The photographer Melanie Tjoeng is one for literary quotes. She says photography, to her, is a way to tell stories about “human nature, social justice, and the eccentricities of modernity.”
So it’s not that surprising that she would include an epigraph to her show, Days Gone By, currently on view at the Manifest. It’s a Nabokov quote: “The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.”
“As human beings,” she writes in her artist statement, “we long for the connectivity to time immemorial, a way to languish in the memories we made, to relive or to be privy to private moments. Photography is a glimpse into the past, into a secret world where you become the voyeur. Whether it be for preservation or recollection or more so to create stories and important work, it all has a special place in the vault of time; a moment in the fading light.”
Tjoeng has lived in Mexico, Denmark, Australia, Papua New Guinea, and now calls Honolulu home, where she recently moved into the Chinatown artists lofts. “It’s definitely amazing being surrounded by creative people who are also my friends. I think it pushes me to shoot more and conjure up creative ideas.”
The photos in Days show a range of fashion, editorial, and documentary work—some of her clients include Contrast and Yen magazines, and Hypebeast, among others—but her approach to documentary photography permeates throughout.
“As a documentary photographer, you have to be very free and not interject and let the story evolve. I think that’s affected the way I shoot fashion,” she told the Offsetter. “[In fashion,] I like to see what a model has to say in the way that he or she moves. I don’t like to pose them too much, because then it won’t seem like it comes from them and who they are.”
Days Gone By is on view at the Manifest, 32 N. Hotel St., through the end of August.