A day in the life of local photographer, Russel Wong

Photographing Hollywood’s biggest stars is just a regular work day for this veteran celeb lensman

Russel Wong, 54
Russel Wong, 54
01 Jul 2015

Russel Wong, 54

The Singaporean photographer has spent over 30 years snapping pictures of stars like Gong Li, Jackie Chan, Zhang Ziyi and The Black Eyed Peas, and movie stills for flicks like Hero, House of Flying Daggers and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. He recently conducted a smartphone photography workshop here with Chinese electronics brand Oppo.

Gong Li
Gong Li
01 Jul 2015

Gong Li

8 DAYS: You’ve shot so many famous people. What’s the secret to striking rapport with your subject?

RUSSEL WONG: Dealing with celebs is sometimes difficult. Some are quiet and give only one-word answers, so I try and break the ice. I do a lot of research about them before the shoot. Celebs let their guard down a bit when they know you are familiar with them. For instance, Gong Li loves dogs and owns eight dogs. Since I have four dogs myself, we started talking about dogs right off the bat. When I meet reserved people like Matt Dillon, I just keep asking them open-ended questions like “Tell me about your summer vacation”. Sometimes it feels like I’m talking to a kid. (Laughs) If you want to take a good portrait of somebody, you have to know him as a person.
 

Jackie Chan
Jackie Chan
01 Jul 2015

Jackie Chan

What was the most challenging shoot you’ve done in your career?
The Time cover with Jackie Chan in Hongkong in 1998. That year, he was in Rush Hour and we wanted to show that he was the king of Hongkong ’cos the people there all called him ‘big brother’. I had worked with him before and he’s very daring, so I had him sitting in the middle of the road with no police barricade. But we had to wait an hour before we could start shooting ’cos there was a thunderstorm. I thought Jackie would postpone the shoot, but he didn’t. He’s a very regular guy who loves his job.
 

Russel Wong poses with Zhang Ziyi
Russel Wong poses with Zhang Ziyi
01 Jul 2015

Russel Wong poses with Zhang Ziyi

What’s one thing you’ve learnt on the job that they didn’t teach you in school?
I learnt how to get along with people. If I were a photographer who hated dealing with people, I wouldn’t have gone very far! I always ask [my clients], “Why did you hire me?” They’d say, “I trust you”. Their trust is important, ’cos that’s when their facade comes down [in front of my camera].

Report a problem