REVIEW – Photographs by Kenny Ong

by Patrick James Errington

Featured Photographer: Kenny Ong

Photo by Kenny Ong

Courtesy of Kenny Ong

Photography often implies a removal from the subject. Almost illogically, the artist must be distant, separate from the subject he or she is capturing. Many photographers have used this to their advantage, making a statement about the distance between art and audience. But Kenny Ong is working in the opposite direction: he brings us closer to his subjects.

Photo by Kenny Ong

Courtesy of Kenny Ong

Photo by Kenny Ong

Courtesy of Kenny Ong

For me, that is what is most striking about the work of Kenny Ong, Catch & Release’s featured photographer. His shots display an empathy that pushes the constraints of the medium.

It was a long time before photography was viewed as a true form of art—the idea of instantly capturing reality seems to leave little room for an artist. But work like Ong’s clearly shows its creativity and artistry, not just in the images that are chosen, but in the way they are portrayed. There is a sense of motion here, or breathtaking stillness and quiet. With the sensibility of an impressionist, Ong encloses the feeling of being there in the lens of his camera.

Photo by Kenny Ong

Courtesy of Kenny Ong

This is also where Ong’s work as a writer becomes apparent. As a nonfiction student in Columbia University’s MFA writing program, he knows how to work with reality, to turn reality into art. With his photographs, he brings his audience inside, making us active participants. In reading, participation is most often creating the images described; in looking at Ong’s photographs, we are encouraged to imagine a story.

Photo by Kenny Ong

Courtesy of Kenny Ong


Kenny Ong is a second-year nonfiction MFA student at Columbia University who has studied, worked, and screwed around as a photographer over a span of six years​. See more of his work at flickr.com/kennyong. Prints available upon request.

Patrick James Errington is a Canadian-born writer, editor, and translator. He holds a degree in literature and writing at the University of Alberta, where he studied with Nobel laureate Derek Walcott. He worked as an editor and translator for two years in both Paris and Edinburgh before moving to New York for Columbia University’s MFA in creative writing and translation. Patrick is the 2014-2015 editor of Catch & Release.

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