This is part of an ongoing series profiling Instagrammers who have a unique take on Hong Kong’s urban landscape. Read the other stories here.
Moving to a new city is a transformative experience – especially for someone creative. That’s what photographer Victor Cheng discovered when he moved from his hometown of Toronto to Hong Kong in 2016. “My photography aesthetic completely changed,” he says. Before, it was more minimalist in approach. Suddenly it became what he describes as “organised chaos.” It was simply a reflection of his new environment: the densely-packed, colourful cityscape and always bustling streets led him to create images that were busier and more vibrant than he had done before.
It’s an evolution that has earned Cheng legions of followers on Instagram — 183,000 of them, to be precise — where he posts @veeceecheng. He has a keen eye for patterns and colours, like an aerial shot of a container ship that looks like a piece of graphic art floating in azure waters, or the blue and cream checkerboard pattern painted on the walls of the Fortress Hill escalator system.
But those followers are not just there for Cheng: they’re also there for his wife, Sam Wong, who features in many of Cheng’s photos. She’s a social media maven in her own right (her account, @samishome, has 167,000 followers) and she’s a big part of the reason why Cheng became a professional photographer in the first place.
They met soon after he moved to Hong Kong to work as the creative director of HBX, the e-commerce arm of local lifestyle platform Hypebeast. Wong was already working here as a stylist; a mutual friend arranged for them to meet and they hit it off. (“I now forever owe this mutual friend dinner,” says Cheng.) “Before I met Sam, I actually had no idea that photography could be done as a full-time career, but she showed me how – and eventually also persuaded me to leave my full-time job to do freelance full-time,” says Cheng.
In contrast with other photographers who adopted Instagram as a way to showcase the work they were already making, Cheng is an Instagram native. “I started taking photography more seriously when I first saved up enough money for the iPhone 5,” he says. “That was when I started exploring and using a lot of mobile editing photography apps and learned things like symmetry, rule of thirds and colour grading.” Even when he began freelancing, he didn’t have a separate camera – he had to borrow a friend’s Canon T2i for his first commercial gig.
His arsenal has since expanded to a whole collection of cameras, lenses and drones. They come in handy for corporate clients like Google, for which he turned his keen eye for architecture towards buildings in Hong Kong, Milan, Tokyo and Copenhagen to create photos for use as wallpaper images on Google’s Chrome operating system. “This project was memorable since it was my first time ever having creative direction [and] freedom to go anywhere in the world and capture architecture the way I wanted for a big brand,” says Cheng. Most recently, he and Wong travelled to Newfoundland, Canada, to photograph the island’s colourful wood houses in collaboration with Adobe Lightroom.
That was the couple’s first trip away from Hong Kong since the start of the pandemic. “We were travelling quite often, sometimes jumping from city to city two to three times a month,” says Cheng. “I think when the pandemic hit, it was more of a reset button to force ourselves to explore more of Hong Kong and to places within the city we’ve never been to.”
They made the most of their recent journey, visiting family in Toronto – as well as Hong Kong taxi enthusiast Al Wu, with whom they teamed up to sell taxi lamps through their online shop, The APT Studios. Then they hopped over to Japan for a holiday, documenting everything on Instagram – along with TikTok and YouTube. It’s a veritable social media empire, but don’t call Cheng an influencer: “I’m a photographer at heart.”