In Hong Kong/ Travel

Twenty-Two

Today I am twenty-two and am on my way to New York Fashion Week. It could be an excuse for me to belt out the chorus to that infamous Taylor Swift song, but right now I’m in no position to celebrate. I could’ve been celebrating in New York as I touched down on American soil, but instead I am celebrating my birthday on a bench in Hong Kong International Airport. All a part of the journey, right? It is raining in Hong Kong. Water is pelting down on the wings of planes as they take off to 20,000 feet above the land. I could’ve been up there too, if I had not missed my plane. Yes, I missed my plane to New York. It was worth it though to get that shot of the bunny-man staring out the window.

Even the best of us have flaws. Luckily, I’m the worst and my flaw of tardiness has been with me since my primary school teacher threatened to expel me if I continued being late for school. As mechanical as I am becoming in my daily routine of work, university, social life, networking, traveling, editing and trying to make something creative and meaningful to offer the world, I still run into a number of daily fuck-ups. Usually it’s nothing too big, sleeping in for thirty minutes and missing the first hour of my class has become almost commonplace in my schedule (reminder to self to schedule all my appointments an hour earlier), but today was an exceptional fuck-up.

But even though I am stuck here it has been a great day. For starters, Hong Kong International Airport is the most delicious airport I have ever been stuck in… I know that sounds sad, but I was once stuck in Malaysia International Airport for 16 hours and ate a three course degustation of Popeyes, McDonalds and Burger King throughout the day. Not good for the soul.

I also had a conversation with a 56 year-old Indonesian man from Canada. I shared a table with him at the start of my time here in Hong Kong. We were eating our breakfasts in the morning’s silence. The rain had not yet hit the ceiling and groggy Westerners found themselves at the closest McDonalds before considering the range of dim sum, congee and wonton noodle soup that was being offerred. He left, only for a second, and before I looked up from my computer screen all the chairs around the table we were sitting at had disappeared.

I knew this airport was scarce for chairs, but I didn’t realise how desperate people were for a quick sit. He came back with a under-cooked hashbrown and coffee. “All the chairs are gone,” he said, scratching his head. I laughed and made some remark about how the people here are like pigeons. He turned around to go look for a chair, but before he could take a step away from the table, a cleaner came with a chair in hand for him. He sat down and asked where I was travelling to. “New York.” “Jakarta,” he replied. I asked him his name. “Buddy.” “Christopher.”

As we worked our way through small talk about Canada, Australia, food connecting the world together, multiculturalism and why shit iPhone photography is better than good photography sometimes, I raised the question. “Why are you headed to Jakarta?” Buddy paused for a minute. “To visit my mum and dad,” he said as a smile cracked around the corners of his lips. I was happy to see someone at his age still making the effort to fly across the country to see his parents. “You must be excited to be going back to your hometown,” I replied. Then I saw something in him break. A small quiver in his shoulders before they slumped and he put down his hashbrown. “I wish it was a joyous trip,” he said, “you see… my mother just passed away.”

I asked him about his mother. She was a large personality, glistening with gold, always feeding her children because she believed that they had to be healthy for their futures. A little strict at times to which he didn’t really understand in his youth, but all of those moments grew with him in his future. He was in his late-twenties when he left for Canada where he got married and started a family. His mother was happy that she supported his future. Then he realised he was dragging on and out of courtesy made an excuse for his emotions and put up his guard again – it was painful to watch. “I mean I’m 56 and it’s only expected when your parents get so old,” he said. I tried to connect with him again by telling him about my father who also was his age and lost his mother recently. He chuckled. “I guess it’s a part of growing up,” he said as he stared down into his coffee. “You can never really prepare yourself though or even prepare for how you will react to it all, ” I replied.

