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Liam Wong on cityscapes and visual storytelling

Posted on 11 Jan 2020

We sat down with Liam Wong to discuss his debut monograph 'TO:KY:OO', a cyberpunk-inspired exploration of nocturnal Tokyo.

‘Kimono Glitch’⁄01:51:19 © Liam Wong

You picked up your first DSLR four years ago. What inspired you to start expressing yourself through photography?

I never got to travel until my mid twenties and so the moment I began exploring new places, the more hooked I became on photography. I started with a smartphone and would take pictures of everything and anything. Initial visits to London and Paris got me interested in architecture and geometry which helped train my eye for composition. A visit to Tokyo in 2014 made me fall in love with street photography and I returned a year later equipped with my first DSLR.

What I enjoy most about photography is the ability to quickly change your perspective on the spot – getting closer or further away from a subject or capturing something in the opposite direction. I would highly recommend it to anybody who feels the need to be creative again.

How do you feel your background in video game design has informed your work as a photographer?

Working as an art director in video games taught me a lot about how to develop styles through visual identities. As I became interested in photography, I began to lean on my artistic background and experiment with things such as colour and worked towards developing a style for my own photography for fun.

It has been a journey that has always had close ties back to video games and even connected me with game director Hideo Kojima who discovered me through my photography – he was then kind enough to write the foreword for TO:KY:OO. I now find myself in a position where my photography is informing new ideas for video games I wish to create in the future.

‘Blade Runner Origins’/00:17:59 © Liam Wong

What was it about nocturnal Tokyo that inspired you to create this photo series?

When I saved up for a camera my plan was to make a short film – I never considered becoming a photographer.

I found myself in Tokyo’s old book district, Jinbocho and stumbled on a rare copy of Syd Mead’s Kronolog which included many of his works including his concepts from Blade Runner: city scapes at night, neon signs and rain. His work inspired me to be more creative with my photography, before that I felt everything had to be “as is” and left untouched. I went out each and every night and captured the city. As I began sharing the images on my Facebook, friends supported me and encouraged me to keep going.

‘Memory Lane’⁄02:14:39 © Liam Wong

As a visual storyteller, what was your process for selecting the images for the book?

It was quite challenging. As my first venture into publishing there’s definitely a feeling that everything is final. Having said that, with the help from the publishing team we were able to organise the content in a way that did it justice. Additionally with the work being on social media platforms previously it helped a lot to shape the flow of the work and to get a feel for what the audience would enjoy.

Why the title TO:KY:OO?

The series focuses on the beauty of night and capturing moments after midnight. In addition to the title, each image has a six digit time stamp associated with it – 00:00:00 / TO:KY:OO.

‘Blade Runner Vibes’⁄00:49:51 © Liam Wong

Liam Wong: TO:KY:OO

Liam Wong