA: How did you hear about us?
DJH: My wife heard about ONA Bags through a fashion blog. I liked the fact that it didn’t look like a camera bag and bought it immediately.