Interview: Jorge Hopkins Wang

Jorge Hopkins Wang is a visual artist and designer based in Leeds. He is currently studying Digital Media and practices photography, as well as videography, graphic design, and UI design. Jorge moved to the UK from Beijing at just 17 years of age to pursue his creative career. He regularly posts photographs of his travels in Japan and day-to-day walks in Leeds on his IG account @jor.graphy (give him a follow!).

I’ve known Jorge’s work for a while and I’ve seen him photograph in person – now I’ve had the pleasure to discuss with Jorge his creative journey so far.

“Every time I go out, I step out the door, only carrying my fanny-pack with my card and money, my phone, and my camera – and a mask of course!”

Jorge has been taking photos throughout his whole life, but a year ago he decided to develop the mindset of continuously taking photos. During his travels in Japan and his daily walks in Leeds, Jorge would take at least one photo a day, randomly and for pure fun, until the UK entered the first COVID-19 lockdown in March.

Buried under the stress of lockdown, as well as carrying out graphic and web design commissions, Jorge thought to return to his archive and discovered nearly 1000 photos from his time in Japan; “I tried to filter through which ones were good and which ones were bad and to my surprise there were a few really good captures…Some of them tell a story – that’s how I find a good photograph. Whether or not its perfectly clear, in focus or not, so long as it tells a story, it’s a good photograph. Sort of reignited my spark again.”

Jorge’s photographic style crosses the boundaries of street photography and explores the realms of art and documentary photography. Much of his influence comes from these different styles of photography, including the work of Nan Goldin, Niall McDiarmid, and Shin Noguchi.

During our conversation Jorge noted Noguchi’s ability to “find the unpredictable out of life that is worth photographing” as well as the ability of documentary photographers to rediscover photographs, to make you look back and see differences and details you didn’t notice before.

“I used to label myself as a street-photographer but now rather you’d get a smack in the face if you say ‘I’m a street photographer’…now I’m a zoo because zoos have different animals in it, a visual zoo, a visualisation of life and stories…” 

This element of re-discovery and creative interpretation is evident throughout Jorge’s entire body of photographs. The viewer is able to constantly look back and discover a new story or detail in each of his photos.

Jorge also gains inspiration from watching POV videos of other photographers, and learns photography skills and techniques from YouTuber and freelance photographer, Jamie Windsor.

Jorge shoots on a wide range of cameras, but regularly shoots on the Fujifilm XT30 and more recently the Fujifilm XE3. Both are excellent for street photography as they are lightweight, portable and have incredible dynamic range. However, Jorge doesn’t think too much when he’s taking his photos – he leaves that to the editing process. In fact, Jorge doesn’t look through the viewfinder, as he finds this too confrontational and prolongs the time to take a photo. Instead, he holds it far from his eye, sees what’s on the screen and just takes. 

He also likes to listen to a wide range of music whilst on his photo-walks, from Turkish psychedelic folk to eastern European jazz; “jazz is improvisation and taking candid photographs is improvisation as well.” 

Jorge edits his photos using Adobe Lightroom Classics and has different processes for different photos. He categorises his photos and has pre-sets for each category. For photos taken during the day, he normally uses soft colour tones, defining the oranges and reds. For photos taken during the night, he emulates a Kodak Portra 500-look, with diffused orangey-red lighting and green mid-tones. For black-and-white photos, he cranks black-to-black, and white-to-white, creating stark contrasts whilst preserving as much detail as possible. 

He also uses the smartphone app Polar to add the white border to his images before uploading to Instagram.

Jorge possesses a deeply personal, emotional, and intellectual connection with photography; he compares the process of taking photos to time travel and describes it as being in a dreamlike state. By consistently taking photos and continuing to train his creative eye, he is able to find anything – and everything – photographable. 

“When I’m alone, taking pictures is like dreaming. I can’t remember when I set off, when I bumped into that place, until I look back at my pictures and they all make sense. They collect my memories together, like a jigsaw puzzle, and you get the whole picture.

Photography is how I have fun, how I become myself, and has sort of shaped my understanding of people.”

Don’t forget to follow Jorge’s IG account @jor.graphy!

All photo credit: Jorge Hopkins Wang