A Thousand Words

Or, some pictures, by a magnificent artist and human being, Jiyang Chen!

Jiyang Chen Photography

I was lucky enough to meet Jiyang a few years ago. Our friendship began in the café of a Whole Foods in NYC (Columbus Circle, if you’re familiar) after we’d bonded on Instagram over our love of nature (especially bears) (and photography and music, of course… okay, mostly bears). He and his wife moved across the country to Nevada at the same time that I finally moved into Manhattan last year, and at first I was really sad, but… if you’ve ever lived in NYC, you’re likely familiar with the reality that you see friends from out of town far more than you see friends who actually live in the city. I thought that was blasphemy before I moved here, but I’ve quickly found it to be true: it’s partially a facet of everyone’s busy performance and travel schedules (and how your in-town dates never seem to align with the friends you want to catch up with the most), and partially a facet of how exhausted everyone is when they finally are in town and miraculously free… but in any case, Jiyang has remained one of the friends I see most consistently (his work brings him back monthly!), so I’m very grateful for that (even though it’s just an ever-present reminder of my inferior chess skillz).

I first came across Jiyang online because he had taken headshots for some mutual friends, so I’ve long known that he’s an extremely talented, thoughtful, and creative photographer, and that I wanted to have him take photos for me at some point. I particularly love the ways he plays with texture and colour in his work, and the photos we collaborated on are no exception.

Someone recently asked me if I enjoyed having my picture taken. I don’t know, do you like going to the dentist? I mean, there are certainly worse things (#firstworldproblems), but no, I can’t say I particularly love being in front of the camera. I used to do it a lot more professionally, so I probably have some extra baggage to go along with it… but having my photo feels just about as awful as recording myself playing — suddenly I’m shining a spotlight on all of my insecurities, criticizing every detail with intense scrutiny. Does my smile look genuine? Does my hair look greasy? Do i have a double chin at this angle? Omg where should I look? Wow, who knew a human was capable of producing this much sweat? And for heavens’ sake, what am I doing with my arms?! Yeah, no one wants an insight to my inner dialogue...

As a great photographer should be, Jiyang was able to distract me from myself by making the shoot fun and interactive; making me laugh, getting me to move around and joke around, get out of my head and just be myself. What I love about these photos is that they’re raw and real and capture some moments of my personality, and it wasn’t too long into the shoot before I loosened up and had a good time running around beautiful parts of Brooklyn at my favourite time of day (golden hour) with one of my favourite friends.