Casey Liu: photographer and multi passionate entrepreneur
I had the honor of interviewing one of my dearest friends and long time supporter of YIREH, Casey Liu. Casey, has shot all of YIREH's campaigns and continues to amaze me with her talent. Not only is she an extremely talented fashion and lifestyle photographer, but she also co-leads a band, Tigers in The Sky, which is a part of the RVCA Artist Network, as well as curates and sells a vintage collection called Pilgrim Vintage. To top it all off, she is kind, honest, empathetic, wise and a huge inspiration. Here are some images I snapped of Casey while we were on our FW17 campaign shoot in Palm Springs along with our interview - which has some classic Casey wisdom- enjoy!
Emily: You are a multi talented woman. I've had the honor of knowing you for I believe six, possibly almost seven years now, and I know first hand you are an extremely passionate person. How did you first get into photography/the entrepreneurial world?
Casey: I Yes! I really can’t believe how quickly time flies by. I believe we first connected when I had just graduated high school and was still only pursuing photography as a hobby. I had originally wanted to study film at a university in California but I couldn't afford it at the time so I chose to stay local at a community college instead. I was pretty bummed about it at first but it ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve ever made! Because of the freedom community college gave me, I was able to continue my photography on the side. I would always be setting up fun little shoots with my friends and taking photos of my loved ones. I was really obsessed with it so my blog and Facebook was being updated almost every day with new photos. Eventually, I started getting inquiries from people I didn’t know. I would photograph one senior portrait session and then that client’s aunty would want family portraits done and so on. Word of mouth travels so quickly on such a small island that I was soon booking my own gigs and had to choose between staying in school or pursuing photography full-time. I left college after 3 semesters and have been doing the photo thing ever since.
E: How old were you then, and what did the journey look like to get you where you are now?
C: I was 19 when I first began accepting freelance work and 20 when I booked my first big gig shooting for a wedding company. The consistency I got from shooting for a wedding company was great—it allowed me to continue growing, traveling and working on solo projects. I owe so much of my “success” to friends who were so supportive, patient and generous with their knowledge and time. I don’t learn well in a classroom setting so having these talented photographers to both look up to and learn from was vital in my journey. Everything I know about photography I’ve learned from both life experience and by asking many, many questions.
E: Yes! I always get made fun of for the amount of questions I ask, but I truly believe it is such a vital part of learning.
E: We've been to Bali, Portugal, Mexico, Hawai'i and California together, all on a mixture of fun/business. You've been the best person to travel and work with, which isn't always an easy combination. How did you become interested in traveling, and what is your favorite thing to do when you’re in another country?
C: Our trips are some of the best I’ve had! I think I’ve always been pretty interested in travel. I grew up in a really big family and we didn’t travel much at all. It was both so expensive to leave Hawaii and such a hassle. Even when we did travel, it had to be family friendly, close by and easy for my parents; nothing too adventurous or spontaneous. We stuck to Disneyland for the most part and although I loved it, I spent so much of my childhood dreaming of places I would go when I was old enough to travel alone. The first trip I planned on my own was to Portland with my boyfriend a few months after graduating high school. We spent an entire week walking around downtown, catching the bus to skate parks and making new friends. I think that’s my favorite thing to do in a new city or country—taking it slow. I hate rushing to check off bucket list tasks or being tied to an agenda. I’ve grown up seeing so many tourists come to Hawaii without experiencing its culture so it’s really important to me to come to a new place with an open mind.
E: What has been your favorite travel destination to date?
C: Ahhh, so hard! Our trips to Bali and Portugal are pretty up there on my list.
E: I mentioned earlier that you're in a band, Tigers in the Sky, co-led with your boyfriend Lionel, as well as own a Vintage Shop called Pilgrim Vintage, on top of your multi faceted photography business. How do you balance all of this and remain individually passionate for each endeavor?
C: It’s funny because I feel like I’m working nonstop and then not at all. I think the trick, for me at least, has been understanding my limits and focusing on the tasks at hand. It’s easy to stress myself out thinking about all the things I have to get done tomorrow or next week but choosing to give my energy to today’s project has really changed the way I view work. If I’m ever feeling overwhelmed, I take a step back. I accept less photo work or temporarily close down my shop (I’ve actually been on a break all summer with Pilgrim) and trust that the work and sales will still be there when I have the time and energy to begin again. There’s a lot of anxiety that can rise up if I spend time thinking about all the things I am missing out on in closing or turning down jobs but I don’t. Instead, acknowledging that I am simply a human being with weaknesses and limitations has been life-changing. Now I can work out of a place of rest instead of struggle and it’s really made all the difference!
E: What is one piece of advise you would give an entrepreneur just starting out?
C: If you love it, give it all you’ve got. Invest time, ask questions, be inventive and experiment with your passion. Practice, practice, practice and then practice some more. I was obsessed with photography as a young girl and would do it all the time, as much as I could. I carried my camera wherever I went, watched countless videos and surrounded myself with other people who loved it too. I didn’t start out shooting with the idea of pursing a career in photography, I just did it because I loved it so much and wanted to get better. The better I got, the more people noticed.
E: What has been your favorite part of working with YIREH? :)
C: I have so many favorite parts! It’s so crazy to look back at our old campaigns from 2013 and 2014 and see how much we’ve changed—both in Yireh’s designs and in my way of documenting them. I love the journey that we’ve been on with Yireh and am so excited to see where it takes us next :)