1Can you introduce yourself and talk about how you got into photography?
Hello, I'm Ines Leong, an architectural photographer based in New York City. My beginning to photography was a complete fluke. I had to take an elective course for my college degree in Computer Science before entering a 4-year university.
The music class I wanted to take was cancelled and Photography 101 was the only class available that summer. I enrolled and liked it so much that I delayed my admittance that fall and switched my major completely by winter that year.
2Where did you study photography?
I studied photography at the Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, CA.
3Do you remember your first shot? What was it?
I don’t remember my first shot but I remember I have roll after roll of film of this building in San Francisco which no longer exists. The mixed-use building, its mural of a One-Way sign that says “Sky,” and its context fascinated me.
4What equipment do you use?
I use various selections of tilt-shift lenses from Canon. I don’t usually light an interior space, but I have a set of Profoto B10s on standby just in case I need to fill in some light.
5What compliment inspired/touched you the most?
Seeing images I took having a life of their own and being seen is the best compliment.
6What inspires your unique storytelling?
Getting to know the project process and all the effort involved motivates me to ensure my photo rings true to the intent of the design.
7What THREE (3) words describe your photography style?
It’s more of a phase but consists of three words: Best Case Scenario.
8Congratulations! As the winner of the MUSE Photography Awards, what does it mean for you and your team to receive this distinction?
We are overwhelmed with joy at the recognition of all the intensive work of pre-planning, schlepping all the gear, and waiting patiently for the right moment to take the photo. Sometimes a photo can look effortless, and people often think you show up and press the shutter. But in reality, there is a lot more to it than expensive professional gear.
9Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2023 MUSE Photography Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?
This project was, by far, one of the most memorable processes. Extensive pre-planning was involved due to the location and limited information given. A lot of gut-wrenching moments were part of the documentation: bad weather, lights not being turned on, the hours of operations, etc. Nonetheless, we did our best, anticipated the possible outcomes, and had contingency plans.
10How has winning an award developed your career?
While the recognization is the icing on the cake, I hope I will continue to create great imagery.
11Name 1-3 photographers who have inspired you.
Ho Fan and Berenice Abbott.
12What was the best piece of advice you were given starting out, by a mentor or your role model?
It’s an iteration process.
13What advice would you give someone who would like to become a photographer today?
Keep at it like practicing the scale on any musical instrument.
14What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?
It’s an endurance race.
15How do you stay in that space of being receptive to new information and knowledge?
Be curious about everything and be open to learning new things. Even if sometimes the new thing has nothing to do with what you’re doing.