Bon Vivant Interview Series with Alex Ogle

Kicking off what will be a ongoing series of interviews  we have Alex Ogle. We are looking to chat with people that we think are doing their best to live their version of the good life, we want to get inside what makes them tick and what they perceive as being the best road for them to walk down. We are strong believers that there is no one way to live and the most important thing is to be doing what makes you happy with those that make you happy. 


Alex Ogle is a AFP photojournalist based in Hong Kong You can follow his work and his journey at Instagram and Twitter , he often uses the city of Hong Kong as his subject in his varied and compelling work. 

What drives you both professionally and personally?
Professionally probably desire to make great photos in a crazy place one day. Personally, I'm gonna go with Love.

Do you have a personal motto that guides you?
Don't be an idiot, is a good one but you can take that too far so I wouldn't advise that. How about, If you suspect anything, do everything. Also good to remember you can only ever run half way into the woods. Any further and you're running out of the woods.

Why did you choose HK to base yourself in and to establish your profession?
I moved to Hong Kong from Washington DC two years ago, where I'd been on the text side of the news agency AFP and was looking for a way to move to the photodesk and moved here with the aim of somehow changing roles (there were no jobs going on the DC photodesk), and was able to make that move eventually. Only took about 5 years.

Is location important to your personal and professional happiness? ie Could you do what you do how you do it somewhere else? Would you want to?
At some points I would definitely say location is very important, always good to be surrounded by good people who inspire you, but certainly in recent years at least professionally I'm more taken with the idea of being a photographer full time as opposed to being on a desk (where I am currently and edit a lot of photos) so would happy to move anywhere if that means being a photographer and getting out of the desk. 

What do you consider to be the key elements to a Bon Vivant?
Love of travel, making people laugh.

Can you give a rundown of your average work day and your favorite rest day?
On the days I'm on the desk I come to the AFP office in Hong Kong and edit a lot of a pictures for the photo wire. On the occasional days I'm out shooting, as opposed to the main Hong Kong AFP photographer who normally has that role, I'd be taking pictures to illustrate a specific news story or I'm more feature­type pictures around the city. On days off most likely will want to be out hiking in Hong Kong on the mountains in Lantau, or just wandering around the city taking pictures.

Favorite meal? and what location to eat it?
I had an amazing sandwich once sitting in the woods outside Dubrovnik in Croatia, and it was profound.

What one item do you have take with you wherever you go?
Only thing I've kept in my bag everyday (an Osprey backpack if wondering) for years and transfer to a new bag if happen to be carrying a different bag are these voodoo beads (this is what I was told, they're probably just regular beads) I got from this woman on a donkey when walking up to the Citadel in northern Haiti when was there backpacking for a fortnight in 2009 which is a mountaintop fortress looking over the whole area built around 200 years ago. There were no other tourists as you might expect for northern Haiti but it's incredible and recommend anyone visiting.

Carry on or checked luggage?
I like carrying cameras and lenses and a laptop as my carry on, so the rest of my stuff is checked, and find it tough to not have that other stuff.

What other mode of transport other than air do you most enjoy?
Big fan of overnight trains. Also walking.

Be prepared or make do?
Be prepared to make do, is probably best.

Who inspires you and how?
Along with great photographers I admire for how they take pictures, I'd say I'm inspired by certain friends and how they act and see how people react to them, definitely had moments of what would (this or that person) do to inform a decision, how to act in different situations.

What was your first job? How did it help mold where you are today?
Delivering newspapers, inspired me to deliver the news and want to work outdoors. Also when I was 16 or sometime round there I was on breakfast duty at a Hilton hotel next to a motorway junction in the UK, molded me to appreciate getting up early. But actually took me 15 more years later to appreciate getting up early. Also for years I worked at a Blockbuster video store and I remember thinking when the first few DVDs came and they were on a little shelf in the corner I remember thinking 'I doubt this will take off' so I suppose you could say I'm a visionary.

What are some of the thorny issues you find yourself dealing with whether ethical, emotional, practical?
There's always the issue photographers or at least photojournalists face of asking permission to take somebody's picture, whether it's ethical to sneak a photo of somebody just going about their day, somebody on the street, or somebody in distress, because of course asking for permission could change the whole picture ­­ it might be met with flat out rejection at worst, or maybe seem like a posed, set­up picture, which is probably not what you were trying to capture to begin with.

Different situations are of course totally different for this, such as in a disaster zone, in a destroyed urban area, in a hospital that has a lot of people experiencing a traumatic event, for example, is certainly different from snapping a picture of an old person walking down the street in a modern city.

What advice would you give to people out there thinking of starting their own business/pursuit of dreams?
Not sure about starting own business but for pursuit of dreams I'd say, take lots of photos everyday. But that's only if their dream was to get a job in photography, and even that wouldn't cut it. Or just journalism is amazingly tough to get a job in, if that's a dream you have, you'd need lots of luck I reckon. So my advice is be lucky.

What sets your teeth on edge?

When was the last time you laughed until you cried?
I think was last time my friend Steve was visiting Hong Kong from Beijing.

What's happening for Alex Ogle on this day in 2019?
On a small raft drifting out to sea with no hope of rescue, probably.