Social Encore: UH hosts photo exhibit

Apr. 24, 2014 | 0 Comments

BY JERMEL-LYNN QUILLOPO / Special to the Star-Advertiser

Some say a photo has the ability to express more than text can describe. In partnership with Pacific New Media at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the sixth annual Contemporary Photography of Hawaii exhibit debuted last week at the Andrew Rose Gallery on Bishop St.

The exhibition is organized by PNM director Susan Horowitz and program coordinator David Ulrich; Andrew Rose curated and installed the gallery. With over 500 submissions, selection jury Barbara Pope and Franco Salmoiraghi selected just 56 pieces from 44 different artists.

Photographer Melanie Tjoeng. (Courtesy Lola Berry)

Photographer Melanie Tjoeng. (Courtesy Lola Berry)

The juried exhibition is an opportunity to give Hawaii artists an outlet to showcase their work as well as provide a lens for others to see what type of culture exists around the world.

One of the artists selected to be part of the exhibit is photographer Melanie Tjoeng. The Australia native said she was always interested in photography as a child. However, it wasn’t till her friend, New York-based photographer Ying Ang, encouraged her to pursue it as a career.

“We were attending a photojournalist festival in Perpignan, France and I was sitting at a slideshow watching a lot of amazing work,” she said. “I literally had a light blub moment. I knew from that exact point in time that photography was what I wanted to do and I never looked back.”

Tjoeng said photography has been a pretty organic and fluid experience for her, but admitted being a photographer isn’t always an easy road and there is always room to learn.

“Like all artists, I have experienced creative blocks and short periods in my life where I wasn’t sure what direction to take my photography,” she said.

At the same time, photography has enabled her to travel all over to world to places such as Mexico, Cambodia, Japan, China and Thailand, while giving her opportunities to shoot for companies like The Wall Street Journal, Billabong and Quiksilver. As you go through Tjoeng’s portfolio of work, many capture raw, candid emotion. She has been told her photos showcase a personal and private aura, a feeling she said helps create a portal of sorts to reveal a certain time.

“My purpose, without fail, is to make beautiful pictures,” said Tjoeng. “Whether I am shooting fashion, documentaries, photojournalist photographs, I want them to be beautiful. Dark and beautiful; sad and beautiful; happy and beautiful; private and beautiful … but always, beautiful.”

She admitted that when shooting photos, it’s a spiritual experience for her to a point where she has to “tap into something bigger than herself.” Having a hard time explaining what that spiritual experience essentially means, she said she always tries to snap photos that reveal a foundation piece of her heart.

Australian fashion shoot with model Yani Botha. (Courtesy Melanie Tjoeng)

Australian fashion shoot with model Yani Botha. (Courtesy Melanie Tjoeng)

“I always, no matter what, shoot from the heart,” she said. “I believe that in order for a photo to have feeling, you have to put feeling into it. If I can’t shoot from the heart, my photos just won’t be the same.”

Two of Tjoeng’s photos were selected to be part of the 2014 exhibition. Both were photos from fashion shoots in Australia with models Yani Botha and Zoe Cross.

“I really love both of those images because they are emotional,” said Tjoeng. “They emit a certain feeling and they have a quietness to them,” adding that the one of Botha is almost ephemeral and biblical while the black and white photograph of Cross is quietly strong and powerful — both encompassing a type of mystery.

With deep Hawaii roots, Andrew Rose said his gallery’s goal is to show the world just how diverse Hawaii’s contemporary art community is within an intimate museum setting. He said anyone can learn art and local residents have a special appreciation for it here because Hawaii’s culture is very artistic and visual.

“Art does not discriminate and is something you get to learn where it in turn teaches something about yourself, something you never knew before,” said Rose.

Rose said art is almost like surfing. You can be on the shore and watch the waves and surf, but once you are out there and engaging with the ocean, your experience becomes that much richer where you understand the different sizes of waves, the difference it makes when the weather changes and more.

Tjoeng said it’s important to support Hawaii’s art community because it helps keep spaces like Andrew Rose’s gallery alive while providing a platform for artists like herself who want to share their work with others.

“I think for my own experience, when I look at other photographer’s work, I find it really wonderful to share someone’s world view,” she said.

Australian fashion shoot with model Zoe Cross. (Courtesy Melanie Tjoeng)

Australian fashion shoot with model Zoe Cross. (Courtesy Melanie Tjoeng)

In the years to come, Tjoeng hopes to dedicate her time to becoming a documentary photographer. She encourages aspiring photographers to continue their craft and said with any form of art, the more practice, the better you become.

“Keep shooting, look at other peoples work and make sure to soak it all in: your surroundings and your life; it will be your constant inspiration,” she said.

The most important thing that she wants aspiring photographers to remember is to “do everything from the heart. Don’t ever let people doubt you. Life is that much sweeter when you do what you love.”

Other artists featured in the exhibition include:

» Brent Akana
» Alison Beste
» Jill Braden
» Monika Catanzaro
» David Cerda
» Garran Chun
» Brian Cox,
» Lin Dunsmore
» Ruth Shiroma Foster
» Ronald Gibson
» Philippe Gross
» Shigeomi Hirabayashi
» Minori Inoue
» Nancy Jeakins
» Tracy Kaichi
» Lori Kamemoto
» Clifford Kimura
» James Knudsen
» Wayne Levin
» Matt Luttrell
» Neal MacPherson
» Meleanna Meyer
» Liz Miller
» Sergey Mishchenko
» Dustin Miyakawa
» Robert Nakama
» Brandon Ng
» Richard Podolny
» Attila Pohlmann
» Lauren Pritchett
» Atis Puampai
» Chris Rohrer
» Joseph Ruesing
» Amelia Samari
» Hannah Shimabukuro
» Jon Shimizu
» David Takagi
» Roger Tinius
» Kjell van Sice
» Chris Vandercook
» Tracy Wright Corvo
» Marc Yoakum
» Mark Yugawa

The exhibit will be on display through May 2 (First Friday). For more information, visit the gallery’s website.
Jermel-Lynn Quillopo is a multi-faceted, energetic individual with experience in both print and broadcast journalism. “Social Encore” aims to tell diverse stories about Hawaii’s food, events and people; share your tips with Jermel via email or follow her on Twitter.

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