THE SHANI CHEN INTERVIEW
(@barbuto215 Joe Barbuto)
What’s your story?
My story is as follows. I am an unconfident human being trying to make those who feel the way I do feel as beautiful as can be. My story is to make the world know who I am and what I do. Yeah I’m a photographer but I’m not ONLY a photographer. I try to make dreams come true. A “dream” isn’t always something so large. Doesn’t always mean finally becoming the president, or a famous musician, or a professional athlete. Dreams can be as small as feeling unstoppable, being loved, being happy, and feeling good about thyself.
What does the local art community mean to you?
It means that as uneasy as Philly can get, the art community stays strong always. The community is expanding beyond arms reach, and it excites me to be apart of it. Seeing all the different forms of art being created by all the different people I have met in my community brings happiness into my heart.
When did you start shooting? How did your shooting begin as a hobby, and then as a career?
I started officially shooting around March of 2017. The only reason I remember so specifically is because right after I bought my first camera, I lost my job. Losing my job was extremely hard, I went from making really good money to having to dip into my “Move to Texas” savings until I had nothing left and had to completely start over. I was unemployed for 6 months and in those 6 months I learned a lot about myself that I didn’t know. Shooting really showed me that there’s more to life than just “work” and that working your ass off for someone else will NOT pay off. So I started taking photos of my friends, and eventually started having clients of my own. People who actually were interested in paying me for my services. I never would’ve thought other people would want to pay me for anything I ever did on my own, and it completely shocked me. Fast forward to now, I’m booked up on most of my free days and it’s a beautiful feeling!
What is the most rewarding part of being a photographer? What is the most difficult part of being a photographer?
Most rewarding would have to be creating my visions and also that smile I get when someone sees the final product and how happy they look. Creating my visions is such an exceptional feeling. Putting what I see in my head into a camera and out into the world for people to see like WHAT? It’s the best feeling I swear. But nothing comes close to the feeling I get when I make that girl that grew up feeling like she was a loser her entire life start feeling like the baddest bitch in the universe. It’s beyond rewarding seeing guys who think they’re just average come out of a session with me feeling like the next Ben Simmons or some shit. It feels great making people feel good about themselves.
The most difficult part is feeling like i’ve failed somebody. It sometimes gets hard to create what someone sees in their head without being able to see it myself. I question myself during most sessions because sometimes I just am unsure if the client likes what we made together.
What are your favorite subjects or style of shoots?
My favorite style is a very street/urban type or portraiture. Being able to turn the most rough and rugged scene into a backdrop. Working with what you got makes the best photos. Besides portraiture I am very into music photography. Concerts, recording studio sessions, all that. Music has and always will be a huge part of my life and being able to put together the two things I love is electricity.
Among your works, which has been your favorite or the project you’re most proud of?
My favorite photo is a black and white photo I captured of Philadephia’s own Cain Kerner during a performance at Bourbon and Branch for Third Thursday Vibes (aka TTV)
(@cainkerner Cain Kerner)
Are there any visual artists or photographers that inspire you?
If I’m being completely honest, there aren’t any visual artists that inspire me and who I am today. My biggest inspirations are musicians. Well, Mod Sun is considered both I guess but he’s one of my biggest inspirations in everything I do. He taught me to say fuck everything that brings negativity into your life whether it’s a friend, family member, song, teacher, job, food, ANYTHING. In the countless conversations me and him have had, he always lifted my spirits and taught me a new lesson each and every time. He’s a genuinely positive person who brings positivity upon everyone he comes in contact with ESPECIALLY me, and that positivity has me going til this day. I would’ve given up my craft a long time ago if it wasn’t for his help pushing me to keep going. My work is always inspired by the music I listen too and how it makes me feel. They go hand in hand for me. When I create certain photos - in my head I hear a song playing in the background of how the photo should sound.
What kind of camera(s) do you shoot with? Are you true to one brand, or do you shoot with several?
I currently shoot with a Sony a7iii (Sony a7 mark iii). I used to only shoot with Nikon in the past, and the day i switched over to Sony is the last day I will ever shoot with a different brand ever again. Something about Sony is just so pure and amazing. The colors match exactly what I try to create, the bokeh, depth of field, everything on that camera is phenomenal. I loved my Nikons’ to death, but nothing compares to Sony in my opinion.
@eli1k Eli 1000 SHOT BY SHANI CHEN
What do you feel is your biggest accomplishment so far?
My biggest accomplishment thus far is the photo meet ups that I’ve done. I have had about 4 up until now, and the idea of connecting people who don’t know each other at all and just creating for hours and getting to know them and networking is just so beautiful. Every time at least 1 person is new to the meet ups and we always have a blast meeting new people. I do have a pretty solid and consistent group that comes out, with the addition of newcomers each one. Watch out for the next one, I will be posting very soon right before this cold weather comes!
What are some of your upcoming goals?
My #1 goal is to go on tour! I want to tour with a rapper, something about the hip hop lifestyle just draws a huge attraction for me. I hope that within the next year I will be brought on to a team and will be on tour all over the country and maybe even the world. A smaller goal of mine is to be able to work with over 100 different people from now until the end of the year, whether its a collaboration or a commissioned shoot. And my final goal for right now is to have a photo book out soon. I’m excited for the content in this book and I hope everyone else is too!
(@focusedmayhem David Bara)
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