Q&A: Jessica Chou


Have you recently been living by any life philosophy? Be open, challenge the things that scare you, help people and don’t forget to drink water. What will baffle future generations about our day and age? So many things – that we (in the U.S.) still talk about the right to bear arms in the face of so many mass shootings.
That (again, in the U.S.) there are enough people who deny climate change to bring any real change to a halt. And if and when robots take over (for everybody), that we once labored for our income. Are you aware of any conspiracies? I feel like I’m always the last to know. What is it that interests you about photography? I’m interested in it’s ability to take any given moment, put it into a frame and transcend it into another life, another object. It’s a visual touch point that lets you connect with other people with what you experienced. And when the interaction is successful, it can feel pretty euphoric. And quite frankly, it can get at things in a way writing or talking cannot. What is the worst thing about city life? Homelessness. What part of the planet would you like to explore? I have it in my mind to get my diving license. Once I save enough money, I will do that and explore the ocean. What do you think is the most plausible of the supernatural? I haven’t given this a lot of thought, but I will say shape shifting. Sometimes I really wonder if what we see is really the way matter exists. If you had to align yourself with a leader in history, who would it be? At the risk of sounding naive, I would say Ahmad Shah Massoud. He was a politician and military leader of a rebel group in Afghanistan and was successful in resisting the Soviet occupation and then later, the Taliban… that was until his assassination in 2001. He was well-admired and known for his reflective and philosophical approach as a leader. The U.S. briefly considered backing Massoud in the 90s, but in the end opted to support the Taliban. I don’t think I need to say how things turned out with that. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened had things gone the other way. I’m sure there were more things at play than U.S. involvement, but that did seem like a crucial point in U.S. and Afghanistan history and politics.

Pick a field of science to be an expert within. Quantum physics. What moment have you most wished you’d had a camera when you hadn’t? Any moment I had with my grandmother. The feelings I had when she was alive and the feelings I have now, they are so complex and so hard to pin down. I wish I had given myself the time and depth to think about that before. Choose a job you would be willing to do for free on the side. Park ranger or anything that’ll keep me moving and keep me outside. Describe the most important photo you’ve seen. I guess what I find important in a photograph is fluid. There are days when I’m enthralled by the work of Harry Callahan or Taryn Simon. And there are days when I find them utterly boring and ineffectual. So I can’t really answer that. It might be contradictory for me to say, but I am a bit ambivalent about needing to find the importance of a photograph. How often do you take other people’s advice? Not often. I’m working on that. Describe a personal hell. When all mystery has been turned over and explained. Which living person do you most admire? Michelle Obama. On what occasion do you lie? When I don’t feel like being pestered. What was the last crime you witnessed? An innocent woman who was convicted of a crime she did not commit. A result of shoddy police work, lazy prosecution and extremely loose evidence. 2 convictions and 17 years later, her charges are finally dismissed. It’s not a crime crime, but wtf. What is the best way to educate yourself? Trial and error, learning through experience and talking to people. Books help.

What is the next book you want to read? Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen. Ultimate camera? I don’t know. Most used camera? iPhone 7 & nikon d810. What object do you want? Medium format camera. What object do you need? A good small camera. How would you explain the internet to someone from the 1950’s? It’s this thing that replaces the television and gives people a lot of anxiety, but it’s awesome! Are you satisfied with your level of physical strength? Not very satisfied. Where I’d like to be is Alicia Vikander’s physique in Tomber Raider.  She looks so freakin ripped in those trailers. Where I’m at is eating a french fry in my living room. Describe a cheap thrill. Ice cream on a cold night. Pick an historic moment from the last hundred years to bring a camera to. Because I was just talking about Massoud, the moment before he was assassinated. Although, it’s a weird one to pick because he was killed by suicide bombers who posed as a reporter and photographer. The bomb was the camera. Are impulses more important than consequences? I love following impulses. There are some things in life you really can’t plan and they tend to be the best moments in life. But I also think consequences are frightening, some are even lifelong. I guess a lucky person would say impulses and an unlucky person would say consequences. Which talent would you most like to have? To be able to play the guitar like Annie Clark. What is your plan for the next 24 hours. It’s Valentine’s Day, so I’ll be making steak and asparagus for dinner for me and my husband. After that, who knows where life will take us.

Jessica Chou — Suburban Chinatown. See more of Jessica’s work — Website / Instagram. Jessica was born in 1985 in Taipei, Taiwan and raised in the suburbs of Los Angeles known as the San Gabriel Valley. She graduated from UCLA with a degree in Middle East History and is currently living and working between Los Angeles and San Francisco.