My name is Zeek Yan and I’m a travel and lifestyle photographer based in the Bay Area.
Growing up in a small town in South Louisiana, I gained an appreciation for the outdoors. My parents would always tell me and my siblings to go outside to play. Picking up a camera was almost instinctual. I loved being able to capture moments in time. Pictures are able to encapsulate more than the image itself, but the emotion and feelings you had when you took that photo. Being able to remember who you were with and what you did that day through an image is a powerful thing. It wasn’t until I started college and got hired at my university to film campus events, that things started to take off. I was lucky enough to mentored by my manager who taught me how to become a better visual creator and helped me launch my freelancing career.
Being a full-time freelancer isn’t easy. You’re your own boss which can be a double-edged sword. You have the freedom of creating your own schedule, which means you have to fill your calendar with things to do on a daily basis. One thing I’ve learned from one of my mentors is having a daily routine and sticking to it, is critical to keep you focused. Every day is a constant grind and hustle. If you lose focus and become distracted, it can be difficult to regain motivation. One habit I picked up from one of my mentors is to create a to-do list in order to stay organized. Write three tasks you want to accomplish that day, and at the beginning of every week, write three bigger tasks to complete that week. This helps keep you accountable for getting work done.
Memories are formed in every single trip I take for my photography. Every excursion I come back from is filled with stories. It’s hard to pick a favorite travel memory, but one of my favorite memories from this year was being able to host an art gallery in San Francisco. It was a vision I had a few years back when I started photography. Walking into an art gallery space and seeing my framed prints all over the walls was so surreal. It’s moments like this that make me extremely grateful for all the people in my life. Having all my family, mentors, classmates, and friends in one place, celebrating together; that’s the best feeling in the world.
My craft and my journey leading up to where I now have definitely taught me so much personally. I’ve learned to always do what you love! The ultimate goal is to get paid doing what you love. But first, you have to figure out what you love doing. It comes naturally for some, but others have to find that answer within themselves. One thing I’ve learned over the years is if you have a passion for something and you’re willing to sacrifice for it; you’ll be a lot happier focusing on that rather than doing some mundane job that pays your bills. I’m not saying quit your job and pursue your passion, but find a way to create sustainable income doing what you love.
Another huge lesson would be, don’t be afraid to DREAM BIG! Having big dreams and aspirations will give you a clear goal to work towards. You may not be able to reach that in a day, a month, or even a year, but it’ll be your motivation to work toward that go. No dream is too big or unattainable.
Lastly is to just stay focused. Don’t be consumed by the numbers. Growth doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time. Focus on perfecting your craft and learning new things. If you’re feeling stagnant, maybe you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. Find people who can encourage and challenge you. And it’s inevitable that you’re going to compare yourself to others. But once you start to focus on what the people around you are doing, you’re taking time away from building yourself. Pursue being the best version of yourself that you can be.
As for what’s going on in my life right now- I just traveled from Thailand and Vietnam so I have a lot of editing to do. I’ll also be going to Barcelona soon! Then I’ll be traveling solo to Japan. This will be my first time traveling alone, so I’m nervous and excited at the same time. Make sure to follow along on the adventures on my IG Stories!
Some friendly advice for anyone aiming to pursue photography, or any personal goal of yours: Continue focusing on improving your craft. Always fail forward and actively learn. Dream big and love what you do. Share your passion with the world! Lastly, network with people who inspire you and find mentors to help coach you, because having a positive support system around you is the ultimate motivation.
Check out Zeek’s work on his site here!