Steve Roe: Neon-Soaked Streets

1. Could you please give us a little introduction and tell us about your first experience with photography? Who or what inspired you to begin photography?

I am originally from Leicester, England, and growing up I never had the opportunity to travel abroad until I reached my early 20s. Despite that, my whole life I was fascinated with the world and desperately wanted to see more of it. As soon as I finished university, I immediately left for South Korea to teach English, I didn’t have the money to go backpacking, so this was the best option for me. I quickly fell in love with the country, but I still wasn’t a photographer at this point. It was only when I went on my backpacking trip after completing my 1-year contract that I bought a cheap DSLR simply because I couldn’t rely on my phone’s battery as I at least wanted to take a few photos as keepsakes. I fell in love with photography instantly, and during that backpacking trip I was taking photos constantly; hundereds each day. I think being in a new environment every day was what trained me up very quickly, and within my first couple of weeks my photography was featured by the BBC. When I returned to Korea, the neon-soaked streets awaited me. Blade Runner is one of my biggest inspirations, and I wanted to take photos like that, I grew more and more obsessed with it and have been immersed in that style ever since.

2. From your point of view, what are the most exciting aspects of professional photography?

It has to be the people and brands I’ve worked with. I’ve had some of the most exciting memories of my life whilst holding a camera. I was fortunate enough to have a press-pass and be on stage with some of my favourite musciancs at Glastonbury festival 2017, ring side with my lens getting covered in blood at a boxing title fight in Seoul, and visiting some of the most amazing cities of Asia. You never know what opportunities are going to turn up in your email. Recently, I was comissioned by Apple to use their iPhone for my style of street photography, the email was so surreal that I genuinely didn’t believe I was working for them until they posted the work on their Instagram page. So it is definitely that, the opportunities it creates, the places you go, the people you meet, without a doubt.

3. As the expert you are, what distinguishes your work from other photographers?

There are some fantastic photographers in the field of neon aesthetic night photography and I believe each have their own style, some lean more toward the neon-noir vibe of darker and moodier tones. Personally, I strive for bright and vibrant images and I have a lot of fun working with the lights and reflections of the neon and LED signs on rainy nights. Sometimes I work with 2-toned images, wheras with other shots I just let the colours run wild but in a cohesive way. A lot of editing goes into my photos and I manipulate the colours a lot to recreate what I see in my mind when I’m shooting. There is certainly an image in my head, I am looking at a fairly bright street but the colours are maybe a mixture of orange tones with a splash of various other colours here and there. The scene in front of me looks good, but in my mind and from my experience, I understand instantly how I can transform the street in post.

4. What are your goals for the next year with your photography business?

I certainly want to continue working with some fantastic brands and really push my work further. I plan to do more with models and try to evolve my photography by blending it with videography. I’ve also recently started doing more studio work for cosmetic products and I’m having a lot of fun with that. But that really is just my main focus, to have fun with creating and try new things. Not everything works out and becomes a success, but it is never an issue, my passion is still sky-high and if I’m enjoying what I’m doing it never feels like working.

5. Can you walk us through your planning process for this photoshoot?

First of all, I check the weather for rain. I use weather radar websites to get a more accurate idea of how much rain will fall and where. Now that I have lived in South Korea for over 5 years, I have covered all of Seoul and know the best spots to go shooting. I put my favourite spots on rotation, and after arriving at my location just before sunset, I will spend the next 4-5 hours just walking around and shooting. Seoul is an ever-evolving city, and neighbourhoods can change in a blink of an eye, for good or worse, but it certainly means that locations will regularly change. Sometimes I have a specific goal or shot in mind, but for the most part I just keep my eye out for any striking moments, and I will instinctively react with my camera.

6. Are there any other photographers you look up to? Who?

I spend a lot of time with the great photographers of the past. I look for the stories in their work and how they are able to elevate street photography beyond just taking photos of the streets. I always strive to make my work about more than just the pretty neon colors – they are, of course, what may attract people to my work initially, but I wish for people to spend time with my work and see good street photography too. There are two people whose work struck me instantly. Vivian Meyer, and Robert Capa. Both are able to catch raw human emotion, tell stories, give a person’s whole life history in just a single frame. They both have incredible stories too, Meyer’s story is fascinating to me, how she worked as almost an undercover photographer, and as to how her work and story were discovered were uniquely interesting. Robert Capa was like a rockstar, and also an incredibly brave man who documented some of the most vital and important stories of war during the 1900s. I admire both of these two very much, and I adore their work.

7. What are your upcoming projects?

My new focus at this time is working with models and experimenting with mixing video and photography. I plan on pushing my boundaries and getting very experimental, with vibrant visuals that tell stories. I have already got a list of ideas down and plan to start shooting very soon.

8. Where can we see more of your works and get connected with you?

The best places to find me are on Instagram: @steveroe_ or you can head over to my website:
Photographer: @steveroe_

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