Fabiola Liacy De Felip, owner and founder of ByFab Photography Service, is a French-Italian photographer specializing in what she likes to call ‘humanist photography.’ She traverses the country, capturing everything from decrepit buildings on the outskirts of Shanghai to remote village tribes, not only connecting with those on the other side of the lens, but also helping to support an NGO charity project. With a strong passion for capturing true human emotion, Fabiola hopes to positively impact the world, raising more awareness for responsible travel.
Image courtesy of Lynda de la Marandais
How did you get into photography?
Since I was young, I always loved capturing candid moments. My dad owned a Canon camera, and I would borrow it and play around. Years later, I was always known by my friends as that annoying one who would take pictures everywhere, but in the end, everyone was excited to see what my eyes had captured.
I regularly perused travel magazines and photo books for inspiration (and as a form of escape), but I never knew then that I would become a photographer.
Then, 10 years ago I took a huge leap of faith. After working for the same multinational corporation in Italy for over 13 years I quit my job and moved to London. The real shift happened when I later moved to Hong Kong after studying Chinese for two years; my eyes and mind became more sensitive to my surroundings as I photographed the world around me, and the steps I needed to take to start my new career path became clearer. I felt I had things I needed to share through the way that I see them.
When did you move to the Chinese mainland and why?
I moved with my husband – who was relocated for a work assignment – in 2017 after living in Hong Kong for four years.
Why are you most specifically interested in portraits? Are people your favorite subject to photograph?
People ARE my favorite subject. I prefer the connection with a subject that comes before a photo is taken rather than one that comes after a “stolen” street scene snapshot. Of course, I still enjoy capturing a timeless expression, but understanding the emotion behind it that results from personal connection means even more to me.
How has COVID impacted your photography-related travel?
A lot, in both a positive and negative way. COVID gave me the opportunity to focus my efforts domestically and finally open my own photography company, ByFab Photography. On the flip side, I had to postpone a number of projects. But this also freed up time to work on others. For example, I was able to help Couleurs de Chine, a charity organization, focus on children’s education in Guangxi through a photography exhibition that we put together.
How would you describe your photography style?
I don’t really like putting an exact title to it because, as is the case with life, style can always evolve and change. Yet, I would consider myself a ‘humanist photographer,’ capturing the soul of a place or person.
Whose work has influenced you most?
I have always admired Annie Leibovitz’s work, along with Henry Cartier-Bresson and some Magnum street photographers, as well as Steve McCurry. More recently, I came across Rehahn’s Instagram account and felt like we have a similar way of seeing and interacting with people; I was so happy to finally meeting him last year in Vietnam after falling in love with his work. Lee Jeffries and his stunning and powerful portraits have also heavily impacted me.
Nikos Aliagas, a French journalist and TV host passionate about photography, captures incredible work by telling stories of his Greek ancestors by balancing light and shadows through black and white photography; this truly speaks to me.
I’ve also met numerous people in the last decade across the UK, the US, France, Asia and, of course, Shanghai that have inspired me to continue developing my work, helping to shape me into the photographer I am now.
What is your favorite aspect of photography?
Previously, I would have said the connection with people I impromptu meet and photograph is my favorite aspect of photography, which is still true. But, now I can also say that I live for the moments, a few weeks after taking photos of a particular subject, when I’m editing a photo I haven’t seen since the day I shot it, and I get to rediscover these faces on my computer screen. I crop them and adjust the lighting to make it just right so that it evokes that same feeling I got while pressing the button. There are times when I look at a portrait again and actually get quite emotional as I am brought back to that moment in time when the photo was captured.
Do you have any particular photography equipment you can’t live without?
My two favorite lenses I shoot with are a 50mm prime lens and a 24-105mm on a Canon RP camera.
What does photography mean to you?
An emotion captured, to remember and never forget. It is also about finding beauty even in the most simple things. “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” - Oscar Wilde
What is the most rewarding part of being a photographer for you? And what do you like least about it?
What I like least is the editing. Of course, I enjoy realizing a finished product, but when I edit, I choose not to follow the technical dos and don’ts. There will always be someone to tell you that this is not like it should be, but I choose to represent only what my eyes see. I follow my vision, my eyes and my heart rather than follow the technical rules.
What I love most is definitely interacting with people; I love when I can share connecting moments with them, whether it’s the time spent photographing them or, afterwards, sharing the photos with them, when possible.
Where do you hope your photography will take you in the next 5-10 years?
Even though I’ve been doing photography for years already, I know this is only the beginning of a beautiful journey for me.
I hope I will never lose my passion, and I hope I can continue to give love and convey emotion through my pictures. I hope I can share more through being published to a wider audience, and I hope to continue to capture the essence and soul (and not only the appearance) of people, places and objects, to tell stories from behind my lens.
I hope I can be the one that can bring joy to many homes and communities, and I hope I can capture and document the lives of people who are less fortunate, raising awareness through photography. I hope that my talent will serve a greater cause.
Finally, I hope my photography and travels will help others understand that everything in this world is connected; we are one and the same, despite cultural differences – we are all humans.
Where can people see more of your photography and follow your latest projects?
People can follow my Instagram @by_fab or visit my Facebook page ByFab Pictures. My personal website is www.byfab.pictures and my work WeChat ID is ByFab2021.
[All images provided by ByFab Photography]