Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Dior and Chanel are just some of the big names on Margaret Zhang’s client list. The Sydney native, who has photographed supermodels such as Karlie Kloss, is fast becoming Australia’s go-to fashion photographer.
Karlie Kloss, photographed by Margaret Zhang. Credit: Margaret Zhang
Face of a changing industry
Earlier this year, Zhang featured on the cover of Elle Australia. This image was shot entirely on an iPhone, by photographer Georges Antoni. Credit: Georges Antoni/ELLE Magazine
“I started my career in reverse to most other photographers — I was able to work on commercial projects early on before then pursuing more personal editorial.”
24-year-old photographer Margaret Zhang is one of Australia’s most celebrated photographers. Credit: Margaret Zhang
“There will always be something beautiful about traditional cameras, but the fashion industry is embracing new technologies,” she said. “I don’t think phone photography will ever take over, but there are new apps and new technologies that are forcing camera companies to innovate too.”
Jessica Gomes, photographed by Margaret Zhang. Credit: Margaret Zhang
“These two strands can peacefully co-exist because they serve very different purposes,” she added. “You’ll often see different types of photography on my Instagram, for example, than what you’ll see on my website.”
An age of influence
Despite her prominent online presence, social media is a topic Zhang approaches with a certain trepidation.
“This industry makes us feel like if we clock out for just one second, we’re going to miss out on something. But the reality is (that) our generation is actually missing out on so much because we’re trained to document everything,” she said.
“I can’t say I’ve perfected this balance myself, but I’ll go quiet at times because some things are better kept quiet. It’s important to take a few weeks to disconnect.”
A still from “There’s No Space Left in C# Minor,” Zhang’s directorial debut film. Credit: Margaret Zhang
“Your influence does not always go hand in hand with commercial gain,” she said. “It’s not my career to be an ‘Instagrammer’ — those are just platforms I use to share my work with my audience.
“I’ve worked hard to build what these visuals mean to me and I can’t break all of that just for a check.”
A global outlook
An image from Zhang’s book, “In the Youth of Our Fury: A Volume of Photo Essays.” Credit: Margaret Zhang
Her approach reflects, or perhaps anticipates, changes in the fashion industry, with markets like Shanghai, challenging the dominance of old epicenters like London and Paris.
“There will always be something special about those cities, but the barriers to entering the fashion industry are (lower) than they were in the past,” she said. “We should keep our eyes on spaces with concentrated youth and creativity — in another few years, cities in China, like Chengdu, could become huge cultural centers.”
Ties to China
With both of her parents hailing from China, Zhang also feels a personal connection to the country.
“Children of immigrants are an interesting group of people because you can feel like you’re in a no man’s land — you carry your family’s ethnic values,” she said. “But also identify with the place that you were raised.”
“It’s not my career to be an ‘Instagrammer’ — those are just platforms I use to share my work with my audience,” says Zhang, who has almost 1 million followers on Instagram. Credit: Courtesy Margaret Zhang
“Any racism I’ve experienced has been born of ignorance rather than hatred,” she explained. “The fashion industry is quite advanced in regards to diversity, so it would be insensitive to discredit the movements made by the champions in this industry.
“But there are many shortcomings, and I think 2017 has been an indicator that we are not as progressed as we thought we were.”