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Melancholy as an Aesthetic Emotion

TAXI Hi Jingna, welcome to TAXI, can you tell us what projects you are in the midst of working on now?

Jingna Hello, I am currently in the planning stage for a new series of work which I intend to shoot on-location in ancient Asian locations, something a bit more atmospheric for environments. Since it's a personal project I'm planning to design the fashion for it as well.

I am also in the talks of collaborating with some writers for illustrative stories and photo comics.

TAXI What was one of your very first ambitions in childhood?

Jingna I wanted to be a Gundam Wing (Japanese anime) pilot, live in outer space, and fight for peace for earth with ridiculous technologies that were obviously not possible. I was absolutely aware of that fact too.

TAXI You came from quite an unconventional educational background, leaving a prestigious school to pursue a course in fashion design instead. When did you start to develop an interest in the arts and decide that a career in the arts was what you wanted to do?

Jingna I was interested in Japanese anime and comics since primary school. I'd always had some comic or game artists that I fervently adored. The seed of dream was something really small and simple –– I wanted to create images that were beautiful, that I liked, that I could call my own.

I never thought it would materialize, everyone around me was a scholar or some type of over-achiever that was just not what I could ever think of becoming. I was going to study, try to get into good schools each time I graduated from somewhere, and find a good job, and basically follow the default template-of-life that everyone is handed the moment they were born.

I was about 14 when I played keyboards for a few rock bands for about half a year. It wasn't very long, but from the experience I learnt of a sense of freedom and possibilities that I never knew existed. Concurrently, the digital art community was just opening up to the world via the internet. I made friends, I saw other people with similar interests as myself. I saw artworks in abundance and everything just seemed spectacular.

I learnt of something called "creation" beyond studying or becoming lawyers and doctors, and I was fascinated by it. I met people who worked as artists, animators, designers, and took part in organizing an art competition, designing the posters and had my first experience with Photoshop.

All these little things made me realize that I was slowly steering away from the default path that laid in front of me. I wanted to create images, I wanted to express myself, but I wasn't sure if I could do it.

When I was turning 16, I decided to take a year of leave from school to focus on my air rifle training and try to attain a chance to participate in the Olympics. During that period I was working as a manager for an artist friend, Kuang Hong, and began understanding the computer graphics related industries. I looked at digital art in abundance, I learnt to tell what I liked, what I didn't like.Colours, forms, designs, concepts, shapes, details, aesthetics. It became my foundation, probably the building blocks of my personal style before I even began photography.

By the end of my leave I'd decided that I was ready to learn more about art, being influenced by (and almost idolizing) a girl I met around that period (of making this decision) who was in her last year of fashion design, I decided to pursue the same subject of study.

TAXI By an interesting twist, how did you end up from aspiring to be fashion designer, to discovering photography and then becoming a photographer eventually?

Jingna In foundation year we had various classes, I did relatively well in everything, but I liked theory and visual studies classes more. In visual studies there was a project whereby we had to design a coffeetable book with photographs that featured design elements and principles.

Friends and lecturers were all impressed somehow and I think that was a tiny step towards having a liking for photography. On my 18th birthday I decided to get an entry-level DSLR just for fun, to experiment. This camera was the turning point.

I started taking photographs of friends, my 8 year old sister and myself. I posted those images on art communities that I was active in, that weren't even photography based, so the most I would received were merely words of encouragement and appreciation. It wasn't a lot, but I felt like I had a purpose in creating, so I wanted to do more. With the hunger to get better, to change, to incorporate new things into my images, I started to improve and enjoy the process of it all.

Then I was introduced to a stylist then an editor. I shot my first editorial a year and 4 months after I bought my first camera.

By that time I became uneasy when I wasn't doing shoots regularly, instead of school and my years of passion - air rifle, I wanted to devote more time to photography.

I knew I had some talent in photography, how little or how much I wasn't sure; I had countless backup plans, some money from air rifle's prize awards, and in the last quarter of 2008, I decided to stop school. I wasn't afraid, it felt almost like a natural progression, something that should have been done and only possible in that way.

In the beginning of 2008 I worked at a studio as an assistant and junior photographer. The environment was good but I felt no room for my personal growth – I already knew what I wanted and it wasn't going in the same direction. So I left after a month and decided to take a break to organize my thoughts and goals. In March 08', I went to Tokyo and lived there for 6 weeks, alone. I decided to hold an exhibition by the end of the year.

Upon my return I started shooting editorials extensively till early August, before I slowed down to focus on the final preparations for my exhibition and photobook.TAXI You go by the moniker Zemotion, and that is the name of your official website as well. What is the meaning of Zemotion?

Jingna Zemotion stands for zero emotion. It's an acronym from the ZERO system in Gundam Wing (yes, again!), standing for Zoning and Emotional Range Omitted system. I liked it as a rather low-key and gender-neutral sounding name. But I get mistaken as a guy often so perhaps it's not so gender-neutral.

TAXI Any favourite photography equipment you like to use during your photo shoots?

Jingna I use a Canon 1Ds MarkIII primarily, I do like the colours from PhaseOne a lot as well. For lights I like hotlights and Profoto.

TAXI All your photographs seem to have a very vivid intensity of rich emotions as well as a dreamlike quality behind them, share with us what are some of your biggest artistic influences?

Jingna I'm a big fan of Pre-Raphaelites paintings, I love the beauty, romanticism and faces in them. I also find modern illustrators, game and comic artists, such as Yoshitaka Amano, Zdzislaw Beksinski and Kuang Hong inspiring.

I was introduced to Hong at an early age of 14, he became a great part of the influence to my works and growth with the years of interaction and learning.

TAXI Being so young and in such a short time, you gained remarkable recognition for your works; what do you think was the turning or breaking point in your career?

Jingna I think the internet is a really powerful tool. I believe the launch of my photobook and exhibition was a major milestone that made a difference, it was my way of showing my sincerity and commitment towards my photography. Mails from supporters and coverage in the media I received had in return, acknowledged me in ways I can never be grateful enough for.

TAXI How would you describe yourself? Do you think your works represent you emotionally as well?

Jingna I'm kind (don't laugh, ask my assistants!), considerate, introverted and have too strong a sense of justice than the society calls for.

I think my works do represent the more supressed emotional side of me, melancholic, sensitive and emotional with a want for everything beautiful.

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