Lien Mei-en – Portraits of the Mind
A Taiwan-based commercial photographer specializing in fashion and portraiture, Mei-en’s- clients include magazine editors, fashion designers, artists and actors. Many of her images have been published in international magazines, and she has also participated in many art festivals in Taiwan.
1. Please describe your photography style and why you have chosen this as your specialty.
My style has been described as very cinematic, full of drama and emotions. I aim to illustrate a layered story within the still image. As I majored in script writing in university, the image I create always has a story or hidden message.
2. Tell us more about your photographic journey. What got you started?
It happened when I was 22 years old. My brother Shawn then was an avid photographer and I assisted him by taking care of the makeup, hair and styling. During one of these photography sessions, I had an epiphany and noticed how Shawn’s art direction of female models focused on making them titillating to a male audience. This was in conflict with my own vision as I was more interested in the model’s story. My focus was on her unspoken secrets, or how culture and societal values have shaped her personality. I knew I had a different story to tell and started my own photography journey.
My interest in the human narrative began with English literature. I love Shakespeare, especially Ophelia’s tragic role in Hamlet, and I am also thrilled by Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story The Yellow Wallpaper. These iconic works described the emotions, dilemmas and struggles of women. Inspired by these great works, I wanted to raise my own questions through photography.
3. The world has been enriched by the diversity of photographers today. What are the key challenges you face at work, and how do you overcome them?
Self-improvement is what drives me. I force myself to work harder by looking at the sheer quantity and quality of works created by other photographers. When I am stressed, I turn to running. I find running very calming, as it reduces my anxiety and improves my creativity.
4. Tell us about your favourite photo or photos series and your creative process!
I love making images of my grandmother and telling her unique story through them. My grandmother has always been a strong, intelligent and stylish lady. She ran her own business and was well-respected in the community, but it all changed after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's blunted her mental ability and robbed her of her confidence and dignity; she became depressed and was slowly losing her will to live. To help her regain confidence and I decided to cast her in a fashion shoot. The resulting images were very well received as they revealed her inner strength and beauty. My grandmother soon became Taiwan’s most famous elderly model, and her images appeared in numerous fashion magazines. Remarkably my grandmother’s depression got better, and her mental degradation from Alzheimer's disease plateaued.
5. What advice do you have for aspiring photographers?
Aspiring photographers must develop their own creativity, technical skills and personal style. What is even more important is pursuing interests out of photography. For me this meant reading books about psychology and literature, attending communicating workshops, learning about business contracts and finance, etc. Most importantly, try to exercise regularly as a photographer leads a hectic life and requires a strong mind and body.
6. What’s in your camera bag?
I always carry the Alpha 7R III and the FE 24-70mm 2.8 GM, FE 35mm F1.8, Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA and FE 85mm F1.4 GM.
I shoot mostly outdoors in low-light environments or under high-contrast lightings. I rely on the Alpha 7R III’s highly capable image sensor as it has the dynamic range, resolution and high ISO sensitivity I need for my work. The files are so full of detail and noise-free, making them perfect for large-format advertisements and exhibition.
I also carry a wireless flash system, colour gels, softbox and tripod, to create the ambience during my shoots.
7. How have Sony Alpha cameras and lenses helped in achieving your vision?
I love how lightweight and comfortable the Sony Alpha system is. It is a perfect working partner for long shoots in the studio or outdoors. I am always confident of the image quality, knowing that what I see in the viewfinder will always translate beautifully in print. The image files have so much latitude that I can tease out subtle qualities and tones I didn’t believe was possible.