Creator Q&A : Jeanette Chwan

Jeanette Chwan

Photographer and Videographer


In a few words state who you are, your occupation and what it is that you create.

I'm Jeanette Chwan and I work as a photographer and videographer, although some parts of my professional career are on a pause right now! My personal photography practice doesn't deal with any one issue specifically- that practice's focus is a bit nebulous, and my illustrations serve as a means of personal expression.

Describe what you see when you look out your window.

When I look out the window in my kitchen, which is where I'm spending most of my time, either drinking coffee, tea, doing dishes, working out, doing more dishes, waging a constant battle against an ant infestation (my unwelcome quarantine guests), etc...I see the roof of the garage where there's some standing water. I constantly see red-winged black birds taking a bath, robins stopping by, and squirrels constantly scampering around.

What is a podcast, book, or song that is keeping you sane?

There are so many but my regulars are WTF, Small Doses, Skeptic Tank, The Honeydew, Radiolab, Disgraceland, Unexplained, This American Life, and JRE. I don't agree with all points that that any of the hosts talk about, but I believe we should listen to sides of conversations that we don't necessarily agree with- and with not being able to foster many face to face conversations lately, listening to long-form conversations is a good way to practice active listening. If I wasn't able to keep these conversations playing throughout my days to simulate the presence of other human company (because I'm isolating only with my cat, and the ants) I would definitely be in a much worse mental space than what I'm feeling right now.

What is a word that makes you laugh?

One word? It could be anything if said in the right way at the right (so probably an inappropriate) time.

What is the color of your current mood?

Hm, this is a difficult question to answer because colors are triggered from different experiences and can represent a multitude of moods at any point. Can I answer with the feeling of being unfocused? Like a lumpy warm brownish grey? It's definitely not a cool grey, am I getting too rambly here?

What is something that brings you joy?

Being able to help others, and to share what I have when I can to create positive memories with either my skill-set or personal company, that makes me pretty happy. Cooking and eating with people checks a lot of boxes in those ways.

COVID-19 aside, what frustrates you?

Feeling stuck, and uninspired has been my main source of frustration.

What do you feel most hopeful about?

That people as a whole can realize how interconnected we all really are. I really started noticing this when I no longer had roommates - that people usually experience suffering at the same times, but choose to not discuss the things that make their lives difficult. I hope we can all become much more open and de-stigmatize discussing parts of our lives that make us feel unwell, in order to form stronger communities and inter-personal bonds.

How do you define your creative process - what makes you tick, what is your practice?

My process is usually 'do what you can with what you have, and see what happens.' I get inspiration from the process of doing something for the first time. Since the way we live has changed so dramatically this year, my practice has come to when inspiration or an idea strikes, just go for it, we're only granted opportunities once.


What is something challenging you’ve accomplished as a creator?

I think finally seeing a personal style + tone emerge in my illustration is a big accomplishment. I feel very fortunate to have collaborated with a lot of talented people in shooting video and seeing the results of that be very pleasing is also greatly satisfying. I have different philosophies that I apply toward photography so when I can get back to photographing more of the world, when we can all re-enter open society, I'd like to see more personal accomplishment come from that.

Name an artist or creator you draw influence from?

James Baldwin, the author. The manner in which he spoke in public, he was

unapologetically himself in interviews. He was so confident in speaking his truth, and examining the pains of being human, and writing about it, I never feel when watching his interviews that he had an ulterior motive other than speaking on being human. His unfiltered way of writing, creating characters that represent the problems that we face, really inspires me to represent myself in the same conspicuous way. Creating in that honest way, I think really helps bring light to the fact that all issues are connected in some way, and that many of our illnesses, whether that manifests in a social, environmental, or economic symptom, stem from the same sources.

How has COVID-19 affected you? Have you changed your process during quarantine?

COVID-19 has really forced me to take a step back and examine what is important to me and what I want to focus on. I missed out on several jobs that I normally shoot in the spring- so i'm looking forward to using those skills in my own emerging personal practice once the shutdown is over.

In your opinion what do you think the “new normal” should look like for our global society?

The new normal should be everyone shouldering more personal responsibility towards the betterment and protection of all of our health. If we take personal steps to take care of the earth, ourselves, and each other, stop consuming so much, deciding not to support companies that only care about profit- I think we can see real significant change.

What do you look forward to most once quarantine restrictions are lessened?

I most look forward to seeing the people I care about, and having a social life again, meeting new people. Going out and seeing new places is a close second.

In closing, describe or reflect on an aspect of nature that inspires you.

The sun always provides a lot of comfort, physically and mentally. As I have been working in a basement full time for the last 5years (until quarantine hit) I've really come to appreciate being outdoors and taking advantage of all its benefits.