Hey, You’re Cool! Ennis Chung
"I can't really separate my life from the project because I grew with it."
Photography is about life, and the work of Ennis Chung is her life. She can’t separate herself from it and as her projects grow, she grows with them. The Canadian photographer and designer, also known as Ennis Like Tennis, is best known for her Realest project. The first phase of that is the photo book Realest Volume 1.1, where she follows a group of people around different cities for five days, eating their food and sleeping on their couches. People she met along the way include Dr. Dax, Chuck Inglish, and OG Maco. Hip hop was the theme that tied it all together, but it became more of an ethnographic study for her. She’s not trying to be a party photographer, she wants to make a difference. We hit her line to see what she’s up to, so read that below. Also get ready for her upcoming project, Untitled_, her first solo exhibition which takes the form of an eBay page.
So how come you’re not working with any magazines?
This is something I started on the side but it’s been growing. I don’t know if I actually want to. My goal is to work more with non-profits. Right now I’m just contributing creatively, but my personal goal is to become a creative director on a couple projects.
What are your causes?
I work with one non-profit called Peace Accelerators. Their whole premise is that we can accomplish so much more with peace than through violence. But my passion is African-American rights and women’s rights. When I started Realest, it was all about hip hop, but as I’ve been working on it (and I guess growing with it) I realized it’s a gateway to black culture. In the ad agency I was working at, I was trying to cast more diverse models, show more diversity in the work itself because it’s not there. It’s kind of new to me.
How did you get started with Realest?
It all started with Motion Family. I met them through my best friend. We were just hanging out, they invited me on tour so I went to LA. That’s how I started meeting people, they introduced me to so many friends. It turned into a pay it forward type thing, where I’d ask them to suggest one person who would be good and it progressed that way. I was just meeting really amazing people with good energy and hip hop was what tied everyone together. I couldn’t figure out a common theme and that was the thread. I can’t really separate my life from the project because I grew with it. It grew in every sense.
How have you grown?
When I started the theme was just hip hop, but the overarching theme became black culture. I’m going in a more political direction now.
How long have you been shooting for?
I got really serious when I was about 16, so like ten years. Eventually, I took a couple courses. I started college as a photo major but then I switched to graphic design.
Sounds like you just follow your heart.
Yea I follow my intuition.
What was one of your favorite moments during the book?
It’s been a while, but one thing that wasn’t in the book, I was with Elli, she’s the one on the cover. The entertainer. We were in CVS because she needed something for her girlfriend’s performance and I desperately needed tweezers. I picked them up and was gonna pay for it, but she paid for them. I don’t know why but it was such a nice gesture. It really touched me.
How many many cameras do you have?
I usually only have one. If I like something, I just stick to it.
But you’re using a new one?
I dropped the old one too many times [laughs]. It was with me through the whole first leg of this project so I just had to buy a new one.
How do you develop your film?
I have a super kind friend who was developing stuff for me. He got it all done for free. It was like lowkey being sponsored [laughs]. I scan everything after.
Where are you from?
I was born in Korea but grew up in Vancouver. I traveled a lot for college these last few years. Hong Kong for two years, Atlanta for two. That’s where I met Motion Family at the end of that. Then I came out here to New York in 2015. I was up here previously for internships though.
Where are you now? Your apartment looks cool.
Thank you! I’m in Flatbush. But I’m cleaning everything out right now. I don’t know if I’m going to be in New York anymore, I might move back to Canada. Either way, I’m about to start the next chapter in my life so I just want a fresh start.
Well, you can’t be possessed by things anyway.
Right. I’m throwing everything away and selling stuff online right now. My eBay page is actually going to be my first solo art project! It’s a digital experiential concept called Untitled_. Since I’m a designer I really plan all this kind of stuff out. So like you mention my apartment, well all the photos that you see will be in the same type of setting with the lighting. There’s actually a whole lot of meaning to it.