Fion Koh

Photographer and designer

Instagram: @feeyonn and @fionkoh__

Fion Koh is a photographer and designer. She was a born and raised Chinese Malaysian. She went to college in Melbourne, Australia, and now working in a creative agency in Manhattan. Her photographic work focuses on dreamy fine art, fashion, and editorial. She uses light, colour and raw moments as her primary sources of creative inspiration. HUF Magazine interviewed with Fion to find out more about her.

You studied in Australia and graduated from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) university Melbourne in Communication Design. Why did you choose to study in Australia? And would you recommend the course to others?

Australia was my first choice when I was looking for a college abroad because my sister was living in Melbourne, so it made sense to the family that I move there to stay with her. Australia is also geographically closer to Asia compared to other English-speaking nations. I love the easy lifestyle, cultural diversity, and a supportive art community in Melbourne. I would totally recommend it to anyone who’s interested in studying abroad. I’ve grown so much as a person while studying the course at RMIT. Not only have I learned technical skills that have prepared me for the industry, but the mindset that challenges creative boundaries and motivates me to do designs for good causes. As a designer, I have the social responsibility to help spread meaningful ideas that can improve the world.

You are now based in New York. That’s the other side of the world from Australia. Why New York? And what is it like working and living there?

After my graduation in Australia, I wanted to continue to evolve and recreate myself. I’d been living in Melbourne for four years, and I was really wondering what else was out there in the world. Moving to the United States without knowing anyone was truly terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. I remember watching my parents call some distant relatives who lived on the West Coast to make sure that I had a backup plan. Things were rough at first, but the challenge allowed for tremendous growth and learning in a short period of time. It really forced me to grow up. I’ve met so many artists from different parts of the world in New York, and we all moved here to achieve something bigger than ourselves. I’m happy to call New York home.

You are currently working as a designer at ReflexGroup, New York. Can you tell us what your job involves?

My job varies every day depending on clients’ needs. I’m mainly involved in developing marketing and branding strategies and incorporating them into my visual designs. I also observe trends in online platforms and curate social media content to increase brand awareness and expansion into the market. I’ve worked mostly with luxury skincare brands like YSL, Origins, Innisfree, and VDL.

Comparing Malaysia, Australia, and New York. Which country do you find most inspiring and why? And do you sometimes find yourself bringing a little bit of culture from each country into your creative work?

Growing up, I dreamt of living the nomadic lifestyle. I love adventures and immersing myself in different cultures. The culture in each country always stays with me, no matter where I am. I’m happy that I can have the best of both East and West. There’s no doubt that New York is where my heart belongs. I definitely romanticise living in New York, and I get so inspired just by strolling in Brooklyn.

You are also a photographer. Why do you take photos? What is it about photography that you like the most? What are you trying to express through your images?

I never liked feeling tied down to a job. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy going to a creative agency and working with my co-workers, but I wanted a space where I have the freedom to create something just for myself. There are so many reasons why I love photography: planning the art direction, choosing the location, and experimenting with lighting. But one of my favourite aspects of photography is interacting with the people. I think people, emotions, and moments are magic in photography. My work explores the intimacy and connection with another human through light, colour, and emotion. I find joy in capturing the personality and honest emotion when people are not aware of the camera.

Which image are you best known for?

I’ve worked with an influencer, for her collaboration with Dior. For this project, I’ve directed a short film and taken a series of fashion editorial photos featuring the Dior collection. It was my first video project besides taking photos. The project received great exposure and an overwhelming response, which I am really grateful for.

What has been your best experience as a photographer so far?

A photographer should always put a little bit of himself into his work. The best experience is when I lose myself when taking photos in the perfect moment. The moments I share with my models are the moments I hold dear to my heart. Building an emotional connection with strangers in a short amount of time is intimidating but precious. We need to allow ourselves to be open and trust each other in the process.

If you could change one thing about the modern-day creative community, what would you change and how?

The pressure to continually create high-quality content for social media is real. I know many artists who feel overwhelmed by not posting an image for a few days, or not having a right shot to share. It’s getting to a point where people are creating merely to create. I personally take a few days off Instagram and just try to connect with what I love and life in general. I also avoid aimlessly scrolling on social media and constantly remind myself that the time I spend keeping up with everyone can actually be spent producing the work I love. Hopefully, we can all learn to step back and dream up creative ideas without Instagram’s influence.

What do you want to achieve in your career and life?

For both my career and my life, I hope the choices I make are for the better. I believe we have to be the change we want to see in this world.

If you are to move again, where would your next destination be, and why?

Probably in Europe, I’ve always wanted to visit Paris. I’ve heard that life in France doesn’t revolve around work, money, or having fancy things. The French lifestyle is all about savouring the small moments, choosing quality over quantity, and turning the everyday routine into something pleasurable. The idea is very intriguing to me, and I would love to find out more.