Persephone

"Persephone is the daughter of Demeter and Zeus, as well as wife of Hades. The myth of her abduction represents her function as the personification of vegetation, which comes up in the spring and retires to the earth after the harvest. She is also known by the names Kore, Cora or Proserpina. The pomegranate is the fruit whose seeds have tied her to the underworld, but it is also a symbol of fertility. "

Almost four months ago began the idea of creating a project that was a bit special, that had a common thread that would link multiple shooting, and that would push me as much as possible.

It took me a while, but these two are the photos with which I would like to open this crazy project that probably will take me years to be completed, but I'm very happy to have started! 😁

If you want to support me in this project, you can find prints in my small shop

Credits

Photography: You Chen
Model: Sara Marziali
Styling: Cristina Elanor Biella
Makeup: Camilla Cantini
Assistant: Riccardo Parkour Alessi

Greotan

It all started when my friend and colleague,  Marcella Fava, called me out of nowhere and invited me to exhibit at Fotografia Europea.

“An Exhibition?! Me?! Are you sure?!”

Keep in mind that I'm a fashion photographer. I mainly shoot clothes, shoes, bags and jewelry… not exactly exhibitions stuff. Sure, my style is very romantic and evocative, but nothing to do with true artistic photography.
But Marcella did not think so, and who am I to say no? If she asks me to do something, I just answer yes.

At that point I found myself with a shooting to organize and a theme that was extremely ample: Maps of the time. Memory, archives, future. But as any creative will tell you, flexible themes are the most feared: having no limitation paralyses you. You could do everything: so many possibilities, so many options that you eventually end up failing to do anything.

After some thought, I decided to auto-limit the theme a bit. Since I was a child, "time" fascinated me, but of all the facets of time the theme of past is my favorite. I could spend hours and hours immersed in memories, fantasising lost in my memory and thinking about all the experiences I have experienced so far. The emotional discharge that it gives me are always very strong. A mixture of melancholy, happiness and sadness pervades me and this, inspires me to create.

Grēotan [02] Chen You.jpg

It was decided: the central theme of my shooting would have been Past.

I started moving relatively early: once I patched up the moodboard I asked two fantastic girls with whom I had already collaborated, Susanna and Camilla, to deal with the styling and makeup respectively.

The idea was to organize the project as if it was a fashion editorial: a model, six or seven different looks and a pair of locations.

That is roughly where I ran aground. The new season had just began, work overwhelmed me and I completely lost the project.

Let’s jump forward to a month to the show. All the other photographers were ready with their projects and I was still without a model and without a location… it seems a pretty inconsiderate/desperate situation, but reality is I was quite calm. The fashion world often has crazy turnarounds and I am used to working quickly.

The search for the model was perhaps the most difficult phase because I was looking for a girl who had reddish hair and very delicate features. These characteristics are already pretty rare in themselves, but the period of time I wanted coincided precisely with the various fashion weeks… no luck with agencies.

Fortunately, after looking everywhere and asking everyone, I found Giorgia! I liked here immediately. Also: freckles!

Regarding the location I would have liked to split the shooting in two parts: one part outdoors and one part interior. My ideal for the outdoors part would have been a decadent park, a bit out of the world… almost abandoned. After some scouting, I chose the Stibbert Park.

The search for the interior location - which I thought would prove to be very difficult - ended instead almost immediately thanks to the kindness of Gherardo, the manager of the antiques shop Gallori Turchi. Just before entering I looked through the glass front and said aloud "they‘re going to laugh me in the face, it’s such a beautiful store, look at all that stuff"… Gherardo instead accepted immediately. (Among other things, his store is the only one in Italy to specialize in vintage weapons! If you are even vaguely interested, I highly recommend it!)

The actual day of shooting went quite easily. Giorgia managed to come to Florence from Bolzano the day before, so we could start early. After an hour and half for hair and makeup, we moved to the Stibbert Park. We scheduled three look changes, going back to the studio and having lunch, changing the makeup and set off on time for our appointment with Gherardo.

Needless to say, we were late despite our good intentions and we had to run for our lives. After some ups and downs to find parking (have you ever tried to find a parking spot in the center of Florence’s traffic?), we arrived, set up and started shooting.

We had to do five changes in less than two hours… with very little space to moveand surrounded by many delicate and very, very expensive objects. It was no easy task.

“You, why do you always put yourself in such situations?”

