Featured Artist: Eric K.T. Lau Gets Creative with NBCUniversal

Jul 27, 2018 10:31PM

AD ART SHOW 2018 winning artist Eric K.T. Lau tells us about his professional creative work, his photography, and his day of creative immersion at NBCUniversal.

You have multiple roles within the art field - Director of Visual Intelligence at Sparks & Honey; adjunct professor at Parsons, FIT, & Miami Ad School; street photographer. How do these various careers inform each other?  

Yes, I think these roles definitely inform one another. I first got hooked on photography when I was interning at JWT Hong Kong. I was absolutely blown away when I was working on a studio shoot for a Sony ad. The photographer used all kinds of equipment to create this beautiful visual, I wanted to be able to do that. I went back to NYC in the fall and started some studio photography classes on the side of my communication design major, but after a year or so I lost interest so I stopped doing it.

It wasn't until later when my colleague invited me to explore the streets of Brooklyn together that I started to fall in love with the spontaneous excitement of street photography. You never know what you are going to get, which is the fun part. When you work for a client in advertising, there are always a lot of concerns and considerations about a project: concept, budget, client, branding tone and voices. While it can be fun to see my work in places like Times Square, I sense that deep inside I was longing for more creative freedom. Street photography enabled me to explore myself and what represents me, and the understanding I get from that informs my career decisions.

As far as teaching goes, I can only say that I learn more from that experience than I can ever teach. It is interesting to see how a student’s work and career aspirations shift over time, and to learn what is trending at the moment in their world. Teaching has also given me a platform to practice my communications and presentations skills, which helps when I present my street photography  and my artistic journey in New York, Hong Kong and Taipei.

Do you think your street photography gives you an edge in art content creation?

I’d like to think so. Doing something creative outside of your creative career is very important. You need to engage yourself creatively in a non-work environment. This is also one piece of advice that I give to all of my students. If every engagement with creativity is work-related, I don’t think one can go very far as your mind would associate being creative with work, and that’s not how the best work gets done. For me, developing and exploring my photography has helped me to grow artistically. I find more ways to unleash my creative energy with less constraints and spend time with the visual and the creative outside of a work situation, and I believe that extra time, effort and point of view makes the work better.

Tell us about Hustle, your winning AD ART SHOW piece.

I was on my way home after work, on the 6 train. Two teenagers were rushing onto the subway as the doors are closing, a classic NYC scene that we see everyday. What’s interesting is that one of them got in and the other was left on the platform. So the teenager who got in was pointing and laughing at his friend who failed to make it. (You can see a pointing finger at the bottom right) The teenager who was left on the platform was holding onto the door and trying to get the operator to open them again. I was at the right moment at the right time and captured this on my cellphone camera.

Hustle by Eric K.T. Lau

Do you see yourself in your subjects ever?

Yes, I think Hustle represent a kind of work ethic, this on-the-edge, NYC attitude. Is holding onto the train door the right thing to do? Not really. It is the idea of trying to make it happen, the idea of giving it a go, hustling, and seizing the opportunity, and I am all about that.

About 6 or 7 years ago I switched from photographing exotic locations while traveling to photographing everyday scenes like my neigborhood and my commute to work. The shift has enabled me to revisit to my subject everyday and develop deeper work. I don’t believe the best work will come out from spending a week or two at a certain location. Although you do get the initial excitement of visiting a new place but your understanding isn’t in-depth. I ride the train everyday and that gives me around an hour to work with my subject, and I think the body of work that I am able to develop tells a deeper story, and one that is a better reflection of my daily life.

Tell us about your creative immersion experience at NBCUniversal.

It was an amazing experience! We started with a beautiful lunch at the Oceania with Steven and Roye from NBCU and Maria from MvVO ART. After that I spent the afternoon in their creative agency and I talked to various members of their creative team to further my understanding of their creative process and get a behind-the-scenes look at what is behind such a creative power house. After that, I brainstormed side-by-side with the creative team and contributed a few ideas. Steven and Roye are very patient and generous with their time. It is really once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Eric with the team from NBCUniversal