Growing Into My Nature

I was raised by a single, photography-obsessed dad, who was courted by National Geographic in high school.

His parents, having lived through the Great Depression and World War II, forbade him from pursuing a career in the arts, so my engineer dad passed his love and knowledge of photography into my eager hands.

All of the arts called to me, and at age 14 I started studying Theatre and academic college courses through the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. There my creative and intellectual impulses were challenged and nourished. At age 15, I was the youngest person ever invited to study at New York University’s Lee Strasberg Studio.

I simultaneously discovered the Angeles National Forest and our native California plants and animals.

The scent of Sage Brush filled my imagination as visions of Coyotes, Creosote bushes and Mountain lions ignited my curiosity. It was a challenging time, as any teenager can tell you, but I was at home among the refreshing streams, dusty mountain ranges and yellow fields of mustard grass flowers in full bloom which expanded my capacity for empathy and awe.

I graduated with honors at age 17 and moved across the country to the picturesque countryside of the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts to join the most prestigious Suzuki physical theatre company outside of Japan while co-teaching Suzuki courses at Boston University, Mount Holyoke and others.

My love of nature and physical expression led me to the University of California, Santa Barbara, where I double majored in Environmental Science and Dance. I needed both a science and embodied visual art education to thrive. In the Summertime I travelled the world, volunteering for humanitarian projects, helping war-displaced children living on the streets of Guatemals’s second-largest city find shelter and care, serving as a neutral international observer in an armed conflict in Chiapas, Mexico, and I spent my senior year, studying abroad in Ghana, West Africa, learning from the rich cultural traditions and environments that give life to the region.

The whole time, a camera was never far from my side.

I went on to have a fruitful career in dance, theatre and film, touring internationally, receiving critical acclaim and accolades while honing my voice as an artist.

Five years ago, after a successful career as an internationally award-winning independent filmmaker, I was burnt out, averaging two hours of sleep a night and felt trapped by the hectic pace of my life. The well of joy I once felt from working in film ran dry. I was a zombie sprinting a marathon. My health declined. Insomnia and debilitating migraine headaches exhausted my reserves.

Something had to change.

I finished my commitments and set aside 30 days to meditate, write, rejuvenate my body and listen to what my inner artist was yearning to do next.

That was the month that became my life.

My intense soul-searching led me to unknown places of beauty. Every time I sat down to meditate, I saw brilliant ribbons of light dancing across the night sky. The Northern Lights were calling.

I opened Facebook to ask a friend for Aurora-viewing advice, and the first post in my feed was an announcement from that very friend: He was teaching a timelapse photography workshop in Iceland solely dedicated to auroras. It started in two weeks! Goosebumps!

Equipment, Arctic-capable clothing and money poured effortlessly into my life, enabling me to witness the Northern Lights for the first time on the plane to Iceland. I was shocked, amazed and grateful. As soon as the icy air kissed my cheeks, I felt completely at home, held by the beauty and grace of the landscape once more, like that tiny girl in the tree.

I longed to share this life-expanding experience with my friends, family and tribe. And I yearned to make a positive impact on the world as I had done through volunteer work.

Denesa Chan Photography grew organically out of this calling.

I strive to infuse my work with a high vibrational energy that sings off walls into hearts and helps our planet, with meaning and purpose in every pixel.

While it’s all about the photographs (the precision of expression, the refinement of embodying the moment and painting it visually with its fullest brilliance), it’s also not about the photographs at all.

They are the medium, the vehicle through which I express the majesty of our planet and invite us to climb inside a world that ignites joy, uplifts, empowers, cradles, intrigues and transforms our homes and spaces into sanctuaries of Earth-based creativity. They brim with possibility, the magical in-between space that we can curl up inside and expand outward from.



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