The team at ONA loves to highlight emerging photographers and feature established photographers: it’s less about renown or experience and more about the feelings stirred by the images created. We’re constantly amazed by the incredible variety of photographers who use ONA bags: there’s no standard background, education, subject, inspiration, industry. The only constant is that they’re trying–and usually succeeeding–to tell a story in one captured moment.
We met Pei at the 100:50:1 Mobile Photography Show: she’s just as talented with a smartphone as she is with a digital SLR or a classic film camera. Her eye for interesting texture and beautiful light translates across any sort of device, especially since she’s constantly finding the new and exotic on her frequent travels. Our favorite part about Pei’s travel photos, though, is that she always manages to find the interesting underside of the famous tourist attraction (looking up when you’re supposed to look down) or the human element that illustrates our universal connection: it’s less about wanderlust, and more about being able to find the beauty wherever she goes.
Pei carries the Chelsea in Black.
ONA: How did you get into photography/videography?
PK: I’ve been obsessed with photography ever since my junior year of college when I studied abroad in Prague. I took a cheap point and shoot film camera with me, loaded it with nice Ilford black and white film, and really dedicated myself to getting beautiful photos of the city. I was chasing light back then and didn’t even realize it at the time. When I returned, I took my first and only photography class (a black and white darkroom class), but only found the freedom to learn more on my own when I got my first digital camera. Through experimentation, the internet, and fellow photographers who were happy to answer my questions, I was able to develop into a photographer. This process began back in 2001, before flickr and long before Instagram.
ONA: What camera do you shoot with? What is your “go to” lens of choice?
PK: I shoot with a variety of cameras, but the two I use the most are my Nikon D800 and Hasselblad 500c, a medium format film camera. I tend to gravitate more towards fast prime lenses when they’re available, but also love my Nikon 14-24mm2.8 wide angle lens. For my mobile photography, I always try to shoot with the most recent model of iPhone available and have recently been experimenting with some of the newer Nokia Lumia phones because they allow you to shoot RAW. For my iPhone, I’ve recently been having fun with the wide angle lens offered by Optrix because it maintains more sharpness to the edges than other add-on lenses I’ve tried.
ONA: What sort of project drives your creativity? Follow Up: What is your dream project?
PK: I enjoy projects that put me outside of my comfort zone and challenge me. It’s interesting because I simultaneously enjoy assignments that require me to think on my feet and move quickly, as well as assignments that afford me the luxury of time so that I can be precise with my compositions and the creative process. My dream project is a long term project profiling a people and a region that most people aren’t familiar with. Above all else, I want my photography to serve a purpose. We’re all given gifts that we can use to make the world a better place and I think that photography is one of mine.
ONA: What is the hardest thing about being a photographer/videographer?
PK: I think the hardest – and yet one of the best – things about being a photographer is the constant need to evolve and push yourself to not become stale. Constant challenge pushes us all to grow. It’s easy to fall into a routine of taking shots that you know will work instead of pushing yourself to shoot something with a different, more unique perspective.
ONA: Describe your style of shooting.
PK: When I shoot, I become so focused that I don’t care how ridiculous I look or how dirty I become when I’m trying to get a shot. Time passes unnoticed and I often get home with dirt-stained knees. My eye is drawn to so many things that it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what my style is, but I try to tell stories and keep my compositions clean.
ONA: In one sentence, what advice would you give to a photographer/videographer just starting out?
PK: Never stop shooting.
ONA: How did you hear about us?
PK: I’ve known about ONA since pretty early on. Most of my friends and I are photographers and we’re constantly on the lookout for bags that meet our needs, so when ONA first came into existence, it started popping up on everyone’s radar. I was initially just interested in the ONA insert, but over the years, the line has expanded so rapidly that there are all sorts of new bags that I’m drooling over, including the Chelsea, which I’ve been using as I hop from one country to another.
Note: The last photo of Pei was kindly taken by Reese Wei.