Larry Chen is a world-renowned photographer who takes a unique look at automotive culture. Whether he’s capturing the shenanigans of the Hoonigans, shooting the Baja 1000 or snapping a Formula D event, you know the results will be spectacular.
Larry, how did you get into photography in the first place, and what made you decide to turn it into a profession?
I’ve always been excited about cars. Even before I knew how to drive, I was taking pictures of them. First on film before moving into very early digital cameras. I kept shooting cars just for fun and it took a lot of time before I realised I could turn it into a profession. I was shooting most things without thinking of getting paid. When I realised I could charge for the same kind of work, everything changed.
The world of photography is constantly evolving. How do you keep up?
This industry relies heavily on technology, so whenever a new piece of kit comes out, I’m always the first one to adopt it. This means that when it becomes the standard, I’m already well versed in it. I work a lot with Canon and, when it released its latest technological flagship, I immediately went out and bought two of them.
In your career, you’ve shot a lot of events all around the world. Do you still have a bucket list of cars or races you still want to shoot?
Oh yes! Absolutely. It’s quite an endless list actually. I really want to shoot the Dakar Rally and F1. The Bathurst 12 Hours is also at the top of my list. There are still so many things I want to do. Maybe even some that people don’t expect to see me at such as the Isle of Man TT. I’ve actually been spending a lot of time shooting motorcycles even though I don’t ride myself.
What have been some of your favourite events so far?
I love shooting in Europe. Things like Spa & Le Mans were true game changers for me. The first time at Spa I was amazed by the vastness of the track. Here in the US we just don’t have those kinds of tracks. On top of that, it was the first time I stood in ankle-deep water with the cars still going round the track. That just doesn’t happen in the US. Le Mans isn’t as exciting a track as it’s mostly straights, but it’s steeped in motorsport culture and the pitlane is just iconic.
We’ve spoken to many drivers who did Pikes Peak but what’s it like to shoot?
I’ve been shooting Pikes Peak since 2011. That was the last year they were still running parts of it as a dirt course. Pikes Peak is just extremely demanding physically. I’ve seen other photographers just pass out on top of the mountain because there’s so little oxygen.
You don’t only shoot cars, you also have your own small collection. What the story behind them?
All of the cars I own are just my personal favorites. They are some that I’ve just gathered over time really. Not many people know this, but I’ve owned my orange Nissan 240Z since I was 21 years old. I also really love turbo cars and the way they handle.
You’ve shot a lot of Motul cars in the past. What does a brand like Motul mean to you?
Motul is just an iconic brand and I’ve always associated it with iconic liveries. Especially in Japanese series such as IGTC and Super GT. On top of that, I run Motul in my R32 Skyline. Motul sent me some oil and, when I got it, I was really surprised as it said Nismo performance oil on the bottle. Naturally, I put it in my 240Z, too!
© Pictures: Larry Chen