Storyboard: Ophelia Chong

Chance encounters of the fluid kind

I believe that everyone is capable of having at least six careers in their lifetime. How does one do that? Remain fluid and open to what the universe throws at you.

I was born in Canada and became an American citizen 20 years ago. As a kid, I would layer my creative endeavors on top of one another. Everything was connected. Drawing led to ceramics and graphic design; ceramics somehow led to photography. At ArtCenter, I learned to master photography and ArtCenter gave me the skills to speak my own voice in my art. Later, photography would lead me to the world of music and design when I started to photograph musicians for Raygun Magazine which was headed by the seminal designer David Carson in the mid-‘90s.

My creative life is nothing more than an endless series of layers that encompasses film, images, design, and the modern online experience. One of the benefits of being perpetually open to whatever the world gives you is that you’ll bump into a lot of interesting people on your path.

I’ve done a bit of everything, from working on a website for Jennifer Aniston back in 1999 to entertaining acclaimed indie filmmaker Todd Solondz for a day while he had a film screening in Los Angeles, which we took to Sundance. It was there I heard intriguing whispers about a then unknown named Christopher Nolan and worked with him at the Slamdance Film Festival where I was the Creative Director for a decade. I’ve lunched with Diana Rigg and Wong Kar Wei, drove Cindy Sherman to shop for plastic body parts, celebrated the Tony’s with Stephen Sondheim at his home, and traveled in Berlin with Philip Glass. These are fortunate chapters of a blessed life, throughout which many memorable chance encounters are scattered.

My latest venture involved the business of stock cannabis photos. StockPot Images is the first-ever stock photo collection to focus primarily on the world of cannabis. I was drawn to this world because a) I believe in the social good of cannabis; and b) I wanted to combat the historically racist and inaccurate depictions of cannabis users that can be found in other public databases. Cannabis-related images are much easier to obtain and share in our current era, which is why our team remains diverse as well as dynamic. In other words, they reflect the world we live in.

While black market cannabis still exists, cannabis as a concept has gone mainstream. Cannabis is now a licensed commodity – it’s acceptable. How do I thrive in this new field? I remain open. I draw upon the skills I already know I have. Whatever our team does, we bring to it a sense of rigor, texture, composition, and visual meticulousness that honors and elevates the material. That’s what ArtCenter taught me to do.

I’ve always tended to go where my curiosity leads me, in both a professional and a spiritual sense. I’m drawn towards uncharted terrain, and worlds that haven’t been tapped into yet. Whether it’s cannabis or album art, film festivals or the cultivation of psilocybin – a subject I am increasingly passionate about – I approach each new undertaking with a gentle but inquisitive creative spirit.

Teaching at ArtCenter was another layer to add to the journey. I cherish the bond I have with my students, many of whom I have stayed in touch with via Facebook group chats and dinners at my home. The other day, one of my students sent me a photo of his newborn baby. My only thought was, “my babies are having babies.” I ask you, “Where does the time go?”

It was a challenge to teach marketability in photography amid the advent of platforms like Instagram, which effectively democratizes images that were once private. Public imagery is no longer priceless. And yet, I have faith in my students to brave these uncharted waters because they are, like me, perpetually fluid and open.

Can you have six careers in your lifetime? Who knows. Isn’t one career enough? Without a doubt. I would suggest that if our current global situation can teach us anything, it’s the value of adaptability. Don’t rule out any potential path for yourself. After all, who knows what you might be capable of?

Ophelia Chong
BFA 89 Fine Art
Founder at Yun Mun LLC, Stock Pot Images LLC, 
Former Instructor at ArtCenter College of Design, Marketing & Self Promotion/Photography
High Times Women, 50 of 2019, Top 15 Women in Cannabis in Forbes, Sept. 2019
Entrepreneur The 35 Most Influential Women in Cannabis May 2020
Forbes Fifteen Powerful and Innovative Women in Cannabis Right Now Aug. 2019

Can you have six careers in your lifetime? Isn’t one career enough? Without a doubt. If our current global situation can teach us anything, it’s the value of adaptability.

Ophelia Chong
Support ArtCenter

Create possibilities for students at ArtCenter and amplify their impact on the world.