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Photo Find Your Place with NY-based photographer Sophie Hur

Oct. 29, 2021
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Find Your Place is a series of conversations and photographs with artists in their homes, captured online. It examines the current intersection of the physical and digital, sharing perspectives across different cities. Each discussion explores the themes of identity, creativity, and how we find our sense of self.

Photographer Sophie Hur has built a visually delectable world around her. With rich tones and a playful connection to texture and film, she captures scenes with a vibrant and zestful style. Originally from Australia, Sophie moved to NYC when she was eighteen, pursuing her dream of becoming an actor. While studying there, she quickly fell in love with the world behind the camera, compelled by the empowerment she felt in controlling the narrative. Since then, she has brought her love of storytelling into her work, working with exciting brands and publications internationally. Speaking across different time zones, we discussed following your passion, moving to New York, and building confidence in yourself and your work.

Adolescent Content: How do you feel creating during COVID has changed your creative practice?

Sophie Hur: I went freelance for the first time! I finished my internship with Refinery29 in January 2020. If COVID hadn’t hit, I think I would have looked for more part-time jobs. It’s good in a way because I’m happy with the progression I’ve made in freelance. [My work] also changed because so many things are remote now and I’ve tried to take more time with my edits and collaging—things I can actually play with and are tangible.

Adolescent: At eighteen, you moved from Brisbane to New York to pursue acting. What inspired you to take that leap?

Sophie: I’ve always been super intrigued by New York. I wrote a bucket list when I was twelve and the top two things were to do acting and live in New York City. I wrote temporarily, as I always wanted to come home to Australia and I always thought that [living there] would happen later in life. When my best friend got into acting school in New York, I immediately was like I want to do that. I auditioned and got in and ended up here with her. I’m super fortunate that I had the opportunity to be here.

Adolescent: What advice would you give other creatives when it comes to following their passion?

Sophie: I don’t even know if I’m in the position to give advice because I’m so young in the game, but I think if anything, the most important thing that I’ve learned is to have confidence in my work and vision. To accept the fact that if I don’t get the [job] that it was built for somebody else and they had the opportunity to execute it as best as the project needed. That’s what I keep reminding myself—to not get stressed. To know that if you have confidence and you’re putting all of it into your vision, then your energy is going to radiate and attract the people, the brands and the companies that you want.

Adolescent: What made you venture into photography instead of acting?

Sophie: In my second year of acting, I had a lot of anxiety. I was going through a lot of emotions that I’d never felt before. I didn’t really have time to focus on acting, which was what I should have been doing, because I was so involved in trying to get through my own anxieties, which was actually more important. In that year, I also became interested in my film camera. I enjoyed having more control over the image, rather than necessarily being in it. I came out the other end feeling super great about my own accomplishments. I still love acting and want to pursue it but, in that moment, I found more power in having control over what I wanted to see. I was so influenced by other photographers and I was meeting so many people in that world, which was amazing. Compared to the world in my acting school, where I wasn’t really meshing too well with the environment, I felt more connected to [photography].

Eventually, film is what I really want to do next and link up that experience with acting. I’ve acted since I was nine years old—that was the pipe dream. [When] I found more interest in photography, I knew I had to follow it.

Adolescent: I remember reading a post you wrote on your Instagram discussing identity and how it’s taken you about 22 years to acknowledge your Korean heritage. What do you feel has changed about the relationship to your heritage now, from when you were younger?

Sophie: I went to a primary school where I was the only Asian person in my friend group. I think when you’re growing up and you’re young, you’re trying to fit in and be everyone else—you don’t want to be out of place. As a kid, and as many people experience, it felt like something to be embarrassed of. I never remember not wanting to be half-Asian, but I also never really took the time to learn about my dad’s upbringing.

I’d like to think that I’ve matured past that now, especially in a city like New York where everyone just embraces who they are to the max. It’s so incredibly diverse and inspiring to see people owning who they are. Now I’m a lot more interested in my dad’s heritage and also the perspective of an Asian woman as well. It’s interesting because with acting, there were never really any Asian people as the main character.

Adolescent: That’s so true. I’m part Chinese and it has an influential, generational effect; the rare presence of an Asian character on TV is usually portrayed as submissive, the funny side joke, or overtly sexualized. They’re rarely formed characters.

Sophie: Exactly! It’s so weird. I think that’s why part of me wants to do more film. To not only work in writing and directing shorts, but to also be in them. I would love to direct and play the character. I’m [questioning] if I write something that’s about me being half-Asian and going through that experience or if I write it just about a person growing up in New York. Why does it have to be about that experience? Whenever there’s an Asian person on screen, it’s like, “why don’t we make it about how she’s struggling to find her identity?”

I think now, in my life, I would like to be able to create work that has a lot more Asian people on set and working with more Asian creatives. If I go on to work in film, I should be using my own experience within those narratives as well. I’m more motivated these days to really use that, I really want to be a photographer that also gives a voice to Asian artists.

At the end of the day, I love who I am and I love what I get the opportunity to put out in the world. I don’t want to take that for granted.

Adolescent: Do you have any exciting ideas that you are working on at the moment?

Sophie: I really want to make a book—to slowly piece together a visual diary, a really intimate experience. I am also working on a documentary project.

You can find Sophie Hur on Instagram.

This interview has been edited and shortened for clarity.