January 27, 2016

Jill Chen: Commercial Photographer of the Year

2015 Stocksy Awards, celebrating the best in the biz. The Stocksy Awards celebrate photographers across twenty-one categories who produce truly outstanding work that not only takes our breath away, but pushes the industry forward. Visit to check out our 2015 winners and the awards show video. Keep your eye on the blog for interviews with all our winners!

Jill Chen is a Toronto based lifestyle and food photographer, designer and food stylist living on an urban farm, complete with ducks, chickens, tilapia, a pig, two dogs and many cats.

// What was your path to becoming a professional photographer?

I worked at an advertising agency and design firm in Toronto before opening my own studio in 1989. In 2007, the recession was coming and work was slowing to a halt. I read an article on how some housewife started out making 10 cents a day on microstock, and grew to being able to put her kids through college on her stock royalties. I thought that if she could do, it why couldn’t I? It was a natural transition for me, having a design background and commercial photographer husband to mentor me. Perks of having a studio with all of the equipment helped too! My little experiment just snowballed and I’ve never looked back.

// What’s the story behind your winning image?

I met a lovely young woman named Laura at the Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCADU) while I was there checking on their aquaponics system. We hit it off immediately and I invited her and her friends for an outdoor FEAST before the snow fell. The event came together within a week, and was hosted at in my friend’s backyard. Laura’s friends were all creative artsy kids and they set the table. All the laughter you see is genuine. The winning image is from after dinner when we brought out some sparklers. They were all pretty full after eating a roast turkey and roast beef dinner, and perhaps a little drunk too.

// What has been the greatest influence in your work?

I’m influenced by everything I see around me, whether I’m surfing the web, grocery shopping, hanging out with my kids, or puttering in my garden. Something will scream out, “This is a photo op. Make it happen.”

// What creative projects are you currently working on?

I’m trying to get my lady fish to have another hatch of babies. It’s kinda cool to be able to create life and a sustainable food source. It’s a different kind of creativity, but whether it’s the most amazing loaf of sourdough bread, a tank full of tilapia or a highly sellable photograph, the end result is something that you’ve created by hand and with wit.

// What is the creative community like in your hometown?

I’m excited that there are so many roofs being greened in our city. It’s so great to see a rise and interest in urban farming!

// What are you currently excited about?

Planting horseradish that a friend gave me. Sandra says they grow like gangbusters and are kingdom builders. It would be a real treat to just dig some up when we have roast beef for dinner. I may keep some indoors for the winter too. How many times have you bought a little jar of horseradish, used it once, found it months later in the back of your fridge and had to throