All photos by Sophie Hur
Sophie is a freelance photographer / content creator / mixed-media artist based in NYC. With a strong background in acting, Sophie is inspired by visual story-telling & aims to give her audience a tangible, culturally influenced experience.
BH: So tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? What brought you to NY?
SH: Yes, Hi! My name is Sophie, originally from Brisbane (hahaha omg), Australia. Moved in September 2015 to New York to study acting. After I graduated in 2017, I decided to switch to photography. I’ll probably be here for another 2 years with my visa and hopefully another 10 years after that.
BH: I am so curious, what made you switch to photography?
SH: Honestly it’s so strange, acting has always been what I liked and what I wanted to do, even since I was 9 years old. I was doing theatre for hours a week and I was in theatre training in High School as well. But my high school was one of those where mostly students graduated and then went to university to either become a lawyer or a doctor. I decided to do architecture afterwards thinking it’s a good balance between arts and science, my older brother is an architect too. While I was in New York, I met this guy from London. He introduced me to photography telling me that “I should get a film camera”. It instantly grew more than just a hobby. I like that I am in charge of the image rather than being in the image.
BH: Wait, you moved to NYC with no friends and no family, that’s a very ballsy move.
SH: I was lucky to move here with one of my best friends but yeah besides that, that’s it. It was funny because I’ve always had this fascination with New York, but it’s weird, I’ve always had this feeling forever my whole life I’ve wanted to live in New York and I don’t really know why. I would go on tumblr and think ugh, dam I want to live there. Even in High School, my inspo was a huge picture of Manhattan on my computer.
BH: How did you get into mixed media and photography? And how would you describe your work?
SH: I’ve been pursuing photography since June 2017, but I wouldn’t say it’s felt like a career until the beginning of this year.
Regarding my work, I like collages - creating a tangible moment. I would describe it as intimate, in a way that’s not necessarily a naked portrait or people crying, not that that isn’t a beautiful moment. I like to know the person that I’m shooting, the artist, the singer or whoever, I try my best to make it as personal as possible. Very very imperfect completely.
BH: I really really like that phrase, “very very imperfect”.
SH: Haha yeah!
BH: What photography trends do you follow currently? What trends do you steer clear of?
SH: Obviously film, which I guess is a trend in itself. And definitely the collages, creating, playing and scanning and adding multiple dimensions together.
I really cannot see myself doing super clean commercial work, unless of course, the project fits my style. I don’t think I’m going to shoot someone or something that’s not giving something to the world, like someone that doesn’t inspire me. If I were in charge of a shoot, I would never cast all the same people who are in everything else. That’s something I would never do. I would like to include people who are interesting and different to add different perspectives. But, that’s why I love working with authentic casting directors and collaborators because they nail it and I get to meet exciting people!
BH: Who’s your inspiration or who are you dying to work with?
SH: Oh okay, I have an excel sheet, or I call ‘hit list’, of people I would love to work with and I always include the why because I think it’s very important.
I really want to work with TopDog Entertainment, they manage Kendrick Lamar and SZA. I really want to work with Kendrick Lamar, I just think he’s so sick and really cool.
In terms of artists, I would say Frank Lebon and Julian Klincewicz. Frank Lebon has always done what he wants to do, similar to what I said earlier about imperfect. He isn’t afraid to show really weird stuff, I’m pushing myself to get comfortable with that, being weird and being myself. He also did the James Blake music video. Julian will always be a huge inspiration to me. To be recognised in a show with him would clarify that I am on the right path.
BH: Talk to me a little bit about your recent post on you coming to terms with your Asian identity:
View this post on Instagram
A couple of months ago, I wrote my dad a letter admitting that it has taken me just about 22 years to acknowledge my Asian identity. Despite my dad's Korean identity making up half of me, racist behavior of my peers in my childhood impacted me in a way that caused rejection of my own blood. I remember hating "looking Asian" and joking around during my dad's attempts to teach my brothers and I the Korean language. I regret as a child, not showing more interest and for not being proud of not only my own Korean heritage, but my dads. One of the many things my black friends have taught me during this historical movement is their unapologetic passion and love for their own beautiful black skin and pride as they literally risk their lives in the fight against the world's systemic injustices. They have been on the frontline for their entire lives and it's taken me this long just to reflect. This year has been a huge eye-opener for me. I've been thinking about my own identity and reconsidering my responsibility as an artist and have learned that in order to create meaningful work that amplifies voices that need to be heard and triggers important conversations that need to be had, I must understand my own culture and identity. So here is me for @americaneagle loving the skin that I am in and eternally grateful for my Asian identity. There is so much wrong with the system, but I am fortunate enough to be in a community of artists and friends who teach me to do what's right. I am still learning to be a proud Asian female-identifying individual who stands up for black lives and I will continue to listen and turn what I hear into action. #aexme
SH: The least important part is American Eagle sending me clothes and asking me to post. I thought it was strange territory but I still wanted it to be important and not selfish.
Separately, I think especially for people in NYC, it’s been an important time for reflection. We can’t really fight for injustice and fight for the black community until we reflect on our own privileges and faults. I’ve been reading up on about Black culture and Black-American history that I didn’t know, and with that, I got to reflect on my own. Australia is just as bad as America, we are still fighting for justice for the Traditional Owners of our land, our Indigeneous Community . There have been a lot more movements, because of the Black Lives Matter movement in America. For me, I have really been reflecting on myself because at the end of the day, the only experience we have is our own, to start with. Then we learn about other people’s experiences and that’s how a human gains empathy.
I was thinking about my dad and everything he has been through. My dad came to Australia when he was really young around 13, with his mom and his sisters from Korea. He didn’t know one bit of English. I don’t think he has taken more than a day off in his life, he is the most hardworking man I know. When he came to Australia, he didn’t go to a good school and he wanted to be a doctor so he worked his ass off with part-time jobs in order to afford it. When he got into the top school in Australia, he got all As in his final year except English because he couldn’t speak it well. So he repeated it another year so that he got an A in english in order to pursue medicine.
Like I said in the post, I wrote a letter to my dad. He has worked so hard to provide for me and my brothers, and I was ashamed of it for no reason. There is so much denial in the way I was brought up. In my earlier years, I was always the only Asian in my friend group, and immature kids would make fun of me, but I would also make fun of other Asian people because I was insecure and defensive.
I haven’t bought it up to my close friends, but putting this out there and seeing a lot of people reaching out to me, full Asian and half, telling me they relate to it has been really eye-opening and beautiful . It’s amazing to see.
BH: Anything you have planned for the near future?
SH: Something I'm excited about is signing a lease on a studio, very close to me. It’s a 5 minute bike ride. It’s a small studio, not particularly a photo studio, but a space dedicated to my work and a creative space where I can concentrate and create freely. I want to be not only a freelance photographer, but also a filmmaker
BH: Is there anything you want to share with our community?
SH: I’m trying to build a personal community of other Asian creatives, artists, designers or anything. One thing I would love to do is meet others in the city, so if interested, feel free to reach out at email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Instagram (@sophiehur). So many amazing Asian artists have reached out via that post, and it really has been incredible.