Yeah, sometimes I ask myself the same question..

No, truth is that I am one of those old geezers that rant all the time but are happy inside. I love to push over my limits, try my best and come up with something more. To continue to get better is the only way to remain competitive and be able to offer a bigger pool of competences to your clients.



Credits

Photography: Chen You
Models: Giorgia Dallago
Styling: Susanna Fabbrini
Make-up: Camilla Cantini
Assistant: Antonia Visone
Location: Gallori Turchi

Guileless

Guileless is a beauty editorial published in the April issue of Obscurae Magazine.

Credits

Photography: Chen You
Model: Bianca @Esprit Management
Styling: Susanna Fabbrini
Makeup: Lara Quercioli
Assistant: Antonia Visone

Gainst

Gainst [07] Chen You.jpg

Gainst is a fashion editorial published in the February issue of Féroce Magazine.

Credits

Photography: You Chen
Model: Angel @Boom Models Management
Styling: Susanna Fabbrini
Makeup: Camilla Cantini

Adv for Elodie Lorraine

Elodie Lorraine [03] Chen You.jpg

Elodie Lorraine is a designer of amazing jewels: incredibly material and concrete, almost primordial; but at the same time geometric, clean and clearly modern.

This is the advertising campaign I shot for her.

Credits

Photography: YouChen
Model: Saida Bruni
Styling: Susanna Fabbrini
Makeup: Rachele Leoni
Assistant: Antonia Visone

Year One

This day one year ago I made my first step in fashion photography. Since then, I deep dived into this incredibly complex and difficult and fascinating world.

Now, I’d like to reflect a bit on this past year and share with you my own resolutions for the new one.

Golden Cage Cover

In Retrospect

There are two ways to look back at this year: from a certain point of view, I shot a lot. And I mean A LOT. More than 30000 photos and a bunch of videos, all grouped onto tens of projects.

On the other hand when I look at what has actually contributed to the “Portfolio”, there wasn’t much. But that’s ok too: high quality work only gets out from a constant practice and a very strict editing. Show only your best work, right?

So, about the highlights: in 2016 I shot my first advertising for a cashmere brand, Il Borgo. During the year I also published a number of editorials, landing two (!) covers. I’ve been published on Elegant Magazine three times, on Superior Magazine and on Dark Beauty Magazine. Another bunch of editorials are still waiting for publishing. In September I opened my own studio, which has been a small dream of mine for quite a lot of time. Since then I shot a large number of portraits and tests I made.

With all that, my portfolio has finally begun to look like a real portfolio.

Parallely, I began my teaching experience at my Alma Mater, where I designed their new Videomaking Course. Later I moved on and — together with a colleague — founded a photographic school, Bottega Fotografica.

Those who know me are sick and tired of the fact that I’m always afraid of being left out, of being too old and progressing too slowly; but all things considered, I am just now approaching the 3rd year of professional photography (this January marks the anniversary) and I’m already here. Yet, I know that I could have shot more, marketed other niches and in general done things a bit better.

Gaijin Cover

Resolutions

Keeping that in mind, what are my new year resolutions?

#1 Shoot More Advertising

You could say a lot of things: that it’s where the money really is, that to be considered successful you should shoot a lot of advertising work… but to me advertising has always been “just” the true essence of Fashion Photography. In order to transmit the identity of a brand, you have to evoke specific emotions, and that can be done only when you unleash all your knowledge and creativity. To me there is nothing more rewarding than being chosen to understand, rework and portray a brand. I’ll work hard in trying to land more advertising jobs.

#2 More Editorials

I love shooting editorials. Creativity, team work and the joy of being published… how can you beat it? This year I would like to up the game a bit and try to get on higher-end magazines.

#3 Shoot Less

Yes, I know that my first two resolutions were “to shoot more” and “more again”, but I’d like to try to shoot more with less: slow down a bit and think more about the single shots. As I am now, I often overshoot because of my fear of not getting the right one. And every single time I do get the results I want, but I’d like to get better at understanding when I have already gotten it and stop waisting time.

#4 Streamline Workflow

You can never be too efficient: the more throughput I can manage, the more work I can take on. The problem here is that I have to manage too many fronts: shooting is just a 10% of the job. Production, logistics, job hunting, marketing and all things administration take an immense toll on the available time. I already am a production freak, but it looks that I need to get better again.

