Photography: Paul Jung
October 19 2014
Paul Jung is consistency personified. His singular polished style spreads across his fashion photography, music video direction, and even his daily routine. Taking a spin through his work, it’s hard to miss. Sharp lines, minimalist textures, bold colors—Jung applies this kind of practiced and perfected nature to his everyday life.
Based in New York, Jung arrived there by way of two different continents. His varied youth and globetrotting studies gave him a noticeably observant attitude that came through in our interview. Now, everything serves as a potential influence, and Jung is keen on it all.
Tell us about your early life.
I was born by the seaside in Taiwan, and grew up in Australia. I did my studies in Italy and lived in China and Thailand over the last ten years. I wouldn’t really say I’m typically Taiwanese or Australian!
Generally though, [my early life] was filled with long periods of quietness and wonder, being the only child.
How were you first exposed to photography?
I actually wasn’t very interested in photography specifically until I was much older. I hated it actually, as it was something that we always did as a family—taking photos of each other on trips. I found the whole experience to be staged and awful. Though I did like to observe.
I took photography in high school, though wasn’t particularly fond of the whole process of film photography. The slowness wasn’t particularly interesting for me. It wasn’t until digital photography came to be norm that I actually accelerated my learning through the quick trial and error methods that it offers.
What do you appreciate most about what you do?
I worked for short period as an art director, [and] the intense computer work exhausted me. The thing I appreciate most now is the need of doing a good amount of work off the computer, interacting with different people, and working in different environments.
How has your work changed in recent years? Have there been any bumps along the way?
The work is always evolving, though there’s always a core that I am working towards. It’s the daily learning and growing that really adds up. Living in different cities has really allowed me to learn things from different people, cultures, languages and ideas.
What’s the perfect portrait?
I actually have very little interest in portrait work. The connections between people, and how certain emotions and feelings are invoked through certain situations, gestures, and memories—those are what interest me.
The more anonymous the image is, the more powerful it is, as it can convey to more people and more situations. The translation to your own personal world from a suggestion is very powerful. Perhaps this is why perfume or music is so powerful.
What’s a typical day like?
I try to start early, as long as I get my 8 hours of sleep—waking up anywhere between 6 and 8. I always start the day with calisthenics and stretching, before having a large Paleo breakfast smoothie. After, I meditate before commencing work.
Morning is preferably spent on research or writing a screenplay. If I can get anything out on paper, I focus on studying something new. Right now it’s French and philosophy.
Lunch I cook something simple followed by a nap and meditation. I wake myself up with emails, and any other production-related work. Around this time I also do my daily and weekly planning together.
Evenings I go for a stroll before dinner. After dinner, if I have some energy left, I would work on current projects. Otherwise I would prepare for sleep.
If it’s a shoot day, after my exercises it’s straight to the studio until we wrap.
Speaking of your workday, do you have anything you’re especially excited to be working on?
The conversations and ongoing work between [German fashion designer] Melitta Baumeister and I is very exciting, as we really discuss what the core values are that we believe in with each other’s work. The directorial projects are also the most exciting, as the new dimensions and possibilities are just endless.
Do you find that any music or particular films influence you and your work?
Music definitely influences me, though lately I listen to less and less music, as I like to listen to it with full concentration. During my work I prefer to have silence.
There are some musicians that really help to put my work in the right frame of mind, such as Alva Noto, or Schubert.
I love film, though these days I’m not sure if I can truly say that I go enjoy the cinema purely from a leisure point of view. [Instead] it has become a part of my research, reflection and analysis for my own work. Although I do enjoy some cheesy blockbusters when I get a chance. These are actually enjoyable—like having a cheeseburger with a Coke.
This interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.