Jenny Chan is a photographer from San Francisco Bay Area. I first discovered her blog Pear+Apricot through other photographers and have been following it for a while now. Jenny’s photographs are always filled with beautiful light and warm tones. Needless to say, I was thrilled when Jenny agreed to let me interview her for Herb & Lace.
1. My understanding is that you have an architecture degree from Cal and worked as an architect in the industry for many years. Could you share with our readers what led you to pursue photography full-time? Was there a defining moment?
I’ve been interested in photography since I was young, and have tried to learn on my own. I’ve attempted projects such as 365s and self-portraits, but I was never happy with the results. With a full-time job, there was never time to dedicate to learning the craft. A couple of years ago, a declining health caused by stress led to my decision to take time off from architecture. My time off became a good opportunity for me to spend pursuing other interests. I decided to started a blog to document my adventures in crafting, cooking, drawing, and, of course, photography.
Photography quickly became the focus of my time. Perhaps because of its similarity to architecture, the way it requires technical knowledge to operate a camera, as well as creativity to craft an image into art. I was intrigued, challenged, and often times, stumped. I did a lot of research online, purchased books, took workshops, and connected with other photogs, participating in photo walks whenever I could. Before I knew it, I was poring hours and hours over it, without needing a break or a meal.
I’d say the most defining moment was my first engagement shoot. I was asked to do the photos as a favor, and I was completely frightened by the idea and thought I would fail. It turned out to be the most rewarding experience ever, and left me craving for more. That’s when I knew, this was something I wanted to do.
2. It is inevitable to chat with a photographer without bringing up the gears. What are we likely to find in your camera bag? (for either personal or client work – or both!) What are your favorite cameras for traveling?
My favorite cameras for traveling: Olympus XA4 Macro, Nikon D800, Nikon F3, and Mamiya RZ67 Pro II.
My gear is simple.
For client work, I shoot digital. In my bag, you will find a Nikon D800 with the Nikon 50mm 1.4, my go-to lens, as well as the Nikon 105mm F2.8 VR.
For personal work, I like to shoot film. My current favorite camera is my Mamiya RZ67 Pro II, I mostly shoot with a 110mm lens. For 35mm, my favorite cameras are the Nikon F3 or my trusty Pentax K100. I always bring extra film.
In my purse, you will find film and digital point-and-shoots, a Canon Powershot S95, an Olympus XA4 Macro, and, last but not least, my iPhone 4S.
3. Is there a particular photograph that captures a memorable place you’ve traveled to? Could you share with us the story behind it?
My husband and I spent a summer in his family home in Santa Monica before we were married. A year ago, when we were revisiting the house, I stood at the bottom looking up. With gorgeous light coming through the windows highlighting its geometric shape, this staircase reminded me of the days we spent walking up and down these steps, the conversations we had, and the happy memories we shared. As a reminder of the steps we took that led to the life we have together now, I decided to capture it in a photo.
4. With various online services and smartphones, it is convenient for us to upload photos on the go nowadays. How do you think mobile photography has impacted you as a photographer?
The best camera is the one you have on you. This is very true for me. I always have my iPhone with me, and I’ve been able to capture some of my favorite moments with it. The ability to upload and share your photos right away means immediate feedback, which is extremely valuable to someone just starting out in photography. A camera phone also takes away a lot of the mechanics and technical struggle you can have with more sophisticated equipment, so you can really focus on creating photos. The ability to see and make a photo, in my opinion, has little to do with your gear.
5. What is one advice you have for people who are thinking of changing their careers?
A career change can seem like an impossible mission.
First, you have to figure out if this is what you really want. Forget all the your doubts for a moment, dig deep, and look past what you are on paper. If it’s something you are truly passionate about, you just know. Doing anything else will not bring you the same kind of satisfaction.
Once you make the decision, embrace the uncertainty! Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. There will be a bit of trial and error involved, so keep an open mind. It’s not supposed to be easy, but it’ll be worth it!