One year, my God how quickly time has passed by. On this day in 2018 my friend Linh convinced me to go full time with my photography business and make a name for myself in the industry.
From October of 2017 to February 15th, 2018 I was unemployed. I was let go from my position as a social media manager at a small T-shirt company and was fruitlessly hunting for work for literal months. I knew the office life wasn’t meant for me but being the asian I am, I thought that the only way I could survive was if I had a steady office job. Freelance seemed out of the question for me. I was too scared.
It took me being at the end of my rope to finally take the leap and commit to being a photographer. We figured; if I’m at rock bottom, the only way I can go is up.
The photo above is one of my first favorites from this turbulent new time. After a week or so of rusty practice, this was probably one my first "successful” images I took of my friends Serena and Jenn. Looking back, there were so many things I would have done differently with the shoot, from the composition, to the overblown highlights, to the colors I used. But hey, you live and learn right?
The night I decided to give this a shot, Serena called me out of the blue and asked me to go to Paris with her at the end of March to be her photographer. Was it the universe telling me this is my sign to chase this dream? Probably.
I had a month to not only become a strong enough photographer to accompany her on her trip, but I also needed to go on a marathon saving spree to even afford the trip LOL. I shot every second I could find outside of doing deliveries. I even managed to score a few interning sessions with Karen Rosalie to learn from her.
As I boarded the plane on my first ever international trip, I realized that this was what I was meant to do. Any doubt I had that I had found my calling was left behind me in LA as I flew across the Atlantic ocean. Paris was a wild trip and had so many bumps in the road but somehow we survived with amazing pictures to tell the tale. I learned SO much from that trip and I’m counting down the days I can go back to this magical city.
After my trip to Paris, I came back to LA hitting the road with shoots. I experimented with a lot of new styles and content including my new love of flatlay photography. I got to go to Revolve Carnival with Linh in May where I met a ton of new friends and reconnected with some old ones that I ended up working with on projects down the road. I was voraciously consuming as much content as I could to discover my “style” of photography and it was a lot of trial and error. Everything from Instagram influencers, to Tumblr, to Kpop, I found inspiration everywhere I went.
Hell, I even got to meet Paris Hilton when Linh took me out to a Coachella event! Probably one of the highlights of my Spring. Hello, childhood dreams come true!
Over the course of the summer, I got to start collaborating with a few brands I really liked including GANT, Godiva, and ZeroUV for projects I wanted to experiment with. I started getting my first consistent clients during this time period and I built some solid relationships with organizations that began supporting my work. Hella grinding happened and with the few expected bumps in the road, I managed to get back on my feet and continue shooting and improving my craft. The McCord List was a HUGE part of my life during the last half of 2018. Rachel McCord is such an inspiring woman and working with her team really pushed me to produce some really awesome work with the dinky little camera kit I work with.
I told myself in February that I would give myself until September to decide if I had what it takes to do photography full time. I either had to start making some money off of my work or improve enough to justify risking a steady career. I found my answer within 6 months by feeling like I’ve improved enough AND making a decent amount of money through my amazing clients.
My roommates and I parted ways at the end of summer because of a complication with our lease and while it was really sad to say goodbye, we all got fresh starts in our new respective homes and I felt like moving really did breathe new life into my work.
Fall produced some of my favorite images from the year. Maybe it as the combination of unrequited love and heartbreak with the cooling weather that influenced how I shot and edited. I was definitely much more melancholic during these months and I don’t feel like its a bad thing. I love injecting emotion in my work and I feel like some of my best work comes from times of sadness.
I even got to shoot my first editorial with my friend Lauren Munoz who I met at the McCord List! I was able to come up with a dope concept and was able to execute it out in Malibu with my friend Makito. I’ve always wanted to do a fashion editorial and while this was a small project that I didn’t submit for any publications, I learned SO much from the experience.
These months were also incredibly busy and I felt like I had very little time to just breathe. I was able to land so many new clients and my workload was heavy but I loved how productive it made me feel. It at least helped me get over the guy I was in love with so that’s a bonus. Money > Men
Rounding out the end of 2018, I was still going strong, I feel like I’ve got a good system in place and I was MUCH more comfortable shooting than I was at the beginning of the year. Honestly, the whole of 2018 flew by so quickly I didn’t even notice that 2019 was already around the corner. I had a good routine down by this point with balancing my side job of food delivery and my photography business.
In December, I started kicking it with a bunch of dope creatives known collectively as the Asian Creative Network. The LA chapter is like the little creative community of Asians I desperately needed in my life. Its freeing to know there are other Asians out there who are also on the same creative path as you. So many people stereotype us as being doctors, lawyers, and accountants where there is a HUGE community of us that are in the arts as well.
And here we are, 2019, February 16, 2019. Today marks one year from the day I made one of the most liberating decisions of my life after coming out! Honestly, I didn’t think I could be living in such a dream. Throughout college, I always fantasized about what it would be like to live the freelancer life, working out of cafes, being my own boss, working with amazingly likeminded creatives and being PAID to do what I love most.
I understand what a privilege it is for me to live this kind of life and my God I wake up every day feeling so grateful. Who knew a tragedy like losing your job can lead to me living the life I’ve always wanted? They really do mean it when they say that when life closes a door, it opens another.
I’ll be posting more photos from the Tet festival over the course of next week! I know I’ve been really silent on my Instagram but trust me, I’m working on some awesome stuff. Can’t wait to show you all <3