We had the good fortune of connecting with Jeffrey Chen and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Jeffrey, can you share a quote or affirmation with us?
One of my favorites is “Some people are so poor, all they have is money.” At first glance I know it sort of sounds like I’m criticizing or condemning certain people, but that’s not what I’m trying to do. I use this quote to remind myself what’s really important in not only my life, but my business. We’re programmed to go to school, get good grades, find a job, and work that job for the rest of your life. We move up the corporate ladder so we can chase that promotion, and in turn earn more cash. Eventually, some people end up working so much to where they have no time to spend that hard earned money. No time to make new friends. No time to make new memories. All they have is money. Of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with chasing the money – it’s just not for me.

For me, there has to be a balance. I don’t make much money, but I make enough to where I have plenty of time to do the things I love and still live comfortably. That’s real happiness to me.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
With photography, I’ve gone through many different phases and styles just because I love trying and learning new things. I started with urban, then landscapes, some surrealism, then cinematic street, then film, then back to cinematic. I even did some astrophotography and some digital rendering. Part of it is just me still trying to figure out my style and what I want to be known for, another part is just because I want to see how good I can get at it. I’m not just a photographer though. I prefer the term artist or maker because I love making things – whether it’s taking photos, woodworking, cooking, 3D printing, or ANYTHING that brings an idea into the physical world using my own two hands. I have a ton of skillsets and I’m always hungry for new skills to add to my arsenal – and I think that’s what sets me apart from others.

If I’m being honest, I don’t think it was hard to get to where I am today. All I did was what I loved to do and what I actually wanted to do. I wanted to take photos, so I did my best and put everything I had into it. I looked at photobooks for inspiration. I studied the actions and strategies of successful photographers. I was out every single day shooting and practicing, driving an hour round trip. I went through hundreds of hours of Youtube videos. I’m a firm believer that if you have a true passion for something, you will get out there and turn that passion into your career. I just want anyone reading to know that they should go for it. Chase that dream.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’ve lived here my whole life and I still don’t know all the spots, but I have a few. I get asked about downtown views all the time – and the rooftop bar Z on 23 is a good one. For food, I love going to Chinatown. Mala Sichuan Bistro is one of my favorites, Star snow ice & teriyaki is also very good. Thai Style Fast Food for the best Thai place in Houston. My absolute favorite “food” though is boba. My parents are from Taiwan, so yes that’s a big reason I love boba. We’re truly blessed to have so many places to get it in Houston. Tiger Sugar, Xing fu tang, Tea top, Muse Tea, and Kung fu tea are some of my favorites. For hanging out, cidercade is pretty cool. $10 for unlimited games, and if your friends are more athletic I’d definitely have them join a Thursday bike ride with Clutch City Cruisers. Hundreds of people come out and ride together across the city. It’s really a Houston thing to experience.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There are definitely a lot of people that come into mind, mainly from my journey as a photographer. Ever since I started photography, I’ve made a ton of friends – and unfortunately I’ve even lost a few. Either way, every situation was an important lesson and I owe it to all these people who have made me into who I am – regardless of if we still talk today.

I wouldn’t know where I would be without the generosity of Dominique Carter (@domscarter). I was brand new to the scene and he was nice enough to let me tag along with him around downtown taking photos. He introduced me to pretty much everyone I know now, and he really showed me how amazing the Houston photography scene was. Seeing his work inspired me, and I wouldn’t be here without him.

Philip Emerson (@philipephotography) was also a huge influence on me. He had so much energy, so much passion, and was incredibly talented. As a result, I sort of “absorbed” his energy just by being around him. We were out taking photos every single day, rain or shine, hot or cold. I saw myself improve drastically – and it made me realize how much I actually loved photography.

Juan Hidalgo (@hidalgo_htx) is one of my best friends, even to this day. He had a carefree attitude but at the same time had a deep appreciation for art and Houston. Really humble and down to earth. All he wanted to do was spend time with friends and create art – which I really appreciated.

Raymond Perez (@yxvng_savage) is another one of my good friends. I love his work and I definitely learned a few things from him. He sees things differently than most, and I always loved that about him because it in turn translates to me seeing things differently as well – and that’s a good thing.

Tyler James (@firsthandaccount) who is actually from Minnesota has also taught me many many things, not only about photography but about life in general. He’s opened my eyes to new perspectives, the fine art world, and really interesting philosophies. I’ve never met such a caring person who pours all his love into others the way he does.

And last but not least, I can’t forget my good friend Billy (@billydeee). My favorite street photographer in New York. He’s a collector of moments, and he’s sooo good at it. Nothing but inspiring and I wish to be at his level one day. His photo was on a Times Square billboard the other day – and I’m so proud of him.

I often think about how all these people are so different. We all come from different backgrounds, different philosophies, different careers – yet we’re brought together because of one common passion. It’s one of my favorite things about photography. Sometimes (especially recently) it’s not necessarily about creating the art, but about spending time with these people I’ve met while doing photography. Anyway, I’m definitely missing a few people, so I just want to thank everyone that I’ve met in the past 3-4 years in the photography community. It’s crazy to think about how important these people are. One little interaction with the right person, and your entire life could change.

Website: https://jchenys.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jchen.ys/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jchenys

Image Credits
Tyler James

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