He smiled at me. “You know the thing that I’m worried about most though? My father.” I gave him a nod to tell him that I understood his pain. “My mother and father loved each other so much and usually when two people love each other so much they… I’m afraid…” his words began breaking into couplets so I finished his sentence for him. “You’re afraid he’ll follow her.” He nodded. “It’s so surreal… I just found out last night, booked some last-minute tickets and now I am in Hong Kong! I didn’t even have time to pack my socks!” We shared laughter. “I forgot to pack my socks too!” I replied. I told him to really treasure whatever time he had with his father then we parted ways.

I chuckled. Last-minute. That’s always been me. Yesterday I decided to leave Sydney at 9:55 PM to fly to New York. I managed to book plane tickets and a hotel, finish a product shoot in the city, pack, drive back to my home in peak hour traffic and get my parents to give me a lift to the airport 2 hours before my flight was scheduled to depart. As I get older I know I can’t keep rushing my way through life, sometimes I will have to slow down and not leave things to the last minute.

But until then, here’s to Twenty-Two – a big thank you to everyone who wished me a happy birthday. Much love from Seakyu.

WORDS – CHRISTOPHER QUYEN
PHOTOGRAPHY – CHRISTOPHER QUYEN

In Editorial/ Essays

In Praise of Eating Alone: Concentration & Luxury

I’m always the type to be found eating alone.

Not because I have thirty minute lunchbreaks where I have to scoff a sandwich down in ten minutes, but because it’s an activity that gives me comfort. In many cultures, eating alone is considered a social stigma. Korean culture, for example, holds the belief that eating should be a social activity that strengthens relationships through food, the thought of eating alone seems almost strange. I believe this cultural attitude is why content such as muk-bang (an online broadcast where the host eats large quantities of food while interacting with their audience) have become so popular. So people don’t have to feel that awkwardness of eating alone. I’ve noticed this in my own life through the jeering glances of others seeing me enjoy a bibimbap alone with a million side dishes in front of me. Yes, all that food is for me.

This inspired me to start this series titled, In Praise of Eating Alone, where I explore the worlds of other people who eat alone on a frequent basis.

Today I found myself observing Phoebe in the confines of ACME, an Italian-Asian fusion restaurant found in Rushcutter’s Bay. She’s caught in a pool of powder blue. The plates, the walls and the tiny conversations of ACME knit themselves into a blanket for her. For someone who travelled to New York to eat at fine-dining restaurants by herself and a book, eating alone isn’t new to her. A scroll through her Instagram will reveal meal after solitary meal accompanied with a book of some kind. She jokes that she should start an Instagram with the handle @girldinesalonewithabook. It’s not a bad idea.

She enjoys her way through a starter of three potatoes, two mains of coffee fettucine and pigs head macaroni with black truffle, and ends it with a dessert of coconut rice cream and white chocolate. Throughout the four courses, there’s a real connection between her and the food. “When I’m eating alone, I can concentrate. I can concentrate on eating and tasting the food at my own pace. I also tend to read while I eat and there’s just something about doing such a solitary activity while being surrounded by people that helps me concentrate on what I’m doing,” she says.

Uninterrupted and blanketed by the ambiance, it’s the perfect setting to enjoy and appreciate every flavour. It’s almost as if time has slowed down for her to take in the moment. “There is something vaguely luxurious about eating alone, not in the sense of luxury as exclusionary, but in the sense that you’re spending time in a way that’s much slower,” she says, “and being alone forces you to feel that.” The old adage, “time flies when you’re having fun,” comes into mind here, but for someone whose two loves are food and books, Phoebe wonders why time doesn’t fly during these moments that bring her joy.

In a world that is constantly telling us to keep up or we’ll fall behind, finding time to slow down can be daunting. But we need that time to concentrate on ourselves – and that’s not difficult to find when you’re eating alone. There’s a certain Zen in that concentration between ourselves and food that lets us to listen to our thoughts, read a book or take in the poetry of the moment. For Phoebe, it’s not anti-social, it’s peace. It’s finding the time to remember how your heart beats against your ribcage or to forget the pressures of living for an hour. So after my observation of Phoebe I can only say this… In praise of eating alone, in praise of concentrating on the moment and in praise of the pleasure and luxury of slowing down time for yourself, and only yourself.

