The Asian Landscape – Photography by Russel Wong

Russel Wong is a highly acclaimed fashion and portrait photographer worldwide. His talent and perseverance have taken him into the insides of Hollywood’s film industry. Russel has photographed notable celebrities such as Zhang Ziyi, Jackie Chan, Joan Chen, Michael Jackson, Richard Gere and Tom Cruise. He is also one of the elite photographers commisioned to shoot covers for Time and Vogue. Russel has worked on countless movie sets, including publicity shoots for Lee Ang’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Zhang Yimou’s Hero and House of Flying Daggers. He has also done vivid portraits of popular Asian movie starts such as Jackie Chan, Chow Yun Fatt, Michelle Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi.

Russel achieved international recognition through his portraiture works. However in recent years, his landscape works have gained significant popularity. As a photographer, mastering the concept of light and composition is the foundation of a good photograph. But it is Russel’s attentiveness to his surroundings alongside with his acute intuition that capture the moment beautifully. All of his nature photographs are set in the most raw form. Using only a camera without any other gears or post-photographic editing such as Photoshop, Russel has to carefully choose the right time of the day to achieve the optimum light and composition to bring out the beauty of the landscape in his photographs.

Huangshan II  – 36 x 28 cm, Archival Prints, Edition of 40

From 2006-2012, Russel travelled to Huangshan (Yellow Mountains) annually to witness a rare natural phenomenon – the ‘Sea of Clouds’, one of ‘The Four Wonders of the Yellow Mountain’. The other three being its peculiarly-shaped rocks, hot springs and ancient pines, which are formed more than 100 million years ago. The ‘Sea in Clouds’ envelopes the forest of peaks at Huangshan. As the sun rises, the peaks glisten under the sunlight before being shadowed by the clouds just a moment later. The Huangshan pines are unique. Unlike normal pines, they do not grow on earth but only on steep cliffs and alpine peaks due to the special topography and climate. To capture a photograph that best reflects the magnificence of the mountain, Russel has to hike up a long distance above sea level.

Huangshan I  – 36 x 28 cm, Archival Prints, Edition of 40

Russel begins his hike at 5am with his gears under sub-zero temperatures. He waits for clouds to rise from between the valley and fade to reveal the peaks of jagged rocks. Experiencing the “Sea of Clouds” is like a motion picture; each time frame unfolds a completely different view of the breathtaking scenery. Russel carefully positions himself in the right angle and light to capture a single moment that does justice to the spectacular landscape.

Pavilion in Huangshan  – 101 x 129 cm, Archival Prints, Edition of 25

Besides Huangshan, Russel photographs the Lijiang River in Yangshuo – known to the most majestic scenery in China. The Lijiang landscape is one of the rare wonders of the world; it is a plateau surrounded by a dramatic karst terrain, featuring extraordinary sharp peaks that requires centuries of natural formation.

Fisherman I:Lijiang River – 118 x 95 cm, Archival Prints, Edition of 25

As a central scenic attraction, Lijiang is often crowded with tourists exploring the area. However, Russel is committed to capturing the river at its most natural state. He camps by the river at 5am before the gates officially opens to visitors and waits for the sun to rise. As the temperature rises, the silvery mist wanes to allow the peaks to peep through the clouds. The water is tranquil and the surroundings are peaceful with the exception of local fishermen rowing for an early catch.

Along with the unpredictable weather, the time frame within which Russel can photograph to obtain the best lighting and composition is extremely short. He returns to the river everyday in the early morning for over a week to search for the best visual elements for a single photograph. Russel’s photographs of Lijiang bears resemblance to a traditional Chinese ink painting of one of China’s wonderous landscapes.

Lijiang River – 100 x 126 cm, Archival Prints, Edition of 25

The unpredictable weather and steep terrains of Huangshan and Lijiang are challenging but Russel’s dedication to share the beauty of nature through his photographs allowed him to succesfully take a few photos. As he descibed, “looking at the photo is like walking into a painting of the Huanghsan Pine trees”. Russel’s landscape prints are not just a documentary but a poetic experience that is mesmerizing.

More about Russel Wong

Russel Wong (黄国基) is the first Singaporean photographer to have a solo exhibition at the Singapore Art Museum (Russel Wong: 1980 – 2005), and also the first and only photographer to be invited for the art residency at the renowned Singapore Tyler Print Institute (STPI).Russel has worked on countless movie sets, including publicity shoots for Lee Ang’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Zhang Yimou’s Hero and House of Flying Daggers. He has also done vivid portraits of popular Asian movie starts such as Jackie Chan, Chow Yun Fatt, Michelle Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi.

More Information

About the Author:

Ben Rush is the co-founder of Asian Art Platform, and drives our online platform. An avid art collector he combines this with his background in digital to support the promotion of AAP online.