New Pathway, Same Journey

Story by Adam Calleja

 Photo by Jineen Williams

Photo by Jineen Williams

It’s not uncommon that a college student will change majors during their undergrad years. Career goals, interests and aspirations can easily change, especially during college. Everybody’s journey is different, so what about the select few who’s plans may change following college graduation?

Kenny Chao is a recent Cal State Long Beach graduate pursuing a career in photography and videography. Chao has seen a great deal of success in a short amount of time. He has worked with the likes of internet personality Brandon Armstrong, high profile amateur athletes, media companies Beach City Hoops and Swish Culture, and is now working with internet star Jesser the Lazer.

The most intriguing part of Chao’s journey is that he majored in accounting at CSULB. He worked several accounting jobs and was recently laid off back in May of this year.

“As I was applying to other accounting jobs, I just had to tell myself like I didn’t really like my job before this,” Chao said. “So maybe this was a sign to step into something else.”

With absolutely no previous history in photo or video, Chao decided to try a competitive field that few see success in.

“I would see stuff on Instagram and I’m just like ‘is it really that hard?’” Chao said, smiling as he looked back. “But it actually was really hard at first, you know I really didn’t know what I was doing.”

Through research on YouTube, Google and advice from family and friends, Chao quickly started to pick up on his skills and hit the ground running. Initially focused on sports photography, he began by taking photos of basketball players at Fountain Valley High School this past summer. Following a quiet start, through hard work, networking and making the right connections, Chao then started to build a strong portfolio and take the path of creating his own personal brand, Chao Media.

 Photo by Jineen WIlliams

Photo by Jineen WIlliams

In today’s world of photography and video, it can get extremely competitive where there is little room for error. As soon as one takes their foot off the gas, there is another next in line waiting to take their spot.

“I’m just very fortunate to meet the people I’ve met and all the opportunity that’s come my way,” Chao said, humbled by his journey. “If you connect with the right people and work each and every day, you’ll get to where you want to be.”

He is also very thankful to his family and strong group of supporters. Chao’s mother, who is a recent lung cancer survivor, pushes him to keep trying.

“She’s been through the worst and for her to stay positive through all that only drives me and makes me want to work harder,” Chao said.

Chao’s story is a testament for those afraid to pursue something they may not be comfortable with. When a door closed, another opened and he didn’t let his inexperience hold him back.

You can see his work on Instagram @chaomedia.