It’s always an inspiring/encouraging moment to meet a fellow blogger/creative who has turned their side hustle into a full-fledged career.
Towards the end of May, I escaped my corporate office for two hours to attend an intimate lunch with style and fashion writer Yan Yan Chan as she showcased some of her photographic work in collaboration with #FusionFest in Sydney.
I’d like to confess right now that with so many writers and content curators in the [saturated] blogging world right now, I didn’t know all that much about Yan Yan but after attending that particular lunch and getting to know her in such an intimate setting, it prompted me to want to know even more about her so I reached out to her people for an interview. Whilst I was away travelling, I received her answers and today I want to share those answers with you.
Read on to discover who Yan Yan Chan is and how she got to where she is now, discussing all the things in her life from blogging and fashion to photography, career highlights and her advice for anyone thinking of taking on a creative career.
Yan Yan Chan, 22-year-old content creator, creative consultant, and I also run the blog yanyanchan.com
It started out as a personal style and photo diary.. but now it’s a little more than that. Friends would say I’m a bit of an old soul, spontaneous and I like to go with the flow.
How did you first get your start in blogging and what sparked your interest?
I started a Tumblr at the age of 15, out of boredom, procrastination and wanting to escape school life, mean girls and teenage reality. I was always a bit of a day dreamer; I danced from the age of 5, loved the performing arts and grew up in a household that was very strict with education but, also constantly challenged creatively.
Blogging wasn’t really a thing back then, and no one would really pursue a career in “blogging”, so I don’t remember when and what sparked my interest particularly in blogging, but I was always fascinated by the arts/film and fashion world. For me, having a blog was just another creative outlet for me to express and experiment – and it still is.
My brother and I were put into fine arts class after school every Thursday and every other day after school I was either in dance class, practising the piano (which I sadly don’t play anymore) or perusing (the then) style.com or Sundance Film Festivals for inspiration and new independent films to watch. I picked up Film and Photography as an elective in Year 10, and I just remember the lunches spent in either the dark room developing and experimenting with film or in the dance studio choreographing.. pretty funny actually. So, it really was just my upbringing and I guess rebelling against school and my parents, which really sparked my interest in the Fashion and Arts world.
Can you tell us about your recent exhibition at the #FusionFest?
The collaboration came together quite organically. Broadway got in contact hoping to exhibit some of my works at #FusionFest to celebrate their new fashion, beauty and dining precinct. At the time I was in Bali sifting and organising folders of archived photos from the last 3 years – from travelling, friends, love projects and random outtakes from old collaborations. I was going to come up with a new concept and completely photograph new subjects, but I had an inkling amidst photo archiving, and decided it was only natural to curate images from my travels and from my previous projects. It was really a homage to all the places that I’ve been to, and have been inspired by.
What was the story/message that you wanted to portray through your photographs?
I did a juxtaposition of imagery I had taken from travelling from New York, LA, Italy, Beijing to Byron Bay over the past 3 years, pieces of each place that inspired me and fuelled my creative direction and photography work in the present time – all through lines, colour and shadows. I left faces out of each subject as I wanted the composition of the photos to be the focus rather than who the person is in the photo.
For me, it really was about having the photo itself as a hero.. we’re so used to seeing all these Instagram “figures” and models as the focus online, so it was nice to just step back away from that for a minute.
What are your top 3 career highlights as a blogger?
• Travelling for work!
• Collaborating with other creatives who I’ve admired for a really long time, and collaborating in general. I’ve learnt so much, and each of those opportunities have been so great and rare.
• Meeting my readers! And being told that I’ve impacted or inspired them to pursue photography or just to create and pick up a pen. That will always be so surreal.
Have you experienced any negativity in your journey so far? How have you learnt to deal with it?
I’ve been lucky enough to experience mostly positive outcomes and a whole lot of support online, but I have noticed that there is a great deal of tall poppy syndrome in the Australian creative community, and it’s something I still don’t understand or choose to support either. It doesn’t happen anywhere else like New York or London. I’ve dealt with it in mostly face-to-face situations, but I’ve always said… kill them with kindness. I don’t like making space for negativity.
What element of yourself do you always put into your blogging/photography that you hope will resonate with your audience?
I like to say that I put a whole lot of myself in all my works. It’s always been personal, and it’s always been quite a true representation of who I am and what I stand for. I don’t really think too much about it. But anything that’s raw, carefree and fun is what I appeal to, and I hope it appeals to my audience too.
Describe your personal style.
Rebellious, spontaneous.. youthful. I like styling opposing characters together.. feminine with masculine, tailored with flowy pieces.. girly dresses with a pair of rugged sneakers.
What’s the soundtrack to your 5 to 9 life?
Midnight in Paris.
Do you have any tips/advice for young creatives wanting to follow in your footsteps?
I believe in dreaming big and working hard. I’ve been chatting to a lot of people in the industry lately about interns and assistants in younger generations, which they’ve noticed a lack of hard work in, and I’ve seen it first hand as well, which I was surprised and a little shocked by. I’ve worked with a handful of students and I try to understand how their generation is growing up and I don’t know whether it’s because everything seems so accessible now, thanks to the internet — like, “internet fame” or having an x amount of followers on social media that it’s portrayed as a sign of “success” but, under all that, what is important to me is work ethic, being open to learn whenever and wherever, not being scared of working hard and starting from the bottom.. and it’s something I’m quite passionate about and passionate about sharing with young creatives.
Having goals that are long term and not just short term goals like being “Instagram famous”. Think of the bigger picture, start from the bottom and don’t take yourself too seriously… and go, go, go. And just remember that success doesn’t come easy.
What’s next for Yan Yan Chan?
Only time will tell..!