They say a picture is worth a thousand words; So, let’s meet the man that’s responsible for the thousand-word journeys of some of the biggest names in the automotive industry. Larry Chen is no stranger to boundary pushing performance. Whether it’s behind the camera or behind the wheel, he has a penchant for capturing the exhilaration, artistry and emotion of the automotive scene and its culture. We got a chance to sit down with Larry Chen and talk all things photography, lifestyle, and cars.
Motegi: Hey Larry! So, by now, if you’re an automotive enthusiast and haven’t heard the name “Larry Chen,” you’re living under a rock. But what were your early beginnings as a photographer like? What / who got you started?
Larry Chen: It started with a love for cars. Early on in my career, I realized that I could be around the vehicles that I loved just by photographing them. It felt good when people appreciated photos of their own car on track, or of vehicles that they have always wanted to own. In essence I am tapping into what people are passionate about, what people love. Even though these things I’m photographing are not alive, they have a soul in a way because of how much they mean to us car enthusiasts.
Motegi: Have you always been into cars and motorsports? If you could go back in time and re-route your career what other photography scenes intrigue you most?
Larry Chen: I love photography in the traditional sense, but I could not really see myself shooting anything else. I enjoy shooting portraits of my family and landscape when I am traveling, but generally speaking I enjoy shooting cars and the culture surrounding it.
Motegi: Can you give us a little background on vehicles you’ve owned over the years: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Have a favorite? Least favorite? And your current projects?
Larry Chen: I tend to fall in love with cars too easily. I’ve had a few bad apples, and all of those have been hand me downs. My first car was a Volvo 740GLE, it was used and abused by the family and by the time it got to me it was a real piece of work. It would just randomly shut off on me while I was driving on the freeway. There were so many things wrong with it. I have a few cars that I regret selling, one of them being a 1991 240z 5-spd hatch. I loved that car so much, but at the time I needed the money so I sold it. Right now I have a pretty random collection of cars that I love, most of them I will have for the rest of my life. My 1970 240z, 2003 996 Turbo, 2007 FJ Cruiser and 1990 R32 GTR come to mind when I think about lifer cars. Right now I’ve been building my 350z drift car and a 2018 wide body Toyota Tundra.
Motegi: Throughout your journeys around the world shooting events and vehicles, which location has been your favorite? What’s a normal day on the road look like for Larry Chen?
Larry Chen: I love shooting overseas. Many parts of Europe and Japan are some of my favorites. I spend about 60% of my shooting time on the road, which means I live out of a suitcase most of the time. It’s honestly the hardest part of my job, but I have to travel to the coolest events and best cars in the world, they won’t come to me.
Motegi: What keeps you motivated to continuously push your boundaries in your craft? I think most people would think you’ve reached an apex predator level of quality and precision – but what do you think you can improve on over the next few years?
Larry Chen: Year after year I try my best to top what I’ve done in the year before. It’s very hard to keep up this sort of pace and eventually I will have to stop, but as long as my body lets me keep going I will still photograph car culture.
Motegi: Let’s talk hobbies. What keeps you sane when you’re not working? Also, how often are you able to just settle in and relax in between jobs?
Larry Chen: I love playing with remote control cars with my son. I spend all of my spare time with my family since I don’t get to see them as often as I’d like. I like working on my own cars and tinkering in my workshop.
Motegi: Stress vs. Reward. Do you think you could ever not work for yourself? I’d imagine it’s a lot to juggle between motivation, willpower, and freedom, however do you think you’ll ever end up working for someone else?
Larry Chen: There is no way I would ever be able to work for someone else. I love being able to do what I want for a living. It’s just a job that I would have never thought would have existed. I’ve traveled the world to 50 countries on someone else’s dime photographing cars, what’s not to like?
Motegi: What intrigued you most about the Motegi brand for your personal vehicle? Do you have a long history with Motegi or was this a love-at-first-site affair?
Larry Chen: I’ve known Motegi mostly from watching racing. I’ve photographed racing for so many years and it’s been interesting to see the choice of wheels for certain race applications. It was cool to see that Motegi as a brand also makes wheels for your street car.
Motegi: So, what’s the deal with the drift 350z? As a 240z owner, I’d imagine you probably have an affinity for the Z-line. What intrigued you about that platform for your drift endeavors?
Larry Chen: I just love how simple the Z cars are. They have always been an affordable and sporty sports car for your average car enthusiast. They are obtainable and relatable. They are also very reliable if you take care of them. With that being said, they are the best drift cars out of the box.
Motegi: Is it a change of pace being on the other end of the camera and instead being the object for others to photograph when you go drifting? I’d think since drifting has such a creative component to it – it might feel like a welcomed hobby.
Larry Chen: I’ve been watching and photographing the professionals have fun for over 17 years. I figured it was time for me to try it out, and I regret not getting into it earlier, but I am glad I am doing it now, because drifting is just too much fun. Compared to so many other traditional motorsports it’s easy to get into and it’s relatively safe.
Motegi: What are you 3 favorite Motegi designs? If you could build a car around each which vehicles would you choose?
Larry Chen: Without a doubt the MR154 are my favorite wheels. They are a simple and clean design. No fake bolts and fancy stuff. It just makes the car look so good, and they are very functional and affordable for the everyday car enthusiast. Plus they come in so many great colors.
I can see myself building a rally inspired build with MR141s on them. I also love the simple design and the clean look.
The MR120 has a cool look also, I think it would fit wheel on a more modern Porsche.
Motegi: What are your future plans for the 350z and drifting in general?
Larry Chen: My main goal with the 350z build is to keep it maintained and drive it as much as I can. Eventually I will have to put a roll cage in it, but I think it will evolve as I progress as a driver. I am looking forward to being able to drift in the middle of summer with the AC on full blast. That is the beauty of having a reliable stock naturally aspirated powerplant.