A burden of social media and how tinder shapes a creative mind

Mary Chen by WUL Magazine

Interview by

Stasia Khmelnitski

Photography by

Mary Chen




Mary Chen, a Toronto based photographer and designer, discusses her view on what beauty is and the difficulty behind staying creative in the modern technological era.

Mary’s photography is an exceptional work with different ranges of color that has a background in a chosen culture for the series. Read on to reveal what affects an artist today and how to create rather than re-create others’ works. Mary Chen has published works in Nasty Magazine, Chróma Magazine, Accidental Discharge, and more.

Mary Chen by WUL Magazine
Mary Chen by WUL Magazine

Allow me to use one of the questions from your own work. “In what way do you see yourself as a creative individual?” What do you feel is different about your works as a designer or as a photographer?


"I’m not sure if I want to categorize myself as a photographer or a designer, but maybe a creator instead. I think I can identify myself as a creative through taking pieces of what I find unique, then executing that idea or visuals into something that can be translated into another medium".

Mary Chen by WUL Magazine
Mary Chen by WUL Magazine
Mary Chen by WUL Magazine
Mary Chen by WUL Magazine

Hi Mary, that’s so nice to have you for the interview! Please tell us about yourself. How would you describe yourself as a person?

I think It’d be hard to describe myself in few words, but if I were a colour, I would probably be a muted brown tinted olive.


Where are you currently located? Where were you born?

I currently reside in Toronto, Canada but I was born in Henan, China.


‘In Conversation With”, the creative design you have made on the topic of Tinder, you share some questions and answers. Tell about this work.

It’s funny because, like many others, I got on Tinder initially trying to find romantic interests. However, as time went by, I found myself finding a lot more like-minded people who turned out to be my very good friends. So through a friend of mine whom I knew through Tinder, I was inspired to create this project. I felt like a lot of people around me still saw Tinder with its purpose that it is solely for finding a partner, but I think it is an evolutionary social app that may be our next new way of meeting people besides through mutuals or by chance. It’s important for me to introduce the idea that Tinder does not always have to be for romantic interests only; as long as you can keep an open mind, anything can happen.


How do you think the digital world today shapes or adds angles to your work?

I don’t think this applies to my work solely but creative works that have been produced in general; Social media nowadays has made a lot more creative materials and inspirations accessible to everyone and anyone. Everyone starts to sort of draw inspirations from the same highlights that we see or the same iconic individuals that we know. I think this has made me try even harder to push myself away from that. I don’t want to be a photographer that draws inspirations from another photographer, although I consciously find myself doing that a lot haha. Instead, I would like to draw inspirations from everything and anything. I remember Sean Brown, the creative director behind Daniel Caesar has once mentioned; as a creative, we should not be re-creating what others have already done and claim it our own; instead we should look at their creative process, then draw/learn from that to create something we can claim to be our own.

Mary Chen by WUL Magazine

What is beautiful in your opinion?

I think beauty is an abstract idea constructed in each of our heads through experience and the way we view the world. Everyone has a different definition of what “beauty” is. But to me, anything is beautiful and can be beautiful.


You revive the VHS feel in your photography that creates a sense of something rough, honest and is in between the old and the modern world of technological advancements. What does technology mean for you?

I think the technology to me is a blessing and a curse. Technology advancements have brought convenience to many, myself included. Without technology, my work would not be exposed to others, and this interview would not happen. However, technology also made me a lot more self-conscious, ignorant, and less creative because things can be copied and pasted very easily. It’s a double-edged sword; I’m excited but also nervous about how technology will continue to shape our future.


What gear do you use and is it important today?

What gear I use is probably one of the most common questions I get asked haha, most of my photographs are captured with Canon T3i with either a 50mm lens or 35mm lens. My films are mostly done by my point and shoot; Canon Z135. I don’t think gears are important at all, it for sure has its effect on the visual translation of the image we create/see but “great” gear never guarantees the result.


Describe what can stress you out during the photo shoot.

What stresses me out the most is definitely not meeting the expectations of the stylists and makeup artists that I collaborate with, or even the modelling agency on set. I think when on a shoot, it never solely takes the photographer to create a good photograph. It takes everyone behind and in front of the camera to collectively work together. So, if it came down to me, who was not able to capture the images well and didn’t do everyone’s effort justice, I would feel extremely terrible.


Red or brown?


Mary Chen by WUL Magazine
Mary Chen by WUL Magazine

What is your next project? When can we expect it?


"I have several ideas that I’m currently working on with some friends. Let’s keep this to our imagination until the reveal. There is no set time/date because I don’t want anyone to have expectations of anything when it’s time to come, it will come".

Mary Chen by WUL Magazine