So, photography. What in particular drew you to this? Not everyone picks up a camera and decides to start a career in it.
Well, the first time I tried it out, I was travelling on my own through Europe doing that whole self-search thing towards the beginning of college. Guess I was really malleable at the point in my life and was open to try about anything. Not sure exactly what it was, but there was something alluring about sitting on the side of society (that’s what it feels like behind a lens). You’re always watching and waiting…expecting spontaneity and forever opening your eyes to new perspectives. Ever since that trip, I haven’t really been able to set aside the thought of dedicating my life to shooting.
I’m curious. If you haven’t been able to set aside that thought, why go school for a degree math and economics and a career in finance/tech? Were you afraid of the instability that often comes with a career in art?
Yes, there’s always a fear of a rough struggle to stay afloat, but eventually a fear of not going for it overpowers you. Working in a lot of creative internships during college and pushing me to break out of my comfort zone to meet interesting people has taught me a lot in the past. It made me realize that as we grow older we are pained most by our lost opportunities…by the decisions we chose out of societal pressure or fear. They're usually the ones that usually come back to haunt you when you are around 40 or 50. You get a nice long list of them, look at them and go buy some hot sports car, I suppose.
Speaking of societal pressure, do you think that could part of the reason why you chose to study mathematics and economics in college?
I guess so. I’m not sure. It’s not so important question whether I decided to get a major in math or in art. It seemed like the majority of adults I spoke to in life agreed that they don’t remember what they learned in college. It was more of an experience and environment to learn. For me, math was more of a challenge, which I thought would be necessary to grow.
To be fair though, I can speak from experience that it’s hard to choose to do something so many others may look down upon – we’re anthropologically wired to seek approval!
Halfway through college, I was sure that I wanted to go into film and photography. I took advantage of all the opportunities to film for the newspaper and finished taking all the theater & film classes available to non-majors, then dropped out.
The reaction from others was mixed. Some were in awe that I could do such a thing and others were in quiet disgust or pity. Looking back, it was a great revelation to have – those who are real friends are few and far between, but there will always be those who like and respect you primarily based on status and background. Aside from that, it was also hard to get up on my feet and make a living without a college degree. Age and experience weren’t on my side.
So then why remain a "college dropout"?
Practicality drove me back to school (and eventually, finance). I knew I was only going back to get some letters written on some piece of paper. It’s funny how that some people tend to focus on that, but I was willing to play the game as there didn’t seem to be a better way to get others to take me seriously at my age. As for my choice in finance, well, I realized that year off that art is mainly a business and I needed business experience.
No fear or regrets this time. Just knew it was about time I finally do this.
Ok, last question. Why architecture? Not fashion? Or weddings?
Good question. Well, you try shooting a few different things, then one day, you look back and your work and notice a pattern. For me, it was that I loved shooting abstract shapes and had a knack for finding beautiful light. I love looking at geometry and scenes that are tranquil, airy almost zen-like. I’m a big fan of Tadao Ando, Peter Zumthor, Atelier Deshaus and Sanaa. In my gut, I kinda get this odd warm feeling when I’m in a space like theirs. It can’t be described. Maybe it’s the math in me talking.
To put it simply, architecture just clicked with me.