This summer, Byron Bay-based photographer Ming Nomchong released her debut book, Pacific, and to celebrate we hosted an intimate in-store book signing where we learned more about Ming’s practice and inspiration. Here, she reflects on her love of film, her return to the nostalgic artforms of her childhood, and the ocean that inspired her debut book.
“I’ve spent years floating around the Pacific, exploring its depths and shores. It feels intrinsically part of my life and identity,” says photographer Ming Nomchong of the ocean that lends its name to her debut book. Ming has lived in Byron Bay for over 10 years and calls the water home, which is why naming her published body of work Pacific was a deeply poetic gesture. As she explains, “Almost every image has water in it, and every image was shot in or around the Pacific. It’s my love letter to her.”
Pacific is a collection of Ming’s photographic imagery, reimagined with poetry by Kathryn Lyster in collages reminiscent of fragmented day dreams. Ming had always dreamed of creating a book, but it wasn’t until three years ago that she began the process. “It twisted and turned until I started collaging imagery together. Once I was cutting and creating these new pieces from work I’d already shot, this new feeling bubbled to the surface. It gave me a way of creating new worlds from my own work.” The desire to step away from a digital screen and work with her hands encouraged Ming to experiment with mixed media and collage - something she’d done as child. But she always returns to her love of film photography - her work is sought-after by homegrown fashion labels and international magazines. “I love the colour, the grain and the imperfections of shooting film. Anything that looks too perfect lacks depth for me. I like the mistakes - it’s the flaws that make us all beautiful.”
Despite her undeniable success, Ming will be the first to tell you her career path wasn’t always so clear. “I remember finishing school trying to work out what to do with my life. So many of my friends had enrolled in degrees and knew from the get-go what their path was,” she reflects. “The only thing I knew I loved was art and photography.” Recalling the first time she picked up a camera and felt a connection, Ming says, “I enrolled at UNSW College of Fine Arts and during this time I bought a Hasselblad. I remember holding it in my hands and it feeling really right. I’ve had that camera since 2002.”
Ming counts “open space, natural elements and the human form” as her enduring sources of inspiration and reasons for creating art. These themes and forms are a hallmark of her work, which is ingrained with romance, femininity and nostalgia. It’s an aesthetic she’s naturally drawn to, although she adds, “it’s funny, because I’m actually the biggest tomboy”. Ming’s longing to explore the past and create imagery with a sense of escapism is at the heart of Pacific, which reads like a love letter rolled into a bottle and cast to sea. “It all comes back to me as a kid, trying to find myself in pictures, falling into the frame,” Ming says. “Creating my own little escape in my mind.”