COURTESY of DEANIE CHEN

Deanie Chen started photography at 17 in her hometown of Kansas City using an old Canon T3. The 22-year-old photographer is now based in Los Angeles, where she is currently a senior at the University of Southern California double majoring in Economics and Communication. From moving to Los Angeles as the daughter of Chinese immigrants with no connections in the music industry to photographing artists like Machine Gun Kelly and MAX in concert, Chen details her photography journey and the passion that fuels her to continue in the face of challenges.

To me, photography is the most tangible way that I can bridge reality with the world in my mind. It is how I share my perspective, not in an imposing way, but rather in hope that a piece of my worldview helps someone realize a little more of their own.

Tell us a little about yourself. For those who don’t know who you are, how would you introduce yourself?
My name is Deanie, and I’m originally from Kansas City. I’ll be graduating from the University of Southern California in May, with double majors in Economics and Communication. Aside from photography, I am a lover of classic rock and college basketball.

SINGLE ART for “WHERE AM I AT” REMIX by MAX and PARTY PUPILS

How did you get started in photography?
We had an old family DLSR lying around in high school, and I decided to make use of it. Especially since growing up in the suburbs can be extremely boring at times, photography became my way of making the place where I grew up seem so much bigger and more interesting by forcing myself to view it from unconventional perspectives.

How would you describe your work?
I find describing my photography difficult because I often find it difficult to put into words why I created an image. To me, photography is the most tangible way that I can bridge reality with the world in my mind. It is how I share my perspective, not in an imposing way, but rather in hope that a piece of my worldview helps someone realize a little more of their own. I want my photos to be emotive and raw, but beautiful at the same time.

What do you love most about photography?
I have met so many incredible people and friends through photography, and I wouldn’t be the person I am without them.

What’s a challenge you’ve faced in your career? How did you overcome it?
I think the biggest challenge that I faced was balancing my photo career with being a full-time student. I didn’t start taking photography more seriously until my sophomore year of college, and since then I have had to balance the workload for a double major, internships, extracurriculars, and applying to law school while working up to 40 hours a week on photo-related jobs. At times, I remember being so TIRED and burnt out from everything—pulling all-nighters to cram for economics midterms while editing that night’s concert photos with next day turnaround or trying to type an essay for class on my phone while sitting on a tour bus to Sacramento. Being physically nauseous from lack of sleep and too much caffeine was a common state of being. I don’t recommend any of this (please take care of your health), but the reason that I could get through this was by being honest with myself. To me, this was truly worth it, because underneath my dark circles and stress, photography brought me so much joy and fulfillment, something that no other aspect in my life could provide me. For me, never forgetting that purpose was what kept me from burning out entirely.

Let yourself be proud of your accomplishments, and don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself about areas of improvement.

Talk us through your creative process, from idea to shoot to post-production! 
Usually, a client will give me a concept/vibe/mood that they’re looking for, which starts the brainstorming process. Once I’ve come up with a specific vision, I’ll start pulling images for a mood board. Pinterest is great, and I love the website Savee.it as well. If I need to location scout, I usually do a mix of research and Google street view. I also style my shoots occasionally, which if I do, I then match the outfits to specific locations. I try to have everything as planned out as possible before the actual shoot, so when I am shooting, I have as little to worry about as possible. Usually, after the shoot, I already have a vision of how I want the images to look after color grading and retouching, per the mood board, but I’ll let the raw images sit for at least 24 hours before editing so that I have a pair of fresh eyes.

How are you staying creative now at home?
Luckily I still have some leftover work to edit from pre-quarantine, but I plan on going through my archives and re-editing old pictures. On days that I don’t feel creative, I don’t force it: I have been reading a lot more and watching movies. On days that I do feel creative, I’ll plan a Facetime/Webcam shoot with a friend or practice sharpening my skills in an Adobe program.

What’s a song you’ve been listening to? 
Bron-Yr-Aur by Led Zeppelin. An all-time favorite, soul-healing song.

What’s a movie or TV show that you’ve enjoyed watching?
Money Heist

Let’s spread some kindness during these times. Shoutout three artists that inspire you! What makes them special? 
@alessioalbi: The pioneer of the FaceTime shoot. He is so wonderfully creative and always inspires me.
@elmakias: One of the first photographers I looked up to in the music photography world. He has been doing these editing challenges on his Twitter every week, and it’s been great to see during these times.
@aysiamarotta: She has been shooting her friends from their windows in NYC, and the photos have been so beautiful.

Any advice for aspiring photographers?
Let yourself be proud of your accomplishments, and don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself about areas of improvement.

A positive message you’d like to share with our readers during these times:
We will be stronger after all this.

 

PHOTOS DEANIE CHEN

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