In Photography

Rainy Nights & Neon Lights

It was a rainy day in Sydney. The worst rain we have seen in years with major floods around the east coast of Australia. I’m not a big fan of heavy rain, especially since I moved to the Sony system, which I’m quite afraid to take out in the rain. Light rain is enough to make the scenery romantic, but give me heavy rain and you’ll find me in bed with the heater on and my cat, Nebraska, curled under my arm. But since I was staying over at Enrico’s (@enricobecker) house, we naturally ventured out to take some photos in Chinatown’s neon glow. Walking down from Broadway, George Street was flooded. Drain gates had popped open and cars were driving through water that had pooled up in the middle of the road. One of the craziest sights was seeing a car with its tyres completely submerged in water. Perfect weather to make Boomerangs of cars driving through water.

The best part of Sydney is that it can look like anywhere else in the world. Whether you want to achieve Tokyo’s neon glow or Greece’s corinthian columns, there’s a place in Sydney for it. While this multiculturalism has played a definite role in my upbringing, it has always made me question whether Australia has a true culture. When my friends from overseas ask me about Australian culture, I don’t know the answer.

I could say that it is made up of many cultures and one simple walk down George Street will let you indulge in the delights of each country or to tell them about a snag on a barbie, an ice cold six-pack of VB on a hot arvo and thongs (this is what we call flip-flops in Australia). It’s something that I struggle with, so I end up just telling them both sides of the coin. I guess that’s the best part though – that we are a part of everything.

But lately I’ve been drifting towards my own culture by consuming asian media. When I was in Japan I felt like I fit in more, like I belonged in the culture. And it wasn’t because there were people around me that shared my features, but it was in the subtleties. Taking my shoes off before I came in people’s houses, certain manners and the way people would react to certain things and to me. It’s something that I’m missing here, but that thought is for another day.

In Fashion & Style/ Lifestyle/ Photography

#MBFWA – Backstage at Maticevski

It was described as girls in chains, furturistic steampunk, but Bladerunner was one of the first things I thought of upon seeing Maticevski’s show. Blending the stylistic darkness of Bladerunner with Maticevski’s elegance made for some interesting designs. I had the opportunity of hanging out backstage and capturing all the faces and personalities among the chaos. One of my favourites was Mr. Maybelline himself, Nigel Stanislaus, who is so passionate about perfecting his make-up looks. Everyone that sat in his chair came out stunning. Thanks for admiring my skin, Nigel.

As one of the first shows of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia, I had no idea what to expect. What I really wanted to experiment with though, as using light to draw attention to the subjects and using layers to isolate the subjects. The result were these really dreamy shots. I also snuck a few portraits here and there, the lighting backstage for Maticevski’s show was perfect for this. Perhaps one of the hardest parts was having a moment with the models since there are so many photographers pushing and pulling the action here and there. I’m starting to realise just how competitive this industry is.

When I had time to, I snuck to the runway just in time to capture the show. I still think the media pit is the worst place to be in especially with everyone’s big lenses sticking into the back of your head. No pun intended. I’m not going to post any runway photos as I think there’s enough coverage of that online. I think the best part about photography is giving people an insight into a place where they don’t usually venture into. So today’s post is solely on the backstage craziness that was Maticevski’s show. I’m getting back to sleep now. Fashion Week cya later.

For use of images, please contact: christopherquyen@gmail.com

In Fashion & Style/ Lifestyle/ Photography

#MBFWA – Bella Hadid x Misha Collection

So I’m currently at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia. While this isn’t my first day here at the show, I can say that it is the first official day of fashion week! It is also my very first time attending Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week… I had no idea you had to get invited to these things. It’s actually quite nervewracking deciding what I’m going to wear in the morning, but I’ve gone for normcore chic. I’m a photographer, I can get away with it.

