While in Seattle, IFBK was fortunate enough to meet and interview Teban Smith, a great father, husband, and photographer. Smith is the photographer behind Asian Impressions and is known for capturing Asian beauty around the world.
His mission it to:
– create an appreciation of Asian culture, style, and beauty
– open doors and promote positive cross cultural interactions
– develop a stronger awareness of contemporary Asian issues
– build confidence in young Asian women.
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Teban Smith, I’m 45 and work in International Sales for a major tourism company. I’ve been married for 20 years, and my biggest accomplishment is being a father to my beautiful daughter who is currently in high school.
What does ‘photography’ mean to you? And Why?
When I was younger someone once told me, “Make for yourself a collection of many happy memories.” Of course, I keep many memories inside my head, but I thought how can I do that and realized through a photograph it helps one do just that. Photographs are the perfect way to “collect” those memories.
What first drew you to fashion photography?
I took my first trip to Tokyo in 2006. I was absolutely fascinated by the fashion I saw on the streets there. I began taking pictures to show people about the beauty and the fashion on the streets. Shortly after, I also visited Seoul and was equally impressed by how classy people dressed in every day life in Korea. The photos became popular and I began to get noticed. In 2008, I was approached by a woman from Japan to take portraits of her daughter who was a model because she liked the style of my photography. She began introducing me to friends, and it was this offshoot of my street fashion photographs that led me to doing more one on one organized fashion photo shoots.
What do you think makes a memorable photograph?
One thing that I hear frequently from the people I photograph is that they “look most like themselves” in the photos I take of them. I think that is part of it; a memorable photograph helps define the person in the picture – captures their true essence. I think also a photograph needs to have some emotional appeal – it needs to tell a story.
Who is your favorite fashion photographer?
Honestly, I’m not sure that I have a favorite fashion photographer. I’ve always just kind of found my own way – I’ve never really followed others. I was inspired by the folks at TokyoFashion.com (though they are a team of photographers.)
What do you want your viewers to see in your work?
I strive to capture a person’s personality. I want people to see a person’s inner beauty as well as their outer beauty. I think that is really important.
What does fashion mean to you? Can you describe your fashion sense.
I don’t like trends, though I understand they will always be there. One of the things I liked most about seeing the fashion on the streets of Japan and Korea is that I saw a lot of individual looks. Yes, there are certain themes, but I saw a lot of people defining themselves through their fashion. I think fashion is the way we help others get first impressions about ourselves. It is an outward way to display who we are.
What is your future plan as a photographer?
Photography is my hobby, it’s my escape. Many people have asked me why I haven’t decided to turn it into a career. I don’t want that. The moment it becomes a career – it is my job. I have to do it. I like shooting as a hobby because I can choose when I want to shoot, how I want to shoot, with whom I want to shoot.
Do you know any Korean Fashion photographers? What do you like in her/his work?
Sorry, as I mentioned before, I don’t honestly follow other photographers. I do notice that each country tends to take fashion photography different. For example, in Asia, wider angles tend to be used to emphasize and bring out long legs.
Do you have any favorite Korean models, designers, actors, singers etc. and why is he/she special?
Honestly, I don’t have much interest in celebrities per se. I tend to favor the “underdog” – the every day person and celebrating how special they are. I think this is why I like doing street fashion because it is a way for me to highlight someone who nobody knows – and show that they too are beautiful, stylish, and special. For example, last fall, I met a girl from Korea @violetiful on Instagram. She was traveling around the world, taking pictures of strangers because she wanted to make them “violetiful” – a play on words from the word beautiful. I think my photography is something similar, and I would much rather name Violet Bora as a favorite Korean than a known actor, singer, etc.
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Interview by IFBK