This week, get inspired by Casey Liu – a Hawaii native (who also happens to be one of my high school classmates), who is currently living in Los Angeles, California with her boyfriend, Lionel. Casey is a full-time photographer, traveler, fashion enthusiast, and musician. One doesn’t get more well-rounded and talented than that! Check out my interview with Casey about her success, goals, and love for life below:
Your photography has really had a lot of success, what motivates you to continue succeeding? Could you offer 3 pieces of advice to fellow aspiring photographers?
I think surrounding myself with hard-working people who are passionate about their craft has definitely helped keep me motivated. When I’m around folks who love what they do and do it well, it makes me want to be the best I can at my craft. There are a few things I wish I had known even just a year ago. The first being that things are not always going to go as planned – and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean it can no longer be good or even better than what you had hoped for. Secondly, (and I think we all know this but not many of us believe it,) art is expression, not competition. There will always be someone “ahead” of you and that’s great! That’s where we can either choose admiration or jealousy. Lastly, never go into it for the money. You wouldn’t believe how many emails I’ve gotten in the past years from young, aspiring photographers who want to know how they can “travel the world and make a living off of photography.” I’m very blessed to have found this passion at a young age; I have always been obsessed with photos and I guess It just went from there. I didn’t start charging or really “making a living” until maybe two years ago and I’ve been doing this for over four years.
What inspires you to travel?
I love that I grew up in Hawaii, that my parents did and their parents and so on. I love that it’s summer year round and everything is slow paced and happy. I love a lot of things but I don’t love how expensive it is to travel out of an island. I hadn’t traveled much as a kid with such a large family so I was deprived of nature’s seasonal changes until much later in my teenage years. I’m not a huge fan of cold weather, but when I experienced snow for the first time at seventeen, I was hooked! I didn’t even experience a true spring until last month when I visited Portland and I’m 22! I love that about traveling – so much newness.
What do you most enjoy about photography?
It makes me so happy to know that if I love a moment, I can keep it. I think that’s always fascinated me, even as a kid. I used to run around taking photos with a terrible point and shoot in the seventh grade, uploading them by the hundreds and storing them in a folder on a computer that would eventually break down. I would look at them for hours and edit them horribly and spend so much time as if they were precious gems. They were pictures of my brothers, my science project, my friends on the last day of school… I don’t have any of them anymore but I remember exactly how they made me feel. They were experiences within my reach that I could experience over and over again, and I love that about photos.
What are your favorite subjects to shoot?
I have a lot of fun shooting editorials and fashion photography because it’s fun to collaborate and make visions come to life. I also love travel photography because I love traveling and sharing my cultural and human experiences with anyone who finds it interesting. However, something I would continue to photograph, regardless of pay, will always be life. My life, the lives of those around and important to me, the day-to-day adventures and the mundane. I love it all. I love to capture things from where I stand, even if it seems silly or obscure. That’s the stuff I live for!
What is the one thing you cannot travel without?
My camera! That probably doesn’t come as a surprise but it’s true. I pack pretty lightly so I often only bring the necessities with me. Something I always seem to unconsciously buy while on my travels, though, is an article of clothing. I’m not even a huge shopper so I guess the clothing that I do buy is pretty special. I own a lot of vintage or clothes I’ve collected as tokens from different states or countries. That’s really fun.
How did you get into photography?
I really don’t know. I get asked that a lot but I’ve always loved photos. I got my first DSLR when I was a junior in high school. It was maybe $400 and my aunt, grandma and parents all chipped in for me to have it. It was probably one of the happiest days I can remember; that sounds crazy but I had been dreaming of owning a “professional” camera since the seventh grade and that’s not an exaggeration. I took a ton of photos when I got it, then I started selling clothes online my senior year. Eventually, the photos I took gained some sort of recognition on my blog (that’s weird to say) and it kind of went from there!
You’ve grown quite the following over the years. To what do you owe your success and huge following? Can you offer any networking tips to fellow aspiring photographers/bloggers?
I get asked this question a lot too, and I don’t know how to answer it. I don’t think there was really a formula to it as many people experience these things differently. I started posting on a tumblr blog back in 2009 and it was a constant thing. I posted every day, all the time, and I totally overdid it. Somehow, though, it worked, and I think that’s sort of transferred to Instagram. I don’t really have anyone or anything to attribute my “following” to. I’m never consistent with my feed, which is what I imagine most people would suggest aspiring photographers do. I guess, even though my work is always changing along with my style, there have been people kind enough to stick with me and who can appreciate and relate to the struggle. I’m just open about it, I think.
What’s next for you? What are your future travel plans? What are your goals for 2015?
I’m not sure what’s in the future, but I’m excited! I’m here in California for as long as I can be and I love it. I’d love to do some road tripping—Big Sur, the midwest, maybe a music tour with my band. I’ve no clue but I’m sure it will be a blast! 2015 feels really big and open to me. I’d like to shoot more campaign work with brands that I believe in and to continue exploring California.
What do you like most about being in a new place?
I love being able to embrace the fact that I know SO little in the grand scheme of things—going to a new place does that for me.
What song is always on your travel playlist?
It’s constantly changing! Some people are really good at curating music playlists for their travels but I can never find the time. I really like Spotify radio, I find a lot of great bands on there. I also listen to my friends of Hollow Wood often on road trips because it makes the long drives seem a lot more epic and a lot less mundane.
What other hobbies do you have aside from travel and photography?
I play music in a band called Tigers in the Sky with my boyfriend Lionel. We play music every single day, whether it’s to practice or to play a show, and it’s definitely become a big part of my life. We both have a lot of fun and recently released an EP so that’s taken up a lot of my time!
Aside from Hawaii and LA, what is the one place you could see yourself settling down?
Oh man, I’ve yet to experience so much of the world, I don’t think I can say! Though I do know that I really love Long Beach, where we currently reside. People are nice, it’s in a great location and I’m just really happy here!