Russel Wong's photography career began when he photographed the world record-holding athlete Sebastian Coe, for the cover of Track and Field News, at the young age of 19. This was to be a promising beginning for a photographer that would eventually bag an enviable list of prestigious publications such as the imes, Fortune, Newsweek, and the New York Times. More notable for Russel would be his work with celebrities such as Isabella Rossillini, Oliver Stone, Paloma Picasso, Yo Yo Ma and Luciano Pavorotti which led him to be christened 'the Richard Avedon of Asia' by the popular media.
A celebrity photographer as he is popularly known, Russel's foray into fine photography is a direct result of an insatiable quest for self-expression. Nature remains a potent force of inspiration for Russel who has mainly worked with people for his commercial assignments. The present subject is the same bamboo forest where the spectacular scene of conflicts occurred in the film House of Flying Daggers, 2003. The film which received a lukewarm response at best from the audience and critics was nevertheless noted for its cinematography which climaxed at the scene of conflict in the bamboo forest. The director Zhang Yimou, who is renowned for his allegorical and dramatic use of colours on film, made the scene almost monotonous in its variations of green as the swordmen engaged in a clash as violently as it was poetically filmed, with the clanking of the weapons and the swishing and whistling of the sea of bamboo.
It was clearly an impressionable moment for Russel as he photographed 2 versions of the scene: one in black and white, and the other in colour. Russel succinctly captures the shimmering green as the light filters through the thick foliage, casting shadow and thus adding depth. With this work, we witness the finest moment for a photographer, clearly enamoured with the lush forest scene, Russel arranges a composition that is dramatic and yet subtle, profound in depth but light in presentation. His lighting is superbly applied or perhaps maneuvered which renders the bamboo, three dimensional and dramatic, striking without harshness. He renders a composition of nature so impeccably arranged, it suggests the photographer's direct role in the interpretation and presentation of his subject as he squeezes the last ounce of elegant dynamism of his sleek and svelte subject.
The present work was made when Russel was photographing the portraits of the film for its eventual publicity and marketing. Though it is not a direct replica of the scene in the film, it still remains a close relation. Herein lies the significance of Russel Wong as a contemporary photographer: he uses photography to convey the contemporary aesthetics which are affiliated with popular images made iconic by film and movie stars and which are potently relevant to its audience.