Jason Chen owner of Paradigm Gallery
1. How long have you lived in Philly? 20 years
2. How do you describe yourself in THREE WORDS? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
3. How would your best friend describe you in THREE WORDS? -¯\_(ツ)_/¯
4. How did you start your career? I started Paradigm Gallery + Studio with Sara McCorriston 10 years ago as a side project when we were both looking for a studio space to do our personal work. 10 years later, it became our full-time job. I make time to do photoshoots and continue to create personal work. On top of that I am trying to branch out more into the commercial side of fashion and editorial photography
5. Who’s your mentor? My high school art teacher Simona Josan and the first photographer I assisted, Trevor Dixon.
6. What do you fantasize about? To travel the world to shoot for magazine covers, cook and talk about food with chefs around the world.
7. What keeps you up at night? Our democracy, our political climate, our well being as a country.
8. How has the BLM Movement influenced your life and your work, and how has the Pandemic affected you?
I will answer these two questions together. Fortunately I personally have not been affected all that much by both. To which I also recognized the privilege I have. I was taught and able to have savings growing up. I always have "rainy day funds" for the purpose of the disaster we are facing now. Although my family is nowhere near rich, I have never had to worry about money. My parents supported me financially whenever I needed it. I am forever grateful for that. I am also fortunate enough that I own my own business so it's more flexible in my day to day operation, I take all safety measures recommended and work alone most of the time. Business has been a bit slow, but Sara and I are doing everything we can to stay afloat.
I am 163% with the BLM movement, and have tried donating to various organizations and small local businesses that supported the movement. I find myself feeling fatigue seeing messages and news of injustice daily. Tuning out occasionally is the only way I stay sane and be able to focus on getting through my to-dos. In fact I kind of have to stop making anything meaningful for myself to not feel like my work is being pulled in any direction. Not that I don't want to create work about the movement, but I want to take the time to process my feelings to create something more mature.
If I learned anything from this pandemic and the BLM movement, it is that there is a serious issue with the individualism mentality in this country. We can't even simply comply with science to keep each other safe. The phrase I heard over and over in arguments "This is America, it's a free country, I get to do whatever I want, it's my right." and etc. When one's "freedom" imposed problems onto a whole community, that's not freedom, that's selfish. And we know all too damn well how our government officials will craft beautiful speeches to justify the action they are taking (not taking). When the majority of our citizens have to hold a job to have Health Care, because most of us are one medical catastrophe away from losing our home, our savings, our livelihood without it, that's not "freedom". That's us being controlled and manipulated by the wealthy individuals to be productive, so they can be even wealthier. When we treat our education system like a business, we end up with the majority of us not understanding how our government works; we end up leaving so many children behind without proper education. We also changed the tone in our history books to honor the murderers as heros, downplaying the suffering of all minorities. On top of that, the younger generations are amassing huge amounts of debt for an education. How is this freedom when the system is set up to keep us from doing the things that truly make us happy? It's time to restore the Check and Balance in our governments and redefine the term "Freedom".
10: What's one thing most people would be surprised to know about you? That I am actually an animator too.
BONUS Q: What's your favorite spot in Philly? Chinatown, I miss good chinese food so much!
Jason, we love you and hope our readers have an insight into your uniqueness & amazingness in this series.