Banks Journal: Vivian! First off, thank you for letting us spend the day with you, it seems like time disappears quicker than ever these days.
Vivian: Of course! Thanks for coming up, and yes… it’s very true.
Banks Journal: So for those who don’t know, you’re a very talented photographer and director, and you seem to have a huge heart for the communities your part of. What's life been like for you lately Vivian?
Vivian: Thank you so much. I guess between photography and directing I seem to be bouncing back between LA, New York, and Kauai a lot. So I guess life lately has consisted of a lot of travel which is great, but I'm trying to find moments to rest so I don't just get carried by the tide of work.
Banks Journal: Well that seems to be the question of the times these days huh? How have you been managing that?
Vivian: Honestly I’m just trying to just reintroduce play into my life and try and retain that child likeness. Surfing, playing soccer, ceramics, and just having slow mornings. I definitely tend to overbook myself, I’m trying to not put anything on my calendar before 10am so I have time to take care of myself each day. Being in Kauai makes that a lot easier, so many of the people and the things I love are over there.
Banks Journal: So can you tell us how you got into photography?
Vivian: I feel like I’ve always seen my life in frames which is interesting. Some of my earliest memories growing up were looking through the back window of my parent’s car and just seeing all the beauty of California in this perfect landscape shaped window frame. Mountains, Canyons, Beaches, Sunsets, all within this little frame I could barely see out of.
Some years later in high school, my best friend Dylan inherited a Canon AE-1 film camera from his Grandfather, and we just became obsessed with figuring out how it worked.
The camera didn't work properly when he first inherited it, so in order to fix it we kind of had to dive in and figure out this new world of mechanical film processing. And I think the uniqueness and of the process alone made us want to just start taking photos.
Banks Journal: That's a good story right there! So being a visual artist, where is the cross section for you between music and visuals?
Vivian: The first thing that comes to my mind when I'm driving down PCH at golden hour is 'what song should I listen to that will enhance the beauty I’m seeing?' I feel like music can enhance moments to make visuals that much more impactful. The relationship between sound and visuals is really fascinating.
Banks Journal: We couldn't agree more. Ok so let's break down this playlist, what's the inspiration behind it?
Vivian: Sooo the first few songs are very chill. My mind is just waking up, and I like to listen to music that just makes me happy to start moving my body and get outside. I go surf with my friend most mornings, and we have both separately been really into Japanese jazz fusion. So there’s some of that on there.
I love hip hop/R&B. It helps energize me for the work day, and around 4 or 5pm each day I’ll take break. Kinda like my version of a siesta. My bedroom has a sliding patio door, so the light is amazing especially in the late afternoon. So I’ll open all the windows and just lay in my bed with headphones like a weirdo. I’ll blast some Kendrick, Summer Walker, Jhene Aiko, Tyler, Frank Ocean, and others in that world.
Bossa Nova romanticizes any situation in my opinion. It’s my favorite music to start cooking and drinking wine to... or sometimes I’ll just lay on the floor *laughs*. I do a lot more in my day than find different positions to lay down in I promise… but it’s super relaxing and just feels good.
Lastly, had to throw in a bit of Julian Casablancas in there. It accompanies my late-night thoughts well. Late nights are usually when I am most creative (though I’m definitely more of a morning person). So if I’m journaling a lot, editing, contemplating my existence, etc, this is the type of music I’m listening to.
Banks Journal: Do you have any passion projects you're working on this year?
Vivian: Actually yeah, I've been working on a book project this last year which has been a really cool journey. We’re in the process right now of laying all the imagery out and making some little changes, I need to head back to Kauai to finish up some final sections which is exciting. So come December we'll have a book launch and release party in Hanalei that I’m looking forward to.
Banks Journal: That's amazing, we’re excited to see it when it's done! What's your favorite part of being a photographer in this day and age?
Vivian: I think it's amazing to be able to capture a still moment in such a fast paced culture, and I really love the joy photos give people when looking back to a certain part of their lives. Whether it was a happier time or a more sad time, those emotions live in the photograph.
I also love being able to meet so many different groups of people and see such diversity of life. I can be in New York shooting a group of skateboarders one day, be in a studio with high fashion models the next, and then suddenly I’m out in nature on Kauai shooting my friends dirt biking. I’m really thankful for that.
Banks Journal: What were some of your biggest obstacles you had to get through in this transition of being a full time photographer?
Vivian: I think there was a lot of insecurity when I was starting out because I wasn't trained professionally, nor did I go to art school or get my degree in an artistic field. So it felt like there was a thorn in my side trying to decide if I was good enough or knew enough to do what I loved as a career. But even though it was a mental hurdle, I think it was a blessing as well.
All I had was a vision and message I wanted to carry out, and I think that just motivated me to study and learn from the people around me very diligently.
An additional big leap of faith was that I graduated from college and was on track to go to Physicians Assistant school, and then suddenly I was having a conversation with my mom about wanting to become a full time photographer. And as you can assume, that's a big change right after graduating from a medical field. But once she heard my heart and the some-what realistic goals I'd set for myself, she was so supportive as she always has been. And that means a lot to me, without that confidence she gave me I’m not sure I would have moved forward in my decision.
Banks Journal: That's truly inspiring Vivian, thanks for sharing that. I think that story could really inspire a lot of people who want to pursue their dreams.
Vivian: Thank you, if it does impact any of you at all then I’m very thankful for that.
Banks Journal: Did you have a hero song during your come up story?
Vivian: I guess it would be the last song on my playlist (I’ll Try Anything Once - Julian Casablancas). It’s one of those songs that I’ve gone back to and enjoyed throughout the years, through all my music phases, life transitions, etc.
Banks Journal: We love to hear it! Well, Vivian thank you so much for spending the day with us, any special shoutouts as we wrap this up?
Vivian: Well first off, I want to give a big thank you to the Banks Journal crew, it’s such a pleasure being able to be a part of this. And also a big thank you to my friends and family who have supported me and believed in me all these years!