Interview Music Photographer Emily Cheng

One Ok Rock

Article by Yvonne Lo
Photo by Emily Cheng

Musical photographer, Emily Cheng, presents her photo exhibition called ‘See You When I See You’ on Nov 2nd at 2A bar with performance by Bird Courage and The Cabana Kids.

Emily Cheng

Emily came to New York City just five months ago from Taiwan. In that short time span, she has photographed over 100 bands such as, …You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, A Place to Bury Strangers, The Soft Moon, Bat for Lashes, Amanda Palmer, Frankie Rose, DIIV, and on so.  Emily also photographed AsianInNY‘s 9th Fashion Show at Grand Central Terminal. We arranged an exclusive interview to get to know more of Emily and her story.

Tell us a little bit about yourself. What inspired you to become a photographer? Was it your original plan?

I was born and raised in Taipei, Taiwan. I always loved music and photography. I play the guitar but, I’m shy and have stage fright. As for photography, there was no photography department, so I could not take it as a major. I originally studied business management, but I was never interested in business. However, I started to fall in love with photography.

Being a music photographer in Taiwan is difficult. No one really takes pictures of the indie bands, because there isn’t a lot of recognition or money involved. It was hard to be a music photographer in Taiwan because it was different and that was looked down upon. It’s hard to do something that you love when you get constantly turned down. That’s why I came to America, to be unique, to do what I love, to be a music photographer.

How long have you been a photographer?

I would say, not until three years ago. I had an interest in photography and would just take my camera everywhere and just take pictures. I instantly fell in love with it. I wanted to learn more about photography, so I enrolled a class at a private school in Taiwan called PhotoSoft. After earning my certificate, I thought, I’m really good at this, so why not become a professional photographer. I decided to combine my two loves, music and photography, and became a music photographer.

Thurston Moore

Whose work influenced you most? What inspires you to snap the moment?

There are two photographers. One is Annie Leibovitz. She’s a really famous American portrait photographer. I watched her documentary and learned that she was a photographer for the Rolling Stones for many years before becoming a fashion photographer. She started from music, which made me relate to her. Her style is unique; she has lots of ideas, different angles and styles, to take portrait photos. Nowadays, covers are so focused on beauty. Leibovitz does so much more when she takes a portrait.

The other is Diane Arbus. She takes photos of unusual and different people (dwarfs, giants, transgender people, nudists, and circus performers), people who normality seems ugly or surreal. People had their suspicions, but she didn’t care. She thought, if she didn’t take photos of them, no one would notice them. Arbus dares to do something others wouldn’t and that inspired me to follow my own path, to take photos of whatever I want. These photographers helped me choose the path of a music photographer.

What does photography mean to you?

I am shy and photography makes me feel like I can do anything. It has become a part of me. I have to take photos every day because it is a part of me. I don’t have to carry my big camera everywhere; I can just use my iPhone. It’s much more convenient. I have to take at least one picture that I like every day. It’s not for anyone, it’s for me.

What type of cameras do you shoot with?

I use my iPhone, Nikon D600, Canon S95, Nikon FM2, and occasionally Canon 5D Mark II.

Color vs. Black and White. Why one over the other? How would you describe your style?

I think color distracts people. It really depends. For myself, I like my photos to focus on a specific moment or person, I personally prefer black and white. I like a lot of my photos to be black and white, because it gets portrayed like a film.

What makes a good picture stand out from the average?

During a performance, I have to capture the moment. The emotion must be seen and portrayed through the photo. When someone sees a photo, I want them to return to that moment and remembering the feeling.

Crystal Stilts

Can you walk us through the actual process that you use to set up a portrait?

I like to observe and look around. When I’m at a concert, I stand in different areas. There usually is a designated area for media and photographers to stand; I don’t like to stand with them. If I do, all the photos will look similar. I never stand with the group of photographers. I like to move around and explore the different angles. After I find a good angle, I’ll stand in the same place and be patient. If it’s a different photo with a different angle, it’s worth the wait. I don’t like to take a photo by chance; I like to focus and proper my pictures.

From the interview, we are truly inspired by Emily’s passion and her dedication to photography. Her ability to capture an artist’s emotional energy on stage is remarkable, allowing her viewers to feel up close and personal within a single photograph.

If you wish to view Emily’s work from over her past five months in the United States, you are welcomed to stop by at the 2A Bar where the exhibition is displayed until Dec. 2nd. For more of Emily’s beautiful photography work, please visit:

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