Interview with Photographer Saskia Wesseling

This is a post I am honoured to share with you for so many reasons. I have been coaching Saskia for the past year or so and her wish was purely creative. To take her photography to the next level and have an exhibition and be published.

I love this woman, I love the way she sees, thinks and takes action. She is a coach’s dream. Not only since we have been working together has she been published in National Geographic and the South China Morning Post she has had a solo exhibition of her work.

There is something so very exciting about seeing people dream big and make it happen, Saskia is one of those people.

I thought it would be fun for her to share a little of her story, her process and how she creates.. I have to mention I am a huge fan of her work!

Over to Saskia..

Tell us a little about you and how you arrived in Hong Kong?

About 12 years ago my husband and I made the unsettling decision to leave our home country Holland and challenge ourselves by living in different countries all over the world and find out what we need to make us feel at home.

I was working as a news reporter and I made radio documentaries.  I felt totally ‘at home’ and at ease in this genre and I could live my life fully in telling stories.

Though feeling at home and at ease is great, we felt that getting out of our comfort zone and broaden our horizon on all kind of levels – from friendships to jobs from climates to cultures – would make us grow.

So that is what we did, we started in stable Switzerland where our two precious girls were born. Then we moved to crazy Cairo where I had the most wonderful eye openers I could wish for – workwise, culturally, friendship wise and more. We lived there before, during and after the Arabic spring, so our request for getting out of our comfort zone was well received.

Then we moved to Guangzhou, the third biggest city of China. As you might easily imagine, that was a culture shock – enormous enriching but also not easy at all. And finally, we arrived in Hong Kong – a well known city – which has so much to offer. So we ended up here almost 4 years ago, and while my husband is travelling across Asia for his job, our daughter are enjoying schooling, I am documenting Hong Kong and actually parts of Asia with my camera.

You have worked in many different creative fields all around the world how did you come to make photography your art?

My father shared his love for photography with me as of a young age. He was rather disciplined and his strictness when it came to teaching me the basics of photography helps me even today. I was passionate about photography and I won a prize in Amsterdam from het Stedelijk museum and the newspaper het Parool while finishing my studies. As I didn’t go to  art school, I thought I could never become a really good photographer – so I did all kind of other jobs, from journalist to marketing manager, until I arrived in Hong Kong. The creative vibe in Hong Kong made me go back to my early love; photography. I felt that if there was a moment in time I could invest in my true passion it was now. So that is what I did. I took the decision to go for it, full on – without any hesitation. I gave myself 2 years to show if I can make it into my full time job. And I succeeded.

Saskia Wesseling, hong kong, +852 Hong Kong, Carla Coulson, Creative Coach, National Geographic, South China Morning Post, Photographers life,

I love your Hong Kong Series can you tell us how they came about?

After more than a decade of moving from one chaotic city to the next, I have developed the skill of uncovering peace and beauty in the ordinariness of things.

When finding my way in a city, I usually just walk for hours, until I actually get lost and then I’ll keep walking until I find a piece of beauty that catches my eye. Something without obvious beauty, or something that is appealing in its unappealing-ness.

I’ll capture it with my camera, and my heart leaps. So I started to collect these treasures in my mind and on my camera, slowly but surely the city becomes more and more MY home. So the +852 Glamour in the unglamorous series shows a process of 2 years of inspiration and integrations of me in the streets of Hong Kong.

What has been the reaction to your vision of Hong Kong?

People love the way I see Hong Kong. It is recognizable but surely different enough to surprise people too. A magazine puts this feeling into the following wordings, and I quote:

“Photographer Saskia Wesseling expresses her interest in deviating from traditional perceptions of beauty in cities that are seen as flashy and glamorous by many but have gems buried in strange nooks and turns that aren’t quite visible to the eye.”

Sassy Hong Kong, November 2017

I think that is well described.

Saskia Wesseling, hong kong, +852 Hong Kong, Carla Coulson, Creative Coach, National Geographic, South China Morning Post, Photographers life,

What are you searching for when you go on your wanderings? Do you have a particular process?

When I walk with a camera in my hand, I somehow shut down some senses, – but also open up new ones. It is quite a meditative process. So no worrying about daily sorrows, but tunnel focused on what I encounter. Although surely sometimes I have frustrating sessions, I usually feel so connected to what I see. I watch differently, with a different eye and I feel so uplifted when I find my treasure for the day. But I can’t control it much. I can’t orchestrate it. So I can’t put myself on a deadline. Only thing I can do is go out there and work for hours, days, weeks and months really hard.

It must have been so exciting to have your work published in National Geographic, what was one of the best things that came out of it for you?

Oh yeah, that was like a dream come true. It surely helps in term of PR for my work. It helps in communication to people in the field of photography, but also by selling my work.

I adore your series on barbers in the South China Morning post, how did that come about?

It was one of those days. Nothing worked out well, I felt I didn’t make one great picture that day. I was on my way home, feeling a bad back pain from walking around for hours with my camera and lenses trying to find my gem. I decided to take one more back alley before heading to the Metro. And suddenly I saw a Barbershop I could only wish for in my dreams. I couldn’t believe my eyes. And I was intrigued by the image of Mao on the shower curtain. I no longer felt my back pain, I started shooting and while doing that I got eye contact with the Barber. I was afraid he wanted to send me away, but he actually wanted me to take pictures of his shop. I can’t speak Cantonese, he didn’t speak a word of English – so all I could do was guessing. After leaving I knew I wanted to go back. That is what I did several times, with and without narrators. Then I figured out there were a few of those backstreet barbers, no official entrance – no doors. I started to document those and it became a series on itself.

Do you have a process for staying creative?

I believe in constant learning. I try to surround myself with people who can bring me to a new level of creativity. So I follow master classes, I have a mentor (happens to be you). Working with you truly helped me to get where I am today. Your supervision in my process of giving myself two years to succeed- is priceless.

I surround myself with more creatives. I have met a photographer – who I could describe as an older man – who has earned his reputation in the field of photography. His name is Ken Haas. He is my unofficial mentor, I hope I can call him a true photography friend. He gives his honest opinion and that he shares his precious time and his knowledge and expertise with me and my work makes me a lucky girl.

I also visit exhibitions and I also believe that to watch or listen documentaries are enriching to the mind and soul.

What’s coming up for you?

I wish I knew….No not really actually. How exciting I am not sure what 2018 is going to bring? I am working on different projects, I hope to exhibit again…. I’ll keep you posted!!

I hope you have enjoyed this little interview with the talented Saskia.

Don’t forget to check out Saskia’s work HERE and you can follow her Hong Kong wanders on Instagram HERE


PS: if you would love to realise a creative project or bring life to your creative business I have a couple of places opening soon. All details HERE 

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