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Meet Justin Chen of JKC Photos in Culver City

Today we’d like to introduce you to Justin Chen.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I started photography purely as a personal outlet; being a full-time graphic designer at an interior architecture studio, while the work there is always challenging and exciting, it doesn’t necessarily fulfill me as a creative individual — since the end result is very much driven by client’s preference. So, about 2.5 years ago, I decided to purchase a camera and use that as a way to develop my aesthetics outside of work. Initially, I focused solely on landscapes and architecture, but have since broadened into fashion photography. It is encouraging to see what started out as a weekend hobby developing into something much more serious. (though I still only shoot on weekends!)

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It definitely had its ups and downs — first of all, learning the fundamentals of photography on my own, both the theory and the actual mechanic of it, since I was never properly educated on it. Fortunately, there are so many tutorials on YouTube these days so the resource is abundantly available. And, I was pleasantly relieved to see many principles I learned through architecture/graphic design are still applicable: like color, composition, narrative, etc.

The second biggest hurdle would be the transition to photographing people; I’m a classic introvert so the idea of confronting and directing another individual was quite a task to overcome. I still remember when I was trying to build my portfolio to reach out to model agencies, I literally spent weekends walking down Santa Monica and DTLA, and asked strangers if I can take photos of them (with many actually happily obliged — which was another surprise — they probably thought I was an Asian tourist!)

But through it all, I think the most fortunate thing is that I am working on this while maintaining a full-time job, so I am not concerned financially and really take my time to figuring things out.

Please tell us about JKC Photos.
My role as a ‘photographer’ is definitely still a work-in-progress; if people were to ask what I do, I would definitely say I’m a graphic designer, and probably wouldn’t even mention that I practice photography unless the subject matter pops up. (The Impostor syndrome is in full force!)

But, I do think my atypical path to photography has in some ways make my work unique; when designing a brand, it is important to design a visual system that will cover all touch points, so every branded piece feels coherent and contributes to a singular brand story. I do the same prep work when I take photos, especially when working with model agencies, so the resulted set of photos will hopefully convey a singular mood/narrative, and not just loose, pretty photos that have no relation to each other.

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