Behind the Lens With Becky Yee
Photographer/videographer Becky Yee peels back the cultural skins to expose what's deepest in us. This piercing-yet-inviting point of view can be seen in her editorial, commercial and curated portfolios. Becky's ability to provoke confession and embrace compulsion has drawn in clients from Beijing to Berlin. Focusing on the extreme contrast of Ura (backside) and Omote (front side), the difference in space between private emotions and public perceptions are explored in her work.
Recent successes with sought-after clients (Sony, Nike ID/W+K, Diesel, Puma, Moet-Hennessey, Piper-Heidsieck Champagne, Tumi, and Peugeot) are due to Becky's real-time collaboration and understanding of her clients' brands.
Canon 7D, 5D, 70-200mm, 85mm 50 mm lens and Mamiya RZ 67, 110, 55 mm lens, Metz flash, Balcar concept b3 strobes
I knew I wanted to be a photographer when...
I stole my older sister's Mickey Mouse Camera and went everywhere with it. The camera was a kid's toy camera but it really worked. The camera was in the shape of Mickey Mouse's head, it used 110 film and you pull his ear down to release the shutter and take a photo. I have a photo of me holding it when I was about five years old.
Then, for a High School graduation gift my father bought me a SLR camera and I learned how to photograph using just manual settings. I took a black and white photo class in college and learned to develop negatives and print photos. I didn't major in photography but studied communications and began my post college career working at J. Walter Thompson and was on the team that helped to launch Prozac. However, my love and passion for photography eventually took over and I wound up pursuing a career in photography.
Your approach to photography:
I believe everyone has their own beauty and charm and my approach to photography is to capture and showcase everyone's special "something." I consider myself an exploring visionary and I'm tremendously curious about my subjects. People fascinate me and I enjoy hearing their stories and what they did in their life and why they are here and now in front of my camera. Not only do I like to hear storiesI am a storyteller toobut unlike a movie which has 90 to 120 minutes to tell a story, with photography you have one second. I strive to capture a perfect moment of stillness that embodies an entire story in 1 frame. I was always amazed at how still photography takes an intangible, ephemeral fleeting moment and stops it right then and there. The historical power of photography is really mind blowing to me.
I also think about the subject's brand and what they are known for and think about what I can bring to the table to enhance the talent that is already there. Hopefully my images can show the world a different dimension about this subject that wasn't so apparent before and penetrate those facades we create to show a true beautiful inner character. Inner beauty is coupled with my fashion photography background which is very polished and well produced and I feel that I am capable of taking iconic images.
Your teaching approach/philosophy:
I always encourage my assistants to not copy my style or philosophy but to create their own. To follow their own unique vision and direction that best suits their character. Many of the people who have assisted me have become professional photographers and I love that. Sometimes I talk to students going to school and I am really not 100% sold on photography schools. Of course, you need the basic skills of how to operate a camera, aperture, shutter speed, ISO, color balance but I think I can teach someone those basics in a weekend.
Photography is really something you need to learn by doing and not in a classroom. I recently had one intern who graduated from a four-year school in film and photography and didn't even know what a gobo was. I was shocked. I said to myself, "What are they teaching in school?" These kids study photography and come out in debt $100,000 and they are totally unprepared to work in the commercial professional photography field.
Your biggest challenge when shooting indoor (or low lighted) events:
With music events low light is always a challenge. Especially in jazz clubs which can be really dark and everyone is sitting and maybe they are enjoying dinner it is difficult to move around so much to get different angles. Once when I was shooting Terri Lyne Carrington with Esperanza Spalding and Geri Allen, at the Village Vanguard. Geri was on piano and had her back to the audience the whole time, so in order to get a good shot, I had to worm my way between a column and a table and squat down so the people behind me could still see.