Today we’d like to introduce you to Deanie Chen.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Deanie. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Honestly, the first time I picked up a camera during my senior year of high school, it was just to find something to do. Growing up in the suburbs of Kansas, it was a way to expand my worldview, not by traveling, but by viewing the place I’d grown up in with a new perspective.
It wasn’t until I moved to Los Angeles to attend USC that I began taking photography more seriously. As I’m currently finishing up my senior year, double majoring in economics and communication, photography has always functioned as a creative escape from the structure and stresses of being a student. I began shooting more regularly, asking friends to model, practicing Lightroom and Photoshop, and building my portfolio.
Summer 2017 after my freshman year, I flew back home to Kansas City. This summer was the first time I tried music photography. It was a small venue in the heart of KC called the Record Bar, and because they didn’t have rules for camera entry, I brought my little Canon T3 to the ARIZONA and COIN show my friends and I were attending. Despite having only a few usable pictures of the hundreds that I shot that night, I loved the experience. Later that year after a lucky cold email, I shot X Ambassadors for their Kansas City stop when I was home for winter break. From there, I’ve been fortunate enough that the opportunities have continued, and I now spend my nights after attending classes shooting at venues around Los Angeles.
Has it been a smooth road?
I’m lucky to say that it’s been a rather smooth road. There are so many wonderful creative people in the industry that are willing to provide guidance to others, and it’s one of my favorite things that I’ve discovered since working more heavily as a photographer.
Financially it can be a struggle at times because so much work in the industry is unpaid or underpaid, and photography isn’t cheap when accounting for camera bodies, lenses, editing software, lighting equipment, transportation, etc. That’s something I think that isn’t talked about enough. Your camera shouldn’t determine your artistic eye and your work, but not having financial barriers to entry can be a huge leg up when entering the industry. It was hard not to feel inferior in the photo pits at festivals with a small camera and prime lens when other more seasoned photographers are lugging around two camera bodies with lenses that were as long as my forearm. It’s important to remember that we all start somewhere, and gear is just a piece of the puzzle.
We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I mainly work with music and portrait/fashion photography. I think my background in portraits and fashion prior to doing music photography gives me a unique mix of abilities when working as a photographer. I understand how to retouch a fashion shot for a modeling agency, but I can also capture moments from concerts while battling difficult monochrome lighting or excessive fog. I am currently branching into collage work and animated images for my live music coverage as well. I think being a music photographer is far from just capturing moments from a show. Being able to capture beautiful portraits that are in line with an artist’s image is just as important. And that’s something that I try to do every time I shoot: create work that embodies the artist/client while still maintaining my own style and aesthetic.
I’m proud of how far I’ve come in the 2-3 years of shooting more professionally, but I also recognize that I still have a long ways to go. There are so so many people that I look up to still, and there is still so much for me to learn and improve, which is incredibly exciting.
How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
This is tough because I think with the accessibility of good quality cameras, photography is getting taken less seriously as a career. But I’m going to stay optimistic. I have no idea what the industry is going to look like in the next few years, but I think the demand for photographers and professional photo work will always be necessary.