Andrew Loiterton: an architect turned photographer

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A lot of people are charmed by the vibrancy of Hong Kong, a densely-populated global city that never sleeps.From he energetic people, flow of ideas and limitless opportunities - Hong Kong is a city that can make things happen.

Andrew Loiterton is one of the Aussies attracted to the city’s dynamic and fast-paced nature. He chose Hong Kong as his adopted city some twenty years ago – an off-the-cuff decision he made when he received a job offer after visiting Hong Kong as a tourist in 1993.

Originally from Sydney, Andrew used to be an architect by profession but he has always been passionate about photography. His first visit to Hong Kong intrigued him and  work to Hong Kong, which subsequently allowed him to pursue his passion as a photographer.

In 2000, Andrew set up  AJL Photography Limited  - photo shooting for individuals and corporates across an array of industries including finance, aviation, hotels and hospitality.

Andrew shared his story with Advance.

Interview by Tammy Lee, Marketing & Communications Officer, Advance

What drove your decision to relocate to Hong Kong?

My brother had relocated here and honestly I didn't have any plans to move until I came up to visit him.  I had an instant attraction to Hong Kong’s diversity, pace and at the time in 1993, the excitement and uncertainty as to the 1997 handover.  It was so unlike Sydney at the time, and had an amazing energy and can-do attitude.  The story, so familiar back then, was that I met a guy out one night, he asked me what I did and asked me to come in for an interview the following day!  A few weeks after returning to Australia I received a letter in the mail offering me a job!

What were some of the challenges you faced during the start of your photography studio? How did you overcome them?

I arrived in Hong Kong after completing my studies as an Architect in Australia and my first job was with Sir Norman Foster and Partners working as a junior architect for the new Hong Kong International Airport project.  After a few years here and working for a few other design firms I figured if I wanted to pursue my real passion as a photographer, Hong Kong would be a great place to do it.  At the time the industry was in its infancy and there was a lot of opportunity both here and in rapidly-developing China.  I focused on architectural and hotel photography at first as I had developed contacts in those areas but I quickly moved in to advertising, portraiture and fashion work.  The main challenge was financial and taking that leap of faith to leave a well-paying, secure job in a very expensive city, for the unknown.  I was fortunate at the time to have a very supportive girlfriend (and now wife!) who encouraged me and was willing to a leap of faith with me during the initial period of my new career.

So there was some downsizing and realignment financially at the start but the business took off fairly quickly.  

Why do you love photography?

Photography gives me freedom and got me out of the 9-5 office environment which I was too restless to stick with.  It’s left/right brain type of work which stimulates both the creative and the practical at the same time which I guess is a bit like architecture and it just suits me.  I really enjoyed being my own boss and I really flourished under the pressure to support myself.  I also like the relatively quick creativity of the process, compared to architecture where you could work for years on the same project. Everyday for me is different. One day  I am shooting an advertising campaign for a major brand and dealing with 20 plus people on set in studio, the next day I could be shooting a great building on my own and waiting for the light to be just right.

How important is photography in storytelling and brand building?

I believe it's essential!  Brands prosper or fail based on the story they tell and photography often becomes, when executed properly, the identity driver.   A great, well crafted photograph can tell a story and will often either consciously or unconsciously, evoke an emotional response….unlike a painting hanging in a gallery (or a photograph for that matter) where the viewer has time to look and study the work, commercial photography has to do this instantaneously.  When working as a commercial photographer my aim is to satisfy the requirements of a client and a particular brand. In the end if you can cause the viewer to stop and look and think or when someone sees a photo and instantly knows the brand, then you’ve done your job.

What's the hardest thing to photograph?

My kids!  

What do you miss most about Australia?

Australia for me is still home.  Even after being in Hong Kong for 25 years, I still feel the pull of the place and hence we return at least once a year and will no doubt return for good one day.  I miss the quality of light, the big skies, the fresh air, the open spaces, the clean beaches and of course my extended family, most of who still live down there.  I also really want to spend some time taking some photographs down there…and one day will take an extended road trip and revisit all those places I spent in my youth and often think about…this time with a camera.