An Interview With: Cindy Chou

Who are you and what do you do?

I am an Urban Studies major at the College of Environmental Design in Berkeley, California. Besides this label, I am also an avid thinker, street style enthusiast, and documentation addict. The latter label indicates why I always have at least one camera and/or journal in hand.

How did you get into what you do?

Life experiences, shaped by all the senses we’ve had since day one, are the creators of our perspective and approach to how we live. I’ve always been a sentimental person, and art seems to be the most ideal way for me to visually document my thought process/perspective. Especially since moving away from home, I’ve become a lot more self-aware, and I’ve realized that photography speaks to me the most.

How do you work?

I wish I had a better answer for this one, but how I work is simply to do: to walk, observe, gravitate, and capture. I’m pretty non-technical when it comes to photography although I do wish to improve in that field as well. I’ve learned a lot technically just by doing and surrounding myself with people who know what they’re doing.

How would you describe your work?

My work is a compilation of my observations, particularly my take on human emotions, others’ lifestyles, and objects left alone. I want to capture the sentiment of a distant memory or the rawness of man in his candid routine. One could easily say that it’s an obsession with lights and shadows – and lots of elderly individuals. I’m not denying that.

What is your background?

I was raised in Tustin/Irvine, California. Eighteen years in the suburban scene has left me with a heavy lust for diversity. I’ve always fantasized and dreamt about moving to the Bay Area, and I am lucky enough to be living that dream today in Berkeley.

Through years of informal artistic practices, a formal photography class has never been a part of the picture. I can’t explicitly label myself as a specific type of artist, but I do know that photography makes me the happiest person. And that’s what matters, I feel.

Where does your inspiration come from?

People-watching activates my mind. To notice and become aware of one’s surroundings is to mold one’s perspective. Another thing – feelings. When I’m out taking photos, I strive to capture scenes that are roughly definable by feelings I’ve felt before. Feelings I’m nostalgic for.

Why photography?

The art fascinates me; it overwhelms me. With photography, I hold a power strong enough to influence someone else’s perspective through my optical filter.

What are your goals after University?

Simply stated, it would be to find a balanced lifestyle – people, work, travel, happiness, etc. People and their unique insights teach me. Work and routine grounds me. Travel rejuvenates and humbles me. Happiness is key. All of above shapes me.

Plans are inevitably made to fluctuate, but I’m perfectly fine with that. Ultimately, my life goal is to inspire others. (Also, documentation will always be a part of my life.)

Is there any specific equipment you use?

For the most part, I shoot with the iPhone. Quite recently, I’ve been trying to branch out. I’ve pulled out my Nikon D5100 from the dusty corners of my closet. Alongside that, I’ve also been experimenting with two of my parents’ point-and-shoot film cameras.

What’s the best piece of advice you could give the readers of The Pupil Sphere?

I’ve been told that art won’t provide me monetary stability. It makes me happiest; I do it because I love it and want to do it. What are you willing to struggle for?


All images copyright of Cindy Chou


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