What is your name, age, and location?
I’m Tracy Zhang, 22 years old, born in Beijing China, now residing in Toronto Canada.
What is your profession?
After four years as an aspiring fashion photographer, I switched over to traveling and shooting travel photography. I also work in marketing for a tech company.
What did you study in school and what degrees do you have?
I have a Bachelor degree in Business from Queen’s University in Canada. I see myself returning to school in the future but for now, I am putting things on hold to travel more and play with technology.
What was your first job?
My first job was shooting headshots for talent agencies at 17. It was very different from the jobs my friends held at the time and I consider myself pretty lucky to have had that opportunity to break into the photography industry.
Who or what inspired you to break into your current line of work?
When I was 15, I took a photography course in high school because I needed an Arts credit to graduate. I immediately felt very comfortable observing the world from the safety of the viewfinder. My high school photography teacher played a large role in opening my eyes onto this path. After a few years in fashion photography, I moved to Europe for a year to study and that’s when I discovered that my passion was really in travel photography.
Name/describe what has been your most rewarding project so far?
In February 2012, I traveled to Cuba to document the country and photograph its people and culture. That was a real highlight for me as I got to visit a place with so much history, culture, and natural beauty, yet not many have been to before.
Name/describe one incident when being a woman has helped your career?
One of my first jobs as a fashion photographer as shooting new talent for model agencies, which involved a lot of shooting 14-15 year old girls. For many of them, it was their first time being photographed professionally. The fact that I was also in my teens at the time, and that I was a female, helped make them feel more comfortable around me.
Name/describe one incident when being a woman has hindered your career?
Probably by faults of my own, there were times when I just started down travel photography when I gave up opportunities because I didn’t feel comfortable visiting the area as a solo female. When I think about it now, I have regretted every single one of those instances. The worst part about it is I denied myself the opportunity, and I have to take full responsibility for that.
Who is your role model or mentor (alive or dead)?
When I was 11, I had to write an essay for school about who my hero was. I wrote about my mother. She is outspoken, dedicated, and has a take no prisoner approach to everything she does in life. I’m pretty sure that everything I have ever done well, I learned it from her in one way or another.
If you could give one piece of advice to a woman starting out in your field, what would it be?
Photography is not an easy career – you are selling yourself as much as you are selling your art. I spent years as a fashion photographer even though I knew it wasn’t exactly right for me because I thought that was what I was supposed to do. But you have to own your work and your brand – don’t compromise for what you think others are looking for.
Follow Tracy on Twitter: @tracyzhangphoto
– Interview by Elena Rossini