Emerging Voices: Yuanjun Chen


Jeff Turner 

Yuanjun Chen follows his passion of photography. Photo courtesy of Yuanjun Chen.

Emerging Voices is a series of profiles following writers, artists and performers currently studying at UNO. The profiles cover the personalities of these various writers and the projects they’re currently working on. For this installment, Gateway Contributor Jeff Turner spoke to UNO Student Yuanjun Chen…

Chen is a Drawing major who is working on starting a Photography Club at UNO.

My motivation is very simple—I do it because I love it,” Yuanjun Chen said. Chen has focused on photography as a hobby first and foremost.

“I never think about pursuing something. As long as I am having fun, I will keep doing it. I believe this way of thinking will lead me to a better photographer and artist. I listen to my instincts.” As both a photographer and artist Chen prioritizes being teachable. “I perhaps follow my instincts too much, but its one of my mottos.” This is one of three philosophies that Chen follows: “I respect everybody and everything, follow my instincts and be constantly working on something new.”

Chen does not overthink his work. “I like the photos that I like. It’s not an exact science.” He said that the subject choice is the most important element of a good photo. “The techniques aren’t that important, as long as it portrays the subject in a unique way. It’s a gut thing.”

Chen’s view of photography is more utilitarian than artistic. “There are some facets of art in the medium, but your camera is just a tool. It captures moments from your life. I shoot what I find attractive – listening to my instincts.”

Chen is a recent immigrant from China, “I moved here last year. I know a lot of photographers who were teaching me in China.” He has been surprised by Omaha so far. “I thought it would be boring,” he said.

“I love a lot of the people here,” he added, although he lamented that there was not a photography major available at the university.

Chen was in Graphic Design when he started at UNO but switched mid-semester. “I was afraid that I would spend too much time with electronic devices in my life. I’ve always liked drawing, so I switched over.” He is still early in the program.

Chen got into photography around mid-2012, when he started high school. “The camera became a part of my body” he said. “I took after my dad – when I was growing up he always would carry a camera around and would always be taking photos.”

This is the first semester Chen is devoting to establishing a photography club. “I am interested in anyone who is carrying a camera. I hope we can teach people who need it.”

Chen aims to develop a photo exhibition on campus. He has secured an advisor, UNO Communications Media Specialist Rebecca Gratz. “Rebecca is the campus photographer and videographer. I appreciate how supportive and friendly she is,” said Chen. Gratz was named

Employee of the Month by the UNO Communications Department last September. “Her photos and videos perfectly capture what it means to be a Maverick in stunning quality,” said the press release.

Yuanjun Chen will graduate from UNO in 2021.