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Student Spotlight: Eugene Tang

Photography spurred by society and solitude.

By Photo Essay, SAIC

Photo by Sona Kim.

Eugene Tang is a first-year MFA Photography student.

Sona Kim: How did you get into photography? 

Eugene Tang: I majored in Sociology and Mass Communication for my undergraduate degree. I kept on studying Sociology for a while after I graduated, and I had to serve in the military which is mandatory in Taiwan. During my military service, I realized that I want to study journalism, and I still had interest in photography like my past days when I was a Senior in college and was in a film crew. So I got a job as a photographer, and worked for 4 years. However, I hit the point where I felt bored so I decided to study more about photography in SAIC, and now here I am.  

SK: Wow, that is so interesting! So, how do you feel about SAIC? Do you have any favorite moment you want to share?

ET: I think it was the Open Studio Night. You are able to visit everyone’s studio and see their works. Everyone is an artist here and you get to know them and also get a chance to collaborate with them. I always wondered what Fine Art is, since it was too abstract for me. I was looking for the definition, and through the open studio, I could understand more what and why I have been doing and who I am. I could think more deeply about what art truly is to me. I also always questioned myself: if I am a good enough artist. And watching other artists giving me feedback, I could get a sense of where I have to go. Everyone shares their ideas and works. It was pretty beautiful.

SK:  I remember that night too. It was a wonderful night. Looks like you spend a lot of time in your studio… What do you do when you are not here?

ET: Oh, I watch a lot of movies and I love exploring. Any kind of adventure. I am very adventurous. 

SK:  Do you have a favorite movie?

ET: “Blue Valentine” and “The Tree of Life”. 

I really like the director, Terrence Malick of “The Tree of Life,” and “Blue Valentine” for me is the classic romance and also a great tragedy. I love tragedy, it is very inspiring for me.

SK: Oh an inspiration for you! Then, which part of your body do you use the most when you create artwork?

ET: I am an observer. I use my eyes and ears the most. I watch and listen when I work. 

SK: That is so beautifully stated. I wonder what was your childhood dream? Were you an observer back then too?

ET: I was in Michigan when I was five years old. I spent most of my life in … Taiwan, so the green nature of Michigan was so inspiring and almost shocking for me. I got to see a lot of animals and I remember playing with them. It was a fun and peaceful memory of mine, so I hoped to play around like that forever. It would’ve been really cool if that dream came true. I am always working right now. 

SK:  Seems like you love the nature and peace. Have you found any place here like that so far?

ET: Oak Brook. It is a village not that far from here. My relatives live there, and I visited their house when I was little. I remember them bringing a real life Christmas tree; I have never seen a real one, which was so different from the plastic ones we usually have. Also, I cannot forget how big their house was. When I revisited them after a long time, it appeared to be just a regular size house with regular size trees. However, I still love the childhood memory, feeling the view of younger me. This memory is not going to be wiped away just because the reality is different. 

SK: Wow, what a wonderful story. Your childhood memory is a big inspiration for you. Last but not least, what is your life long goal? Or your bucket list?

ET: I want to live a very chill life beside the ocean, but I also want to live a life that you work really hard and go back to your apartment in the city which is very nice. But again, sometime I just want to get rid of everything and go to the peaceful nature.

SK: A big nature lover. Do you have anything you would like to say to the readers?

ET: I was always intrigued by the people and the society. Last semester, I documented a series with people who lost their homes, or described themselves as a ‘loner.’ They have their stories and they are living in a slightly different situation, but they could be your neighbors, friends, family… anyone. 

It was just a story from regular people around us, and it was still so profound and inspiring to me. If anyone has an interesting subject or story, any recommendation is always open! 

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