New York-based fashion photographer Justin Chung recently unveiled his first book, Faculty Department, a passion project offering a glimpse into the lives of creative individuals. Justin, who has shot campaigns for brands including J. Crew and Club Monaco, spent three years zig-zagging the globe in pursuit of the people who inspired him, and joined forces with design firm Studio Faculty and Oddi Printing to bring his vision for a beautiful coffee table book to life.
“I’ve always been very academically focused, so research assignments and thesis papers are an appealing way to present information for me,” he says.
“I loved the idea of trying to mix this academic approach with photography essays. For the book, I really wanted to document individuals who had made a personal impact on me – the people who, in essence, became my faculty, my teachers.”
Cereal spoke with Justin about the creation of Faculty Department, what he learned from the people he photographed and how he hopes the book will inspire others.
Cereal: Tell us about the inspiration behind your new book, Faculty Department.
Justin: When I moved to New York in 2011, I was inspired and intrigued by the people I was meeting through pursuing my dream of becoming a professional photographer. From fashion designers to illustrators to entrepreneurs, I was moved not only by the way they approached their respective crafts, but also by the way they lived. I thought it would be fitting to show their stories through photographs and give others a glimpse into their lives.
Cereal: Was there anyone you were desperate to photograph for the project?
Justin: I really wanted to photograph furniture designer Jens Risom. I was familiar with his work and had recently bought a rocking chair he designed. He is a living legend and I thought his story would be incredible to include in my book. From one lead to another, I was finally in touch with his daughter, Helen, who then helped arrange a meeting with Jens at his home in New Canaan, Connecticut. It was a very meaningful experience, getting to know Jens and having the opportunity to look over his archive with him. It was also an honour to personally deliver him an advanced copy of the book and to see his reaction. He was touched.
Cereal: The common thread between everyone profiled in the book seems to be that they love what they do and their work is an extension of their passions. Was it important to you to share the stories of people who truly love their jobs?
Justin: Absolutely. For the subjects in this book, being passionate about their work is simply a byproduct of who they are. The way they live is inspiring, so naturally, the work they choose to do will be inspiring too, because it fits into their worlds. These are people innovating and trying to create a good life for themselves and the people around them. I like to think that really comes through in the photographs.
Cereal: What was the greatest lesson you learnt during the process of creating the book?
Justin: The best lesson I learned from this project is how important it is to follow your instincts and to trust others. As this project grew into the shape of a book, I needed to have the help of graphic designers, contributing writers and a printer to get it complete. It was an incredible experience to work closely with everyone throughout the process and to give them room to do what they do best.
Cereal: Do you have a favourite story in the book, or one that holds special meaning to you?
Justin: I had a great time traveling to Copenhagen to photograph my friend Kristoffer Dahy Ernst. It was a fascinating experience getting to know Kristoffer and his world. We discovered we have many shared interests, and it was also my first trip to Copenhagen.
Cereal: What are your hopes for Faculty Department in the coming years?
Justin: This project formed out of a passion to tell the stories of individuals who have made an impact on me, but I hope that others will be impacted, too. I’d love for people to turn to Faculty Department as a source of inspiration. I hope it takes shape in many forms other than this book. The idea that we could inspire others to live well and make the most of their talents is what’s most exciting to me.