Foreword 007: Lauren Chang
"When you begin to focus on transitioning with grace, you begin to see the beauty in change." -- Unknown
Tell us about yourself.
I grew up in Palmdale, a small-ish desert community about an hour north of Los Angeles. The city is probably best known for Afroman and a place to escape to when the rents of Los Angeles climb too high. I went to college at UC Davis and double majored in art history and political science. Right now, I live and work in Los Angeles as a photographer and environmental attorney.
My interest in photography started as a small child on road trips with my family where my dad explained to me the importance of good lighting and showed me how to capture magic little moments through the viewfinder of a camera. Since then, my curiosity grew into a deep appreciation for photography as an effective medium of expression. My favorite way to capture images is by interacting with them in the natural and built environment.
Candids are king!
What exactly does an environmental attorney do?
As an environmental attorney, I work with public agency clients to ensure that projects (e.g. airport updates, mixed-use developments, etc.) comply with the California Environmental Quality Act and National Environmental Policy Act. Essentially, this means reviewing environmental impact reports for consistency with the law and defending the agencies in the event they get sued. In college, I studied political science and art history so law school seemed like the natural (and logical) next step. Once in law school, I jumped around different areas of law and landed on environmental law during my second year. This seemed like a good fit for me because I have always viewed the natural environment as a sacred space and environmental law keeps me on my toes as it is constantly evolving.
What is your most cherished possession?
This was the hardest question for me to answer of the group. I suppose as a photographer I should say my camera, but I find that reading my old journal entries better transports me to memories and emotions of times past than my photographs. Re-reading the entries provides me with a barometer of the progress I've made over the years, which I find both motivating and reassuring. My past work does this as well, but to a lesser extent as I usually just end up making mental notes on how my photographs could have been improved. I also have never gotten over the fact that my journal was stolen a few years ago when my car got broken into in San Diego so needless to say I am highly protective of my journal now. I still hope no one ever read that one. Eek.
Who would you describe as brave?
Anyone who can reach inside themselves and pursue their passion fully and completely is brave from my point of view. Our society does not value following our internal desires nearly as much as we should. Instead, we are often taught that the arts are hobbies and that we should pursue careers that will make us money or provide us with status. Of course, these things have their place and importance, but the empty pursuit of recognition and the bottom line leaves us unfulfilled and lacking in the very areas we should have developed more. Anyone who can take their whisper of passion and turn it into their daily life gets a huge stamp of bravery from me.
What do you miss most about your childhood?
I miss the ease of childhood. The time before you become painfully aware of yourself, the misgivings of others and external pressure from society. In other words, when it was still acceptable to relish in a bath of "ignorance is bliss."
What makes you smile?
A lot of things make me smile (e.g. laying in bed listening to the rain, people dancing, being reunited with an old friend and starting right where you left off), but one of my favorite memories of smiling occurred recently on my flight out of Yogyakarta where I had just spent time soaking in the culture, eating all the spicy food and interacting with the friendliest people I've ever met. I was sitting quietly in the window seat in awe of the puffy popcorn-like clouds dotting the sky over Indonesia when my partner slipped his headphones over my ears and "Staralflur" by Sigur Ros was playing. In that moment, I couldn't help but smile and reflect upon the magical time I spent in Yogyakarta. The song provided a beautiful complement to my thoughts. Just lovely.