You won’t see architectural graduate James Ting in his Instagram feed – just perfectly arranged objects orbiting a central cup of coffee.
You can lose a lot of time staring into the minutiae of James Ting’s immaculate Instagram feed. We know, because we have. The architectural graduate-slash-photographer has a knack of collating co-ordinated objects of desire and pairing them with a cuppa that reminds us we’re overdue for a dose of caffeine. We asked James to photograph items from the Britomart neighbourhood to promote the Britomart Black gift card (all the items in each shot can be purchased at Britomart with the card, which is available here, and if you purchase one for Father’s Day you go in the draw to win a $250 card of your own). We talked to James about developing the signature aesthetic that’s earned him over 11,000 followers.
JEREMY HANSEN Your Instagram feed (@jting26) is extremely disciplined: coffee at the centre surrounded by some perfectly arranged things. How did you evolve into this consistent format?
JAMES TING: This all started back in architecture school, when I was procrastinating at 3am in the morning, probably having my second or third cup of coffee of the night, looking down at the cup of coffee just sitting there on my desk with all the mess around it. I took a photo and then tried to repeat it daily. Eventually, it became a routine.
If you scroll way back in your feed, coffee is the unifying element in almost all your shots. How important is coffee to you? And how do you prefer it?
My coffee habit started at architecture school when the extra caffeine was needed for all those late nights. I started with a large French press plunger to drink it through the night and microwave it when it cooled down. Then I started to tell myself, since I am drinking it on a daily basis, why not drink it well? Being in Wellington at that time and its coffee culture, I was spoilt with delicious coffee everywhere: Customs by Coffee Supreme (right across from the architecture school) and The Hangar by Flight Coffee (right at my doorstep from my accommodation) brought me into a whole new world of specialty coffee. That is when I found I was really able to taste and properly appreciate the coffee. Now I love hand-brewed pour-over or filter coffee, as well as straight-up short blacks.
Talk us through your ideal weekend morning, as it feels like most of your images have that vibe to them.
The noise of my kettle boiling and coffee grinder grinding the beans, followed by the dripping sound of my coffee through the Kalita filter, with the living room filled with the smell of fresh coffee and toast.
You’re also working at Cheshire Architects. What are you designing at the moment?
Yes, at the moment I’m working on a couple of projects alongside Pip Cheshire. One of them is a house up in the Bay of Islands, and another is a housing development in South Auckland. These projects are still in their early stages, so I can’t say too much more about them.
What do you like about working in architecture – and does photography feel like an escape from that work, or a complement to it?
Working in architecture – I’d say I like the complexity of it and the concrete realisation from lines on paper to a three-dimensional space on this planet. Photography feels like it is an escape from that work, but it also complements it. It allows me to capture moments in which it can be as free as I want with no regulations or code to follow, but it also requires the understanding of spaces, composition, lighting and time – some of the fundamentals of architecture.