‘I wanted to show the joy of life’: This Week’s People’s Choice Winning portrait

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Yolanda Y. Liou is a self-taught photographer who began taking photographs in 2011 while backpacking through Europe, after her mum gifted her with a digital camera. Having had no initial intention of becoming a professional photographer, three years later she stepped into fashion photography. Despite it being challenging and competitive at times, Liou is constantly enchanted by the world of photography, and her work has been featured in GQ, Marie Claire, Elle and Grazia.

Having moved to the UK seven years ago, Liou has been struck by her sense of belonging, particularly in the capital’s vibrant and exciting fashion industry. Her portrait is an attempt to show people the Britain she sees; full of people, laughter and opportunity.

Kit © Yolanda Y. Liou

Can you tell me about the portrait you entered into Portrait of Britain 2018? What is the story behind it?

Po Tseng Ho is a hair and makeup artist. The first time we met was while shooting an editorial about diversity. He was the hairstylist on the shoot and we immediately got on very well. He has a great energy, and is very easy going and generous.

While we were waiting for the model to get her makeup done, Po Tseng was posing for me so we could test the light. We chatted away and I was pleased to capture the essence of his spirit. As the models I shoot often spend a considerable amount of time with the hairstylists and makeup artists, it always helps keep the positive vibe going when the models feel relaxed with the artists.

Lilly © Yolanda Y. Liou

Why did you select this image to enter into Portrait of Britain?

Britain, or more London in this case, is one of the most amazing creative hubs in the world. In the fashion industry, people from all over the world come here to chase their dreams. Regardless of our gender, race or background, there’s no difference when we are all after the same thing – to work on our craft and passion and to feel a sense of belonging. I wanted to show this side of it, and to show the joy of life. Life is often extremely hard and it’s easy to forget how blessed we are to be able to do what we want to do.

Lydia © Yolanda Y. Liou

Is the portrait part of a wider series? If so, what were the aims for that series?

Yes and no. I didn’t plan the photograph, but when I was organising my portfolio one day, I realised that I had lots of unused images of people laughing that I’d taken on shoots. I guess I didn’t use them because they didn’t feel serious enough, but I started to put all those images together.

Why did you choose to enter Portrait of Britain?

I’ve lived in the UK for 7 years now. Taiwan is forever my home, but Britain has also become a home for me too. The cultures and lifestyles in both places are vastly different. I love the people in the UK and I’m always curious about their stories. I entered because I wanted to show people the Britain I see.

Alex © Yolanda Y. Liou

Do you have any advice for future entrants about selecting a portrait to submit and, more generally, about getting into portrait photography to begin with?

Have your camera with you the all the time and keep shooting. I know it sounds cliché, but for me that’s the only way. Shoot as much as you can and you will start to realise what draws your attention and interests you. Experiment!

Once you have taken an image, follow your gut. Lay out your selection and look at your photos altogether, whichever jumps out, go with it. A portrait is compelling when you can see something beyond the image itself.

Sian © Yolanda Y. Liou
Tatiana © Yolanda Y. Liou