Sam Wong Takes Photos When The Party’s Over
Sam Wong's teen years alone in a big city introduced him to photography, hip hop, and the distinct characters that would populate his work.
When Sam “Kid Kong” Wong was 13-years-old he moved from Hong Kong to Melbourne; if the move wasn’t hard enough for a newly minted teenager, he found himself confined to boarding school. He spent the next few years in a foreign country, at a school where he didn’t fit in and was only allowed out for a maximum of four hours on weekends.
Despite the obvious limitations placed on him, in those four hours he explored the city streets making friends with the “Kings Only” break dance crew. It was during this time he became interested in the people their performances would attract: drunks, junkies, homeless, and hustlers.
It might be all very 21st century Catcher in the Rye; but his teen years alone in a big city introduced him to photography, hip hop, and the distinct characters that would populate his work.
VICE: You’re showing a pretty rough side of humanity, what made you start taking these kinds of photos?
Sam: It's only filthy if you see it that way. My early work was shooting club nights and gigs. I was doing it on a regular basis, sometimes paid, and often paid in drink cards and free music. I remember one time a promoter told me to turn over 100 club photos, with the instruction to make everyone look “hot”.
What fascinated me was how some girls and boys would dress up so fly, and line up for hours, just so they could get into a club and get their photos taken. But the part that I find most appealing comes at the end of the night. On my way home after work I would see girls running bare foot with their heels over their shoulder. To make my weekend a little bit more interesting I started to document what I saw after hours, which turned into this work.
Have you had many confrontations with freaky people?
When it comes to doing street photography at night you face three common situations: the people who want to murder you, the people who are proud to pose for you, and the cops that ask, “What the fuck are you doing?”
I had one big guy run after me one night screaming, “Give me your fucking camera, or I’ll break ya.” As you would imagine your confidence gets knocked, but you toughen up.
What do you get up to when you’re not being chased down the street?
Deep music, strong coffee, dance battles, and reading photography books.
Your work in five words?
Adventurous, immediate, ordinary, cute and romantic—nah I’m joking.
He’s also showing work as part of a group show at Chaotic Gallery from August 9.