#5 Retouch Quicker

Another time sink is retouching. Don’t get me wrong, I love retouching my own images: without it the shots are just that… shots. Retouching completes the process, but yet it takes too much time. Part of the problem here is that I need to book a good slice of undisturbed time to really get into it. This is also part of the previous resolution: if I can manage to regulate my workflow better, probably it will save time with retouching too.

#6 Share Knowledge

Obviously I am planning to continue to put a lot of energy into my own school, Bottega Fotografica. But I’d like to post more specifically about fashion photography. Up until now you’ve only seen a few posts on this blog, but I’d like to create more  behind the scenes: photos, posts and videos. Usually I’m just too focused on the job at hand and I forget to shoot B-roll, but recently I got an assistant, so I’ve already begun to tackle the problem.

#7 Print More

There isn’t much to be said here. Being born as a digital photographer, I see most of my photos only on screen, but as I approached printing (and its difficulties) I’ve come to appreciate it more and more. Printing is on a whole different level: it elevates your work.
This is also a double fold resolution: I’d like to print only my best work, so printing more means that I have to make “more best work” (yes, I know it’s just a mind trick, but bear with me).

#8 Travel More

There is nothing like traveling and experiencing more cultures. “If money was not a problem” I’d spend all my time traveling. To me it’s not that much a matter of decompressing from work as much as a mean to get inspiration: I want to see as much as possible of this big big world.

#9 China Book

Last year I traveled to Switzerland, France and China. I stayed nearly one month in China, and this year I’m going to go there one more time in March. While I was there I began working on a side project of mine that I intend of putting out in the world this year (yes, it’s a photo book, what a surprise right?). I’m not sure if it will be appreciated or not, but reality is I’m just doing it out of selfishness, to express my view of today’s China as an in/outsider. But if you might be interested, let me know, I’d be happy to hear that!

#10 Continue this Career

The last resolution is a bit anticlimactic, but it’s the most important one. Being a freelance photographer is so damn difficult that I have often wondered if it was the right career (asians’ peer pressure can be truly destructive), but I can’t really see any other way for me now other than living and breathing photography.

At the end of next year we’ll see what I will have been able to accomplish and what not. In the meantime, thank you all for the support and the encouragement!

Garden Blaze

Garden Blaze is a fashion editorial published in the October issue of Elegant Magazine, available in digital or print.

And here are a few behind the scenes shots! This was before I got my own studio: we rented the excellent Primo Terzo.

Thanks to my amazing team, this was by far the most challenging shooting I’ve ever done!

The crazy ones! ❤️

Credits

Photography: You Chen
Models: Martina @Casting Firenze & Giulia Renzi
Styling: Marta Biagini & Cristina Bozzi @Hylozoic*A
Make-up: Kizui Louze
Hair: Cristina Bertini
Graphics: Denise Paoli & Martina Volandri @Le Dame
Assistant: Andrea David


Gone

Gone is a fashion editorial published in the October issue of Superior Magazine, available in digital or print.

 
I wanted to celebrate the beauty that you can find in the ends. A night that nears the dawn, a love that ends, the innocence of the youth are all incredibly beautiful, so frail and feeble in time. The decadence of autumn and the nature that constantly reminds us of the passing of time are so powerful that I wanted to celebrate them.
 

Gone is an editorial that matured with time. Born as a simple and easy floral shooting for the SS season, we had to change plans and postpone it a bit… a month or six. But that was time well spent, because I got the chance to evolve the idea and change it in something more elaborate, something with more depth.

As you can see from the moodboard, the original name of the editorial was Halcyon. It’s an archaic word that denotes a period of time in the past that was idyllically happy (we ended a bit further). When I envisioned this shooting I had just came back from assisting Lara Jade’s Workshop in Milan and I was heavily influenced/inspired by her style. I wanted to make something similar. Looking back now, it was way too similar.

Luckily, as I kept adding and deleting pins, the moodboard shifted and in the end we kept the floral elements, but with a darker mood…

Once we settled on a mood, it really sank with us. Working together with Cristina and Rachele we decided on a very simple but effective styling and makeup. Cristina’s taste tends towards all things ethereal and romantic, so it was a perfect fit for the mood. Rachele adapted very well to the mood and even if her makeup was very subtle, she continued to correct and perfect between each look. I tend to be a perfectionist in post, and with their meticulous work they really saved me a lot of time!

