This week's City Slicker PJ Lam is one hell of a mover and shaker. Fashion, beauty and portrait photographer, PJ sat down with us to chat about where her career has taken her and pass on some wise words from her grandmother.
Name: PJ Lam Occupation: Fashion Photographer Hometown: Hong Kong
Where to Next: On the way to Paris then USA
Hong Kong-based professional photographer PJ specialises in fashion, beauty and portrait photography. In recent years she has contributed to numerous media publications: Harper's Bazzar, Tatler, Prestige,Cosmopolitan, Marie Clare ... At the same time, she has also collaborated with different luxurious and fashion brands, including Marc Jacobs, Furla, Lavin, Charriols, Tory Burch and Longchamp.
I first met PJ through her boyfriend Nassim during one of his many infamous rooftop parties and I loved her immediately - a stylish mover and shaker in HK, who mixes amongst an eccentric crowd from all walks of life. Since meeting we have had a whirlwind of adventures together from accidentally ending up at a trance festival in a Thai jungle to being pampered in dodgy spas in China. It was only late into our friendship that I learnt that she was a fashion photographer and an amazing one at that too. Unfortunately, PJ’s time in Hong Kong is about to come to an end as she is moving to Paris next month for a short stint then off to the States. I managed to take some of PJ's precious time on her own rooftop this time to ask more about her life behind the lens before she jets off.
What was your dream job growing up?
When I was young my ideas of what I wanted to be changed all the time. Under the influence of my Chinese family I would say that I wanted to become a doctor, which was quite a soulless choice. I secretly wanted to be a radio DJ. I am an only child. I would spend hours alone recording myself pretending to present silly radio shows. Then I wanted to be a fashion illustrator, but I was terrible at drawing. After a trial and of error of many different creative media subjects I settled on photography.
(Image by PJ from www.pj-lam.com)
What do your parents do for work?
My mum is now retired, she used to work in a bakery. My dad owns a factory in China, making jewellery. I was brought up mainly by my grandma because my parents were so busy. During the weekends I would help my mum at the bakery.
Where did you go to university? What did you study? I went to City University Hong Kong and I studied Creative Media, specialising in photography.
What was your first job out of university?
In house photographer for Marie Claire, now I freelance.
How has your life changed from working for a magazine to working freelance?
I don't have to answer to anyone because I am my own boss! More free time, flexibility, better income. However, I am always on call and there is no fixed schedule. But I seriously love owning my own business.
What’s an average day like for you?
I wake up when my eyes open … if I have no shoot that day, haha. Then I have a coffee and answer my emails. I retouch photos, solve problems, meet with clients. During the day I eat when I am hungry, which is out around my neighborhood, Sai Ying Pun. Then in the evening I normally meet with friends and go out for dinner or drinks. When I say drinks, I mean one or two - nothing crazy.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I lie on my bed a lot...watch movies, drink on my rooftop. Sometimes I dance by myself around my apartment...hmmm read books.
Where are your favourite spots in Hong Kong to relax and let loose?
To relax I like to eat out, go for a massage, beach. I love Shek O beach. Also, I love the Peak garden, it’s so pretty and chill there. To let loose my boyfriend is an event organiser for a company called Totoro Typhoon. His parties usually get pretty wild. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten from anyone that you still think of?
My Grandmother would tell me - 人地有一對手我又一對手,人地有一對眼我又有對眼,人地做到我會做唔到 ?Everyone has a pair of eyes and hands so if they can do it why can't I. The sentence is super Cantonese, but she would say it in our dialect language of Hakka.
What has been your proudest achievement?
I wouldn't say it was something that happened in my career. I had a bad childhood, I was so lost and always in trouble at school. I never got good grades and when I failed retaking a year twice I was kicked out. It was when I finally got into university and discovered that I was a great photographer and really enjoyed it that I found my place in the world, which made me really happy. That has been my greatest achievement so far.
What’s next? Where would you like to see your career go?
Have my own studio in Hong Kong and overseas. Hire my own personal assistant.
Which brand would you love to work with?
I would love to work with Calvin Klein. They are constantly creative and always on point. I would also love to shoot a Gucci ad. The Gucci adverts and clothes are so amazing at the moment.
Who is your favourite photographer?
(Image by PJ from www.pj-lam.com)
Where would be your dream location to shoot?
Morocco - I love the colours, patterns, textures and architecture there.
Who would you love to photograph?
I am not that big into celebrities actually. but I would say Shu Xi, she is a Taiwanese actress. I love her attitude and story. She is also really pretty and has a gorgeous body.
What skills do you think are most important to work as a photographer? You must have the eye; a lot of patience and you can’t be afraid of being tough!