So why am I here on day one? Bella Hadid of course… Wait, let me set the scene first. So I woke up in the morning at 9 AM to a phone call from my girlfriend letting me know that I should wake up. As she talked I began realising that i had failed to stay up to finish my commercial law assignment that was due later that day and I also had MBFWA on at the same time. Now this wasn’t any little assignment, this was a 30% worth of my grade assignment! For those of you who don’t know how I fit everything into my little life, here is how I do it: I sit on the edge of my bed shaking with my notes and I concentrate for 5 solid hours to pump out a behemoth of a 30% graded assignment.

As for the Misha Collection show, it was one of the most exquisite shows I’ve seen so far. A marbled stone served as the backdrop with gold cracks reaching from the back to the front while monochromatic textures walked up and down the runway. All the girls were gorgeous and I loved the use of lace for sleeves with the patterns creating an extra dimension and shape to the way they fell down the arms… Also did I mention Bella Hadid? She absolutely slayed… I don’t care if that is not a word. The way she held herself was so strong and sexy and elegant. The hype is definitely real.

As one of my first times shooting runway, I think I can admit it… the media pit is balls. There is nothing glamorous about it. It is just one big “my lens is bigger than your lens” situation and other people’s lenses get shoved into the back of your head due to that… Yeah, it’s not pretty. But then again, it’s all about capturing that moment and when you get it all right it feels pretty worth it. What wasn’t worth it though was getting a $106 parking fine at the end of the night… Carriageworks, why do you have free parking on one side of the street, but timed on the other? It makes no sense. Anyway, enjoy my perspective of the Misha Collection! It was absolutely stunning.

For use of images please contact – christopherquyen@gmail.com

In Travel/ Vanuatu

Mele Cascades

Mele Cascades is that cold drink at the end of a long run. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I climbed up those last set of rocks to get to this waterfall – it was something entirely out of this world. Luna and I dipped into those cold waters and washed our sweat-drenched bodies under the torrent of fresh water. Refreshed is an understatement of what I felt in that moment. Everything about Mele Cascades was so pure – if you ever make the trip to Vanuatu, I highly recommend making the trip out to experience it.

Don’t go on those bus tours from companies though, you will regret the moment they hassle you to get back down to the bus so you can stay on schedule. Rent a bus or taxi out for a day. Make sure to haggle though, some taxi drivers will take advantage of you and try to rip you off. I think the worst Luna and I got offered was $100 for the whole day. Try to haggle it down to $35-50, some bus/taxi drivers are more willing than others. Also don’t forget your swimmers! We saw some tourists who didn’t even dip into the waterfall. What a waste of a hike.

Climbing to the mouth of this cascade was perhaps the most rewarding experience though. Not only was it a hot day where I was literally sweating the pounds off my waist, but there were some moments where we had to take our shoes off to cross running rivers only to be greeted by sharp rocks on the other side. It’s not the best feeling and I’m pretty sure I got a few cuts on my feet and toes on my way up to Mele Cascades. It was all worth it though when Luna and I just played around in the rock pools and the waterfall. I’ve actually never felt so free in my life.

But let me backtrack a bit to the reason I even was in Vanuatu in the first place. I had been hearing a lot of things about the place from my business partner, Dennon Clamp, and when I realised I had a huge gap of time in between December to 2016 I knew this was a place that I wanted to escape to. Life in Australia had started to make me lose momentum – I still think Sydney is the best place to slow down in. Everything is just so laid back and the food is so good, but that makes you lose your drive to hustle and also gives you so many opportunities to get fat.

So a drive up or down the coast wasn’t an option. I needed to get away and lose myself in some place where I didn’t know anyone or anywhere. Where I couldn’t really speak the native language and where anything I discover would feel new. So Vanuatu it was. Paid for the tickets and the accommodation all in one night and before I knew it, my exams were done and I hopped on the plane with Luna. Vanuatu is so raw. The people are so kind to one another. And even though it was recently hit by a cyclone, I felt like all the money I spend there will be good for the economy as they rebuild themselves.