MUTZINE 03_London Calling: Celine, Fashion Photographer
Celine (celinehong__/) is a fashion media producer from South Korea. Since moving to London in 2012, she’s developed a stunning client portfolio, notably directing a web documentary on K-pop singer Holland. In this interview, Celine reflects the key differences between the U.K and Korean creative industries.
Photography & Interview by Ieva Blaževičiūtė
Could you introduce yourself?
I’m Celine and I’m working as a photographer, videographer and sometimes I also do production, in the U.K. and elsewhere in Europe, mostly Milan and Paris. I do shoots, cover backstage or work for brands.
Why did you move to London?
I first moved here in 2012 and I only came here to study English back then. At the time everyone asked me why I chose the U.K., especially because there weren’t that many Koreans here back then. People would mostly choose America, Canada or Australia, because it’s much cheaper to live there. I think I might have gotten influenced by my older sister, because she studied British culture at university and would often read British literature and watch British films.
Were you doing creative things in Korea, before you moved to the U.K.?
At first I studied architecture but I felt like it wasn’t the right path for me. I was taking photography classes at that time and really enjoyed them, so I decided to apply for a photography degree. I only submitted one application to one university and told myself that if I fail, it’s just not meant to be. Fortunately I got accepted and majored in photography. Later I worked at the Samsung art museum for two years to save money to come to the U.K.
You mentioned that when you came here for the first time it was only for learning English. How did you get into the creative industries again?
One time I went to fashion week with my camera and took some pictures, solely for my own pleasure. At that time I had my own tumblr where I uploaded my favourite shots and got contacted by some people to shoot for them. I was quite lucky, but after some time the work became quite repetitive, I got a little bored and that’s when I started to take it a bit more seriously and pushed for more creative briefs.
Was there anything here in the U.K. in the creative scene that you were surprised about?
A lot of quite big celebrities here are still quite down to earth and open to collaborate, even in their free time. In Asia if you are a celebrity there’s no way you can go out alone and do a personal project. In Korea models are also considered celebrities, which is why my work can become difficult.
What main differences do you see between the Korean and the British creative industries?
Here in the U.K. if you want to do something creative, it’s quite easy to do it. You can find people to collaborate with or you can always ask your friends to help out. I’ve heard different opinions about this subject, but I wish Korean and Chinese designers were a little bit more open-minded and approachable. A lot of times when I try to talk to them them during London or Paris fashion weeks, they don’t even engage in conversations. The industry seems a little more closed as they tend to hire the same people. Then you end up getting the same 4-5 photographers working for the same magazines with the same teams. In London there are more opportunities for emerging talent.
It’s a bit similar on a friend level too, Koreans stick with Koreans. My Korean flatmates always ask me to come out for a coffee or dinner, I don’t understand why we always have to hang out together if we already see each other at home all the time. I’m here to get more experience and learn more about the culture. Some of my Korean friends say that they cannot share the humour and all of their culture with foreigners, but you don’t have to share everything. It’s just about meeting people who are different from you, so that you can learn new things.
What is home for you?
Definitely London. Although I spent most of my life in Korea, but I started my career here in London and this place feels most me.
What was your first impression of London?
Freedom. I first came here in 2010 for a holiday, which was also my first time to travel alone in Europe. I felt so free, even the rain didn’t bother me back then.
So it wasn’t hard to get used to the London life for you?
The hardest one was probably just paying rent. Weather, food...I don’t care that much. I always knew that I didn’t want to spend my whole life in Korea, so even if I have to leave London, I will still be going somewhere else.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m setting up a fashion production company here in London — already in progress!
Wow, so exciting! All the best of luck!