When it comes to photography, Larry Chen just gets it. He possesses a natural talent for recognizing the moments the rest of us miss and having his camera ready to seize it. Taking the moment, the scene, the action and the emotion captive for us. If raw talent is, indeed, a gift, then every day for Larry must be Christmas . Every published shot is a work of art that lets us see what his eye saw at the very moment something special happens. Subject — Light — Motion — ‘Click’. Hard to imagine that those tiny slices of time, literally just fractions of a second, can convey so much of the world that the rest of us may never notice or be privileged enough to witness in person. Larry delivers those incredible moments we thirst for, and we do thirst for them, on a digital Silver Platter. While it may be true that anyone can buy the gear and go out to an event and snap a photo, as evidenced by the growing pool of photographers at most events you attend these days, what makes Larry special in this endeavor is the way he sees the subject. It’s more than just point and shoot. It’s recognizing a moment, capturing it and then having the talent to present it to the rest of us in a way that lets us share the passion he clearly has for his chosen profession.
After having met Larry on several occasions I knew I wanted him to be part of this series, and he was kind enough to oblige.
ML@S: Tell me about your influences. Anyone in particular that you look back to regularly for inspiration or guidance?
Larry Chen: The guys who really inspire me are the photojournalists on the front lines shooting conflicts and shooting disasters. They don’t have a media room to work out of, and they put their lives on the line everyday to get pictures. It amazes me what some of these guys have to go through just to end up with nothing or worse. They could get a winning shot and get jacked for their camera gear. They have to deal with many other challenges that motorsports photographers never have to deal with. I can’t imagine what it is like to work with a bullet proof vest and helmet every time I pick up my camera.
I admire the photographers who have followed the President of the United States. I know it is a very hard job, and I really look up to them. They are basically handed historic moments day by day. People see the President through the photographer’s eyes. I bet it’s crazy to have to follow Obama everywhere. They are recording history for generations to come.
ML@S: Talk about your shooting style. Do you feel it’s unique to you?
LC: Ever since I started shooting, I’ve always wanted to bring the level of professionalism from the top photojournalists in the world to motorsports. For example, photographers who shoot the Olympics and the Super Bowl or the World Cup, put in countless hours, and they feel physical pain over getting those history changing shots. If I could only convey one percent of emotion from those top AP and Reuters guys, then I think I have done well.
I am truly lucky, as Speedhunters allows me to stretch my creativity without having to worry about supporting myself financially. I can push the absolute limits of motorsports photography, just for the sake of creating amazing images, and in some cases, art.
ML@S: Tell us a bit about how you got started.
LC: I started shooting right out of high school, but I never really took it seriously until I started getting into cars. Whenever I would go to car meets, auto-x, or track days, my friends could not wait to see my photos. I never understood that back then because, I figured my friends were there in person, so why would they want to see photos of something that they were just at?
I love driving, but it turns out I am not very fast. So, I just kept doing photography on the side along with my real job. I started shooting seriously in 2006 paying my way to events in Japan, China, and even as far as South Africa. Eventually, motorsports photography took all my time, and I went full time in 2010 and I left everything else behind.
ML@S: Talk about your favorite event/series to cover. Why?
LC: One of my favorite events is the 24 Hours of Spa. Some of my favorite photos I have ever produced are from that wonderful event. The track is just so beautiful. It’s hard not to get amazing photographs.
Gatebil is always fun to cover as well. The hours are super long, but somehow everyone always powers through the week without a hitch. The outcome is some amazing imagery.
Pikes Peak is also a very magical event, but it is also the harshest to cover. It is very hard on my body and it is very dangerous, but I love it. This event practically shoots itself, but you have to overcome the altitude sickness and the long hours.
My favorite series to follow is Formula Drift. Without a doubt, it is the series that I concentrate on most. It has given me my break, and I want to do everything in my power to keep it strong and show the world the beauty of drifting. It’s my home, and it is where all my friends are.
ML@S: What keeps you coming back?
LC: During the off season I go through withdrawals, because nothing makes me feel more alive than being out on the track watching drift cars go by. There is really nothing like it.
ML@S: As a professional you’ve been able to travel all over the world. Talk about some of your favorite places you’ve been for work.
LC: I love working in Japan. Some of the coolest cars in the world are there, as well as some of the best food in my opinion. Also Macau and Hong Kong are really cool, I have met so many cool people out there. It is also camera heaven as some of the best lenses and cameras in the world are gathered in that area. More recently I had the chance to check out Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and those were really eye opening experiences that I will never forget. The car culture in the Middle East is amazingly strong.
ML@S: What keeps you motivated?
LC: We are only on the earth for a relatively short period of time. Everyone has their chance to make their mark, whether you want to live a short life and do drugs all day, or if you want to make a long lasting impression. It is up to you. I just want my images to impact the world enough, so that when I am long gone, the images that I have created will live on.
Also , the people I meet as a Speedhunter keeps me motivated. I have made so many new friends, all over the world, and it feels really cool that we always have so much in common. Because at the end of the day we are all car guys. It doesn’t matter if you’re into hella-flush, drifting or time attack, you are a part of this growing global community.
ML@S: Could you ever see yourself doing something else for a living?
LC: To supplement my income, I was a full time paparazzi for two years. If worst comes to worst, I might go back to chasing celebrities.
Well, there it is, kids. Professional Speedhunter, Larry Chen. If you don’t know Larry, take some time to get to know him. You’ll be glad you did.
You could fill volumes with the fine work of Larry Chen. Below are some of my favorites. All used with permission.