Kathy Chan On Identity, Marriage & Freelance Life
by Jenna Song; intern
Philly based student and Photographer/Videographer Kathy Chan is the definition of determined. She took time out of her busy day to chat about all things identity, creative work, and marriage.
J: What kind of creative work do you do?
K: There’s a lot of stuff I engage in. Typically I do a lot of digital art, that’s my side project. My main focus is on videography, film making, and photography. I also play music. I don’t think that’s really part of my creative work, but it sort of adds to it.
J: On your website, it says you’re interested in social activism, why is that?
K: A lot of what I do is really working with nonprofits, organizations that help the community in some way. I work with the Lenfest North Philadelphia Workforce Initiative and I do photography for them. They provide jobs and opportunities for people in North Philadelphia. I also work with SBDC (Small Business Development Center) is for building businesses in the North Philadelphia area and PASCEP (Pan-African Studies Community Education Program) is an education program where people from Philadelphia can teach other people from Philadelphia. A lot of stuff I really want to work on in the future really deals with contributions to my neighborhood, but also trying to fight for intersexual feminism, Asian American diaspora, and just fighting injustices in general.
J: Do you feel like it’s very hard to get payed as a student doing creative works?
K: It’s really hard to get gigs where people aren’t asking you to lower your prices or to not pay you. It gets to the point where some people feel like skills of photography and videography are disposable. They would say, “Here, I’m gonna have you work for exposure.” But, I need to pay bills, put food on the table, and pay rent. I can’t continue to keep taking on low rates or unpaid work.
J: How do you manage school, marriage, and creative work?
K: I’m privileged that my husband also works with me in every single thing I do. He does photography and I’m his assistant sometimes or he’s my assistant sometimes. We’re currently trying to build our business together doing photography and videography. I think that really works together as opposed to him going into something completely different. I wouldn’t know how to help him. It’s really easy for me to seep into this married life. He’s not just my husband, but he’s also my business partner and if anything ever happened, we’ll still be business partners. I think keeping that mindset helped me to channel my motivation towards my career, goal, and job. It keeps my marriage life not as a sideline, but something that contributes to the effort.
J: Was it difficult to tell your husband that you’re bi?
K: Since I was expressive with it even before we were dating. He sort of knew already. It was already in the air. I don’t think I really needed to come out to him which is the greatest part. Because I know sometimes people would feel uncomfortable about that idea. The whole aspect of me being bisexual and my attraction to anything in general, I don’t think it bothers him because he sees that as a way to accept his own sexuality.
J: Do you get inspired by your cultural aspect when creating work?
K: I think a lot of my work really does fit into the mold of my cultural and ethnic background. Even in videography and camera world in general, there’s not a lot of Cambodian people. That’s one of the big things I want to contribute to.
J: Were you always so accepting towards your identity?
K: Especially in high school and beginning of college, I really wanted to get rid of being Asian. I saw my world crash. I lived in North Philadelphia all the way up in Olney. There were a lot of other Cambodians and Vietnamese. It’s so crazy because in Philadelphia, you see so many different races. I didn’t encounter any white people before Temple.
J: Any advice to people taking pictures of their spouse/partner?
K: Observe your partner more. Normally when people take selfies of themselves they take it at a particular angle and make a particular face because they know they look good in it. If you see that that’s the angle that they want, try to replicate that. If you want to take better pictures, I would suggest going through Youtube or even looking through other couples’ instagram and copying the poses you like will help you figure out what works for your partner.
J: What’s your career end goal?
K: I try my best to be a freelancer. I want to be somebody who shoots as a wedding photographer. The end goal is that I have a constant stream of income and I’m happy where I am.
J: Anything exciting coming up?
K: I do have a gig for an engagement shoot on July 21st. It was very surprising because I never thought anybody would just find me on the internet. Some people actually scout me out and I have a few gigs coming up. I’m very excited for that. I have another video shot for advertising for the theater department in August or September.