Chelsea Yang - Smith is a freelance photographer from Calgary, Alberta. Graduating from the Alberta College of Art and Design, majoring in Photography, she is interested in creating work that involves vulnerability and questions contemporary femininity. Her interests extend to failed relationships, and capturing all sides of intimacy, challenging mainstream ideas of romance and sex. With her recent endeavour to the Banff Centre for the arts, Chelsea tells about her time there, the process, and the creative profession.
Can you tell me a little about the Banff practicum you are partaking in?
Like the term practicum applies, the time I will be spending in Banff will be dedicated to furthering my practical education in photography at a post graduate level – with a focus on building my client based portfolio and skills. The Centre itself is internationally renowned for the space and resources they provide for artists and I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to work and study there for a year.
Are there creative projects that you gravitate towards more than others?
Through experimentation, I have found that I really enjoy time-intensive projects that involve numerous methods of making. That might be something you wouldn’t expect someone who takes photos for a living would say but I like the steps involved with a lot of analogue processes and anything that allows me to work directly with my hands. Currently I’m working on binding a limited number of books featuring film images I shot while travelling and I’ve been experimenting with wheat paste posters as a medium in creating site-specific installations.
What kind of person do you have to be to pursue an artistic driven profession?
You must be a self-starter and have thick skin. Getting rejected is common and when you’re working for yourself you can’t afford to make excuses. At the end of the day you are the only one who can hold yourself accountable. Being organized to meet deadlines and being dedicated
to your work regardless of the outcome are desirable traits for ‘making it’ in an artistic driven profession.
What is the biggest pain in the ass in pursuing something creative as a career?
Self-doubt can be creatively crippling and in my experience, it always appears when I feel I have too much time on my hands. I have a constant need to be working on something, personal or client-based, otherwise I’ll start second guessing everything and completely psych myself out of any creative momentum I had going.
What’s integral to the work you produce?
Honesty, with myself and the viewer; I’ve always been a firm believer of ‘what you see is what you get’. I try to communicate an honest view of the subject through the portraits I shoot and the personal work I create. Art-making for me is about creating a space to let myself be vulnerable and just make; it’s a better indication of how I’m feeling than anything you’ll ever get out of me willingly. Given the nature of my work, it’s always my hope that the finished product is something that the viewer can relate to on an intimate level but I’m okay with it completely alienating them as well.
I find it difficult to believe most things are authentic anymore, particularly when it comes to social media. Curated profiles and intentional posts are integrated in the way we communicate with each other now and so it’s even more important that I make the conscious effort to deliver honesty in the things I make, online and offline.
Does your “landscape” shape who you are?
Of course! Especially in Calgary because the art community is so tight-knit, it’s a constant reinvention of similar ideas. It’s good to get some perspective by travelling because each piece you create is a conclusion of yourself, at that moment in time. When you consciously choose to consume and participate in new experiences, you are taking an active role in informing and growing your practice.
To see more of Chelsea's work visit her website and follow her on Instagram @chelseayangsmith