Morning Rituals with Justin Chung
From the moment we met Justin, we knew we were going to be friends. His optimism and enthusiasm are contagious, and he backs it up with being one of the hardest workers we know. When we're dreaming up ideas or plans with Justin, they always come to life. He has that knack for bringing things from the meta- to the physical. Look no further than the two books he's produced and published: Faculty Department Vol I. and Vol II. (you can find us in Volume II).
Of course, it goes without saying that we are also big fans of Justin's photography. We feel very lucky to get to work with him on a regular basis here in Los Angeles, where's he's shot several of our Morning Rituals features (Luke and Gabi of Activist, Paola of Amara Kitchen, and Beatrice Valenzuela are a few).
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we we postponed most of the Morning Rituals shoots we had scheduled with Justin in March and April. A few weeks in, we asked Justin if he would be interested in turning the camera inward and taking some photos of his coffee ritual and life during quarantine. With Father's Day close on the horizon we also thought it would be nice to ask him a few questions about being a dad! Justin and his lovely wife, Emily, have two adorable children, Bastian and his younger sister Vivian.
What follows is a photo series of Justin and Emily's coffee ritual throughout quarantine, paired with our interview with Justin. Hope you enjoy!
Justin, we were used to seeing you almost every other week before quarantine! What are some of your takeaways from the sequestered life? Any new insights or perspective shifts?
I miss our regularly scheduled morning rituals! It was something that I very much looked forward to, hearing the stories of your friends and taking time out to just enjoy company. During these times, it’s definitely something I miss.
As far as a takeaway from this down-time, I’ve definitely created my own personal routines, and am looking at ways to schedule my day more intentionally. Before, I feel like I rushed through things and felt the need to always stay busy for the sake of being busy. Now, there’s nothing else like a “slow” morning over coffee, having some personal time to reflect.
I was also traveling so often for work, sometimes almost every week. Now, I love being a homebody, spending time with the kids, cooking meals, and going on long walks.
Do you have a morning ritual? Has it changed it all for you?
Yes, my morning rituals have definitely changed during this time. Before, it was set the coffee machine to auto, run a few errands around the house, then pick up the coffee in a to-go mug and duck out of the house. Looking back, my morning routine was very much in-and-out of the door.
Now, I make pour-over coffee every morning that I share with my wife. The process in itself forces you to slow down, and it’s been great to actually not rush through the morning. I think it goes back to the idea of simply being more intentional.
Father’s Day is coming up! How has this time been as a father to Bastian and Vivian?
It’s been such an amazing experience to have so much time with them. I’ve come to just simply appreciate time with people in general. My oldest, Bastian, is almost four, and we’ve been having longer and longer conversations lately. He is such a curious kid and it’s been really humbling to be around him so much, answering his questions as he continues to explore and question everything.
We obviously are such fans of your work and talents as a photographer. It seems like your passion for it is paired with the motivation to share stories, or some essence of the objects in the frame. Do you think your non-conventional path to photography (by way of med school) impacted your approach and style?
I think I’ve always loved telling stories about people, the work they’ve achieved, and ways of living. I’m so fortunate to meet you both early on when I we relocated back to California from New York a few years ago. You’ve helped ground me and feel at home from the beginning.
It’s interesting to look back and see how my former path to medical school has an impact on my current endeavors as a photographer. I still have the desire to connect with and help people, by telling people’s stories and through my photography I hope to inspire others and have a positive impact on them.
You’ve created two [beautiful] volumes of Faculty Department, both of which have been very well-received and have inspired many people. What sparked the idea for creating Faculty Department? And what has been your ongoing motivation in creating these?
Faculty Department was really created as a platform to share stories. Over the years, I photographed profiles through the eyes of brands, and I yearned to continue the stories without any filters. From one personal story to the next, it just felt right to showcase and present them in the form of a book.
The motivation behind these books are almost like a personal roadmap of my interests and pursuits as an artist. Since I am a self-taught photographer, I often reflect on how I can better improve my craft, and my biggest source of inspiration has been from people. By learning from these experiences and stories, it’s helped me reflect and realign my approach.
Over the years and especially in the second volume, now that I am a father, I’ve pursued stories that focus not only on people’s craft and work, but also on their way of life, and especially how they balance work and personal life.
What are you most looking forward to when we are through the time of quarantine?
Definitely being able to go out and enjoy time with others. Looking back at my calendar, it was full of coffee appointments, lunch dates, and hosting dinners. I can’t wait to get back out there and just enjoy a long, delicious meal with friends.