There’s one or two secret locations I have in London, where I often go to avoid anything and anyone related to the internet and all its 24/7 soul-draining buzz. One of my favourite places to go is this cafe by the canal, where quite poetically, all you can hear is the sound of water, screaming children and some random elevator music (of which I’m told is called the ‘cafe music’ playlist), all of which serenely surrounds this beautiful naturally lit & humble venue. I’ve taken quite a few people there, who on each occasion seem to revel in the quaint nature of the environment, startled by its existence in the hectic hell-hole haven that is London. Its intimacy only felt right to introduce Lydia Pang to, who’s job and lifestyle is ridden with franticness, fuelled by her recent move from London to New York.
Lydia Pang, or LYDIA PANG in her own preferred capitals, is a particularly memorable individual. Aside from having this air of intelligence & intrigue about her, her style is rather distinguishable for someone who usually wears black. Her “aesthetic”, as she would put it, is complemented by matching black lipstick and thick shaped eyebrows, heralding from a mix of self-assurance and old Emo days. Her confidence and honesty would amalgamate into something a little intimidating, were it not for her friendly demeanour and genuine interest in other people. And to be quite frank, she seems like she knows her shit.
I first met Lydia over a year ago when magazine Style Noir wondered if I’d take a few photos of her for her London Fashion Week guest edit. Back then she was working for advertising agency M&C Saatchi as Head of Visual Content, labelling herself as “the token weird one”. The “token weird one” is responsible for probably a dozen ads you’ve seen while mulling around London, including those clever Transport for London posters which involve turning long things into tube lines, or the frightening “be cabwise” campaign. Now, Lydia lives in New York working as Visual Content and Communications Director for Anomaly NY. From what I hear from our regular conversations, if she’s not nurturing and honing the talent of various creative individuals, she’s going to some intriguing surreal venue, or meeting some hotshot arty photographer to discuss said intriguing surreal venue. Her natural affinity for the arts stems from creative parents, who’s bestowed inspiration has combined with Lydia’s own thirst for knowledge on up-to-date affairs, creating a broad-minded “young creative”.
The transcript of our interview drones on for over 5000 words, but with my best efforts of persevering through fuelled by an overdose on cold & flu meds, I have highlighted the very best of what Lydia Pang has to say.
08/08/2015 – by the canal
So, you’re 26, you’re moving to New York...
That makes me feel really old. Yes, I’ve worked in advertising for the past 5 years and I kind of got into this place where I liked my job and I knew I did well for my age, but I felt like there was this weird roof where I was bored. I didn’t want to get married, I didn’t want to buy a house, I didn’t want to have kids – so I’ll just move somewhere. I decided on New York because I wanted to be somewhere that was bigger than London and New York sounds really scary. I like the idea of being scared, but I don’t really get scared here [in London].
The company I’ve moved to now, everyone’s a bit strange, so it feels like I get to do more fun work.
In this digital world where people are censoring what they say because of how careful they are about portrayal, you come across as very honest.
I think it comes from my family. My mum and dad have quite a presence when they enter the room – you notice them. It’s quite Chinese isn’t it – cut the shit and get to the point. Back then, I applied for a job that was way above my station. I couldn’t like profess experience but I could at least be really honest. At the very least, if your opinions are based on something people can’t fault then well... it’s a lot easier. Go with it or don’t, I don’t really care – hah! I couldn’t exactly say I had 10 years worth of experience.
Everyone seems to be putting an emphasis on “young creatives”.
I think it’s difficult. It’s started to become that if you’re a “young creative” you have the key to this digital room, and that these incredible older creatives who understand the core of an idea but don’t understand the terrain we live in – which isn’t true. It should just be the individual. Sure, being young in a current scene you know lots of cool shit and you know how to stay cool, but you just get cooler as you get older. My mum and dad are getting cooler as they get older – they know so much stuff. I feel like it’s the fashion at the moment for agencies to hire young creatives to make it look like they’re filling them with fun people, and when a brief comes in they’re like “oh we want this interactive installation where x tweets and y happens”, but it’s exactly the same as it was 50 years ago – you just need a good idea and a technologist or a developer will visualise and realise it.
There’s so much easily accessible information and we’re meant to learn all these random things. How important do you think it is for people to know household names? Stylists, art directors, photographers, artists…
In my job knowledge is everything because a massive part of what I do is finding those artists and commissioning them. I’m rubbish with names, but if you showed me an image or flick through a magazine I’d be able to tell you who shot everything. I live online, but I have all these little black books filled with all my photographers and artists. If I didn’t know my stuff I’d be screwed, because that’s the whole point of my job. Say a client says “we want something to feel a little Dada-esque” I need to know exactly what they mean straight away, so I find myself writing down words obsessively and soaking them all in when I get back to my desk.
I saw this interview you did and really liked the part where you said “people think there are too many images, but I think it’s a good thing”.
Yeah, I do. I think people get scared of excess. I used to work with an art buyer who believed you’d get infected by all these influences when you look online, but I think everyone should look at as many things as physically possible because then you know yourself and you’ll make choices. You’ll find out what you need and you’ll know who you are and it’s easy then. If you’re a photographer or an artist or an illustrator or whatever, you need to know exactly who you are before you go out there because there’re loads of people out there. Otherwise you’re fucked.
Lydia Pang left for New York the following week after this interview, and resides there as Visual Content and Commissions Director at ANOMALY. She currently looks after artist & photographer Maisie Cousins in her time between London and New York.