O livia Tsang has made a name for herself behind the lens thanks to her ability to capture a range of subjects from glamorous celebrities to handbags. Her favourite, however, continues to be jewellery.
“Jewellery to me is both art and fashion. It involves exceptional craftsmanship and an unimaginable amount of time to create each piece. For me, it is also a reflection of desire and fantasy, and a way for women to dream. This is why I love working with Sotheby’s because their jewels tell a story of heritage and history. It is not just about luxury, but also a collection of time and evolution,” she says.
There are two sides to this in-demand photographer. On this occasion, she is hard at work behind the lens shooting model and influencer Zelia Zhong for Sotheby’s latest campaign. Dressed in understated black with her hair pulled back into a chic ponytail, she works quickly to capture the perfect shot in every frame. On social media however you are faced with a different persona. Thanks to her impeccable personal style and statuesque looks, Tsang is having a moment in the spotlight as an influencer in her own right.
“I don’t really regard myself as an influencer – influencer. I think social media is a good marketing channel for the creative industry, and when I take part in any social media campaign it is always from a photographer’s point of view. I’m honoured because I get to share what I love to do,” she says.
Tsang’s transition from industry veteran to influencer did not happen overnight. The Hong Kong native studied in New Zealand before moving back to the city to pursue a career in magazines. She climbed up the ranks of several local media titles, mainly specialising in men’s wear while courting clients like Canto-pop singer and actor Andy Lau. She eventually branched into women’s styling and then photography, which is where she really found her true passion.
At the time female photographers were unheard of in Hong Kong, even though names like Annie Lebovitz and Ellen von Unwerth were celebrated in the West. As such Tsang looked to female photographers such as Cindy Sherman and Sally Mann for inspiration.
“I try not to define my own photography style. I feel like one’s style must evolve with time, and it can adopt to different moods and requests. In general, I think I try to be modern and youthful,” she says.
Before embarking on any shoot, Tsang begins with research. Inspiration can come from a multitude of sources. The outcome, though, always depends on the subject itself.
“I believe everyone has their unique quality – sometimes it’s great to develop and elaborate on that, or sometimes it’s fun to intentionally break away from that and explore something contrasting. In this shoot for example, I love Zelia’s energy and her smile. The way she interacts with the jewellery really brings the pieces to life. It was about positivity and new beginnings like spring – a revival of energy after a quiet winter. There were no static poses and more candid happy vibes,” she says.
Her work is also about breaking from conventions. For this shoot she wanted to remove the formality often associated with high jewellery, by mixing and matching exceptional pieces with everyday looks for a grounded yet glamorous look.
“I feel that more women are wearing high jewellery in a way that it’s no longer about making a statement but dressing down. Traditionally high jewellery was meant to be worn for special occasions and in the evening, but with the pandemic I think there is a more relaxed trend happening globally. The chemistry between casualwear and high jewellery is exciting – there are no rules. Today you can wear diamonds with a T-shirt, blazer and jeans.
“I think a good balance always helps when it comes to styling. If it is a statement piece I would match it with a very simple outfit, something with a more subtle texture and shape. One of my favourite summer looks is jeans and white tee or shirt paired with diamonds and stacked fine jewellery in gold,” she says.
Rather than follow trends, she prefers to collect timeless pieces that have “simple settings and designs that compliment a variety of stones in harmony.” Her most treasured piece in her own collection is her engagement ring.
“I almost feel buying jewellery is a destiny thing – you can’t go look for it, it’s fate that brings the owner and the piece together. Every time I buy a piece of jewellery, it’s usually to reward myself after a big project. That way it becomes a record of my life journey, and it represents different stages of my evolution as a woman,” she says.
She also believes that the beauty of a piece of jewellery doesn’t come from its intrinsic value but in the way one styles it.
“Whether a piece comes to life is up to the wearer’s mood and how they wear it. The wearer should translate that piece of jewellery to become an extension of themselves. I really think there are no rules to follow. Women need to be adventurous. If you feel good in something becomes part of you. Jewellery is that final magic touch to your look,” she says.