Choosing the location was pretty easy: I had already worked at CROSS+STUDIO during Lara Jade’s workshop, and I literally fell in love with their selection of studios (unlike the typical aseptic studio, theirs are fully furnished and designed in different styles: Factory and Industrial have a metropolitan look, Classic is a gigantic full white studio, Bridge has a modern taste and so on…). At this point of the production I already had in mind what kind of color grading I wanted to make, so I chose Liberty, which had brownish/warm colors combined with grey/colder colors.

Interestingly, even if I varied a lot with angles and poses, the shots I “saw” during the shooting closely reflected the final ones.
(Also: I definitely don’t know how to use an instant camera).

I knew that makeup would take around an hour, so I had two hours to shoot six looks: twenty minutes per look. So, during the first hour, I quickly decided and tested the “sets”: six different spots where to shoot, and what kind of lighting each spot needed. I already studied the space from the photos of the studio, but seeing a location in person is different. I had to make some quick adjustments at the beginning of each look, but the obvious key was preparation.

Shooting day was an extremely hot and humid (and hot) day. The short trip from the metro station to the studio nearly killed my team. But as I booked only three hours for the studio, we had to get ready as fast as possible.

Luckily Rachele is a great professional and switched to full makeup mode in a very short time, and Elaine, our beautiful model, was from Texas, so she wasn’t really affected by the heat.

Honestly, the shooting part all a blur, but we manage to follow the schedule and I’m extremely happy with how it turned out! This was definitely the fastest editorial I’ve ever done (coincidentally also one of my favourites so far). And I can say for sure that without my team it wouldn’t have been possible.

Credits

Model: Elaine @Boom Models Management
Styling: Cristina Biella
Makeup: Rachele Leoni


Assisting Lara Jade

As you might know, a few weeks ago I had the incredible opportunity to assist one of my favourite photographers: Lara Jade.

How incredible it was that it also happened to be the first time I assisted anyone? Sure, I know my way in a set, but I was very, VERY lucky to have such an opportunity.

Lara Jade Workshops

So! Lara was in Milan for a two-days workshop. What can you do in two days? Actually, a LOT.

The first day began with short introduction about her work and a lot of insights about how she progressed in the years and adapted to the industry. Then in the afternoon she proceeded to the shooting session: two different models, three assistants, six sets, sixteen photographers… a lot of photos.

We assistants set the lights following Lara's instructions: she quickly decided everything based on the opportunities offered by the studio. One, two, three… six different light setups. On the spot.

Every workshop attendant had the opportunity to shoot six looks: effectively a full editorial.

The second day was spent talking about retouching (working directly on the first days’ photos), but the most important part was marketing. It's a subject never talked about enough: it's true that a photographer's job is to shoot beautiful photos, but if you can't get in front of your clients all your abilities are effectively useless. Lara instead went and taught all she knew about the subject and explained all her best practices. Invaluable.

Should I Assist?

Since then I assisted a few other times (and had assistants on set myself too), and I can say for sure that that level of organization is incredibly difficult to pull off. The thing that most photographers (but it's valid for any job) don't realize is how big the world really is, how little we know.

The way an international level photographer works is totally different. Preparation, knowledge, experience are things that you can learn with time, but in my opinion, assisting someone is an incredible boost. Articles, blog posts, guides and tutorials do help you to a certain extent, but in order to get to the next level you have to work with/for someone that is better than you. Just helping on set and watching Lara’s workshop helped me a lot!

I definitely recommend her workshops (if it wasn’t obvious already), and if you have the opportunity, you should definitely try and be and assistant for someone!

I Am “You”

Hello everybody! How are you?

Lately I spent a lot of time reflecting about my “brand” and my “target market”. Up until now I’ve been all over the place but I’d like to focus more. I know that I love fashion photography and I know that I like shooting campaigns and editorials. And that’s what I’m going to concentrate on.

The fashion world is an extremely competitive and image driven one (obviously). It's alive, evolving and everything is interconnected. I felt I wasn't representing myself in the right way. 

That’s also why I’m going to “rebrand” and begin using my chinese name from now on: Chen You (陈佑)! It’s catchy and easier to use both for me and for my clients (Chen is the surname and You is the name, if you’re wondering). How is it: easier, more difficult, indifferent? Let me know what you think about it!

And… that’s all! These next months I'm going to work on a few big projects, so I won’t publish much but expect BIG THINGS!