Swan Song

Anecdotal musings on my first great loves.


Despite the outdated hair colour, the release of this story is oddly timely. Compared to last year’s set schlep, jumping between all too many projects and clients to remain reasonably sane, the first quarter of 2017 has felt busier, and yet infinitely more calm (save the daily silent rage over news media headlines).

Cue exaggerated arm movements in reference to the ephemeral passage of time.

The primary reason for being back in Australia for the past two weeks (aside from a few speaking gigs ranging in topic areas from future digital consumers to female empowerment to science of skincare) was to finish shooting a piano-based short film I’ve had in the works for the past 6 months (and won’t be out for another 5). It’s been strange to have spent such an extended period of time and such a studied, almost clinical, stance on conveying an emotional experience with performance art that should be so intimate and raw.

It seems sacrilegious. Somehow.

While in Brisbane, I joined some dear friends and their kids for the Queensland Ballet’s opening night of their new program. “Don’t you miss ballet?” their eldest daughter wanted to know in intermission. Settling back into our seats, my phone lit up with a message from a girl I grew up studying dance with from age 3 through till my mid-teen divergence. Word backstage amongst her colleagues was that I was in the audience tonight, she said. Could it be true? True indeed.

Post-show, between reminiscing on childhood stage make-up and getting back up to speed on 7 missed years of perceived adulthood, the same sentiment came up. Did I ever wonder what could have been? Didn’t I pine for the rhapsodic athleticism, the harrowing physical exertion, the ease with which one loses their linear sense of time under the heat of stage lights and audience anticipation? Or was it indifference? I could never really tell as a kid.

Ironically, it’s the systematic nature of ballet that I miss the most. For all of its emotional outpourings, it’s a science. Calculated by unforgiving beats of four. No time for missteps. Nowhere to hide technical shortcomings. Every day: leg







Margaret Zhang 章凝 is an Australian-born-Chinese filmmaker, photographer, consultant and writer based between New York and Shanghai. Since establishing her website in 2009, Zhang has gone on to work with global brands including CHANEL, Swarovski, YEEZY, Bulgari, Gucci, MATCHES, Under Armour, and Louis Vuitton in a wide range of capacities both in front of and behind the camera, while completing her Bachelor of Commerce/Bachelor of Laws at The University of Sydney. Zhang’s directing, photography, and styling has been employed by the likes of VOGUE, L’Officiel, Harper’s BAZAAR, NOWNESS, and ELLE internationally. She has been listed in Forbes Asia’s 30Under30 and TimeOut’s 40Under40, and her work has been recognized as shaping the international fashion industry by the Business of Fashion BoF500 Index for four consecutive years. CNN has identified Zhang as a leading fashion photographer in Asia and ELLE named her the region’s most influential digital voice. She went on to be the first Asian face to cover ELLE Australia. In 2016, she co-founded BACKGROUND, a global consultancy for which she specialises in Western-to-Chinese and Chinese-to-Western cultural bridging for a range of luxury, lifestyle, and brand initiatives. In 2017, she exhibited a series of 39 unseen photographic works as a solo show in Sydney, and premiered her first short film – a 15-minute exploration of her visceral relationship with classical music on both performance and abstract planes – to critical acclaim. In 2018, co-curated the first annual FOREFRONT Summit focused on inter-industry problem-solving at all scales of business. From this king summit, Zhang developed FOREFRONT+ – a round table series of candid conversations covering subject matters of universal concern. In 2019, THE FACE Magazine engaged Zhang as Creative-Director-at-Large for Asia for its relaunch. Zhang is currently working on her first feature film.


For project enquiries Tess.Stillwell@img.com
General enquiries bookings@margaretzhang.com.au