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We Are Photographers Series | Teban S.

Japan, favorite candid ever

Growing up in Hawaii, Teban S. appreciates the Asian beauty that many Asian girls neglect in trying to look more Western. With photography as a serious hobby and going under the pseudonym “Asian Impressions”, his pictures hold more than just the surface of Asian beauty, going deeper and bringing out the inner beauty in the model. A frequent traveller, Teban takes photographs of models all around the world, capturing each of them with their unique beauty. Our interest was further piqued when we saw his street photography – somehow capturing the personality of the person whom he had just met. With more than 19,000 followers on Instagram and 3000 likes on his Facebook page, he constantly inspires Asian girls to have more confidence in themselves.

 

Tell us about yourself.

I am from Hawaii and I am currently living in the Seattle.  I am married with one daughter.   I have always had a passion for travel since I was young and I speak multiple languages.  I love anything with cheese and chocolate.  When I am not taking photos, I am actually a business executive for a major corporation.

Me, on a photoshoot
Who or what inspired you to take up photography?

I have always been the “family photographer” when growing up.  I always enjoyed taking pictures of unique scenery, landscapes, etc.

In 2007, I read “Memories of a Geisha” by Arthur Golden and decided I needed to visit Japan. I first went to Kyoto, and stopped in Tokyo at the end of the trip.  And that is where I first was introduced to street fashion. I also decided that people were far more interesting and challenging than mountains and flowers. And thus I began on that trip taking photos of the fashionable people I saw on the streets of Tokyo.   Shortly after that, I was contacted by a Japanese woman who saw my photos and wanted me to take pictures of her daughter who was a model. The woman had seen personality captured in my photos and felt that other photographers who had worked with her daughter only captured her daughter’s external beauty.

I accepted the task and enjoyed my first photoshoot.   After this shoot, my first model introduced me to a website which networked models and photographers and I began pursuing portrait photography as well as my street photography. Both my street photography and portrait photography require different sets of skills yet each influences the other.  I would say street photography is more challenging, as I am attempting to capture the essence of a stranger and often a stranger who is not necessarily cooperating with me.   At the same time, portrait photography is also interesting as it can be more intimate and allow me to truly bring out someone’s true inner self.

 

What is it about Asian culture and beauty that attracts you to it so much?

I believe it is the influence of spending part of my life in Hawaii and seeing all the Asian cultural influences there.

I also believe that Asian beauty is often stereotyped in the West and mistaken and misrepresented. I have noticed that often due to shorter heights, Asian girls in the west tend to gravitate to becoming import models or photographers will wrongly combine traditional costumes and dresses with western ideas of sexuality. I also noticed the trend of Asian girls trying to become more Western in their appearance. Asian beauty tends to be a bit more “cute” and also tends to have more personality, or so it seems to me.

AoDai, in Saigon
Can you share with us a particularly memorable shoot you’ve done?

Almost all of my shoots are memorable and in fact, anyone who agrees to step before my lens becomes special.  So it is difficult to single one shoot out.

I’ve always had a fascination with traditional dresses and outfits.  And the Vietnamese Ao Dai is my personal favorite as I feel it is extremely feminine.  And so being able to travel to Ho Chi Minh City in the summer of 2012, and do a traditional Ao Dai shoot in HCM City was very special for me.

I also traveled to Calgary, Canada once and did a 3-day, 3-model shoot in which I took over 5000 photos.  It was a marathon shoot but probably one of the most exciting weekends I’ve ever had.

I will also always remember a shoot I did a few years ago on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA with a local model of Taiwanese heritage.  Towards the end of our shoot, the sun’s natural lighting and warm tones and my model’s beauty all came together perfectly.  I’ve used one of the images for this shoot on my business card for the past few years.

From a street photography standpoint, I actually just had a really unique experience occur in Bangkok.  In May of 2013, I stopped a girl on the street in Seattle and asked for her photo.  It turns out she was Thai, from Bangkok.  She agreed and I took the photo and I posted it on my Instagram account.  Six months later I was in Bangkok, standing outside of a major mall, and this same girl came out from the mall and I immediately recognized her as the girl I had stopped six months earlier in Seattle.   We both remembered each other and had quite the laugh at how small the world truly is.  Of course, I took another photo!

Stephanie having fun, Seattle model

You believe that the model should have fun during the shoot. Does it have a big impact on the outcome of the images if the model you are shooting does not have fun?

Yes, it does to some extent.  And maybe “fun” isn’t exactly the right word, though I have used it myself.  I believe that the model should enjoy the shoot and be comfortable enough during the shoot to be herself.  In fact, beyond photography skill, I believe a good photographer of people must have people skills.  It may sound cliché, but I honestly really work hard to determine a model’s inner beauty – both before the shoot during our initial communication and during the first few moments of the actual shoot itself.  I encourage the model to relax, to be herself and by doing so, their inner beauty has a chance to shine. In this way, I can successfully capture all aspects of a model’s beauty- both inside and out.

 

What does photography mean to you?

Photography is a way to open doors, bridge cultures, and meet people from around the world.  When I was younger, someone once said to me “Make for yourself many happy memories.” Photographs are those memories. Many of the people I have photographed have become dear friends and I know that when I travel to a new country, I will never be a stranger because there is always someone willing to meet me and make beautiful pictures together.

Popteen model Sakochi Saeko Chiba, Spotted in Tokyo

What do you aim to achieve with your pictures?

I want to be able to show Asian beauty and culture to the world.  I want to improve my own skills and become a better photographer.  But lately, because of the popularity of my photographs on Instagram, I have discovered my pictures have the power to encourage, support, and inspire young Asian women to have confidence in themselves and their own beauty. My street photography features a variety of styles worn by everyday girls and women on the streets.  My models aren’t perfect and aren’t extensively retouched and many of them have never modeled before.  I offer a “model for a day” program where I will do a model photoshoot with girls who have never modeled before and give them professionally done images. All this shows that one does not need to be perfect like the models we see in modern magazines, TV, etc.  My pictures are designed to show everyone has beauty, it is the goal of my pictures to prove that point.

 

Check out Asian Impressions at http://www.asianimpressions.net/ and don’t forget to like his Facebook page and follow him on Instagram (@asian_impressions)!

 

Text by: Arynah Aminuddin
*Images courtesy of Teban S.

 

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