Yan Yan Chan: “You always need to move backwards to move forwards”
Entering into the China Heights Gallery for the G-Star RAW Collaborations x Leica Camera late last year, I was immediately struck by this petite girl sporting a mass of blonde hair and seriously owning her white zip-up dress. When she moved across the room to place a hand on model and presenter Nathan Jolliffe’s arm – it all made sense. This was Yan Yan Chan. The person I’d long been following on Instagram for her creative captures of life teamed with a laid-back covetable wardrobe.
While impressed with the incredible work around the gallery featuring Yan Yan, Kelly Gale, Sarah Ellen and Jesse Lizotte’s vision of RAW visceral experiences and inspirations – my mind was abuzz with questions I wanted to ask Yan Yan. When and why did she enter into the world of blogging? How did she meet Nathan? What was it like to be a part of a creative power couple? The next day I got in contact with the PR firm organising the event, and the rest, as they say, is history…
How did you first get into blogging?
I was 15, studying photography, visual art and film. I was extremely fond of my process diaries, so decided to move my works and personal experiments to a website called Tumblr, out of procrastination… mostly film images I’d taken of my friends and family. About six months of being on Tumblr – I decided to move my works onto another site called Blogger, and I guess from then on my content began to evolve more into photo diaries taken on film and style.
What was it that kickstarted your interest into the blogging world?
Coming from an Arts background, I was always fascinated by photography and the fashion industry, so for me – having an online platform to share my experiments in styling and photography was something that I did as a hobby – it was all very experimental. I was in school, interning at the time and assisting on styling jobs, and seeing how the fashion world worked as an outsider, almost… I was really young, naive and pretty clueless, which actually motivated me to work harder, and to aspire to have the same work ethic as the people I worked with. I think the combination of being in school, interning and wanting to get my foot in the door was what really pushed me into the blogging direction. Having a page that was purely experimental and fun – it was never because I wanted to become a ‘blogger’. It started out as a pastime, turned into a love, and now it’s become my full-time job.
When did you become a full-time blogger?
Only very recently. I’ve been doing it for a year now – and I couldn’t have asked for a better time. I think with my site, I’ve finally developed my own style and approach on creating content for other clients and for myself. I try to offer more than just a pretty photo of myself – it’s about concept creation, directing the images with clients, and occasionally being behind the camera. The past year was really about trying to figure out what works, what appeals to clients, what appeals to people who see it, and what I enjoy doing most.
What were you doing before that?
Blogging has always been a side project for me – before committing to it full-time, I was always studying at uni, working or interning. Actually, I remember at one stage I was working full-time, studying and blogging… I don’t think I’ll ever do that again! Stress levels were high. I’ve always liked being busy and kept on my toes though. It keeps me going.
How much time do you dedicate each day to your blog and Instagram?
I don’t really like to separate the words “blog” and “Instagram”. For me, my day-to-day job entails an overall amount of work; whether it be shooting, meetings, emails, editing images, brainstorming a creative concept, doing errands, or working collaboratively with other creatives. On most days, I work 4-5 hours, on other days I could be working for nine or so hours – it really depends what work is happening then and there.
What are you doing when you’re not working?
I love down-time. I always spend time with friends either by the ocean, or having a good wine o’clock.
How and when did you meet Nathan?
Nath and I have known each other for a while, we hung out in the same friend group – and we’d all go on outings together, like Splendour in the Grass and a few day trips out to the North Side… but we didn’t really take an interest in each other till a year or so after!
Do you ever do campaigns together?
We have. We work pretty closely. He’s had an interest in photography for a while, so if we’re not shooting together, he’ll be shooting my work, or I’ll be shooting him.
Does it help having a boyfriend that is used to being around cameras and creatives?
Yeah, it definitely does. I think it helps more that he has a creative eye and has similar taste to myself. I think I’m also really lucky in the way that we’re honest with each other, so whenever there’s a time I’m in a creative block, or if I’m needing some advice, he’ll be there giving honest opinion. We bounce off each other well.
Is he a bit of an Instagram boyfriend?! (e.g. do you make him take a lot of your pics?!!)
He voluntarily does! We both always have a camera in our hands and love taking photos, so whatever goes, goes.
Can you tell me about the recent campaign with G Star Raw?
It was such a special project to be a part of, truly. It was a very dynamic campaign, very well thought out. It involved an open table conversation with Oyster magazine and an amazing bunch of creatives, and then obviously the art show side of it. But my favourite part of it was the process side – meeting with the other creatives and listening to what they had to say, seeing how passionate the G-star Raw team is. My biggest thing has always been to never be too comfortable and to always keep yourself on your toes. If you ever get too comfortable, move onto something new… But being a part of the G-star Raw campaign was exactly that. It definitely pushed my creative side and made me scared, which is a good feeling to have.
What was the thinking behind your pics?
I’ve always been drawn to ‘candid’ images, the imperfect photos, the outtakes of shoots. I base a lot of my work on this already, but I was able to fully push the “outtake” concept, which was fun to do. I set up a make-shift studio on the beach and shot them on self-timer.
Do you like doing collaborations that tap more into your creative side?
Definitely.. more than anything!
What has been your career highlight?
Endless amounts of career highlights, but early last year, Nath and I got flown over to London for an ASOS campaign. That was pretty incredible, on a career and on a personal level. We’d never travelled overseas together before, or worked together, and neither of us had been to London… so it was a pretty special one.
All those moments I felt ridiculously lost and down in the dumps because I didn’t believe in my own work. But I’ve always said that you always need to move backwards to move forwards.
What does the future look like for Yan Yan Chan?
So much work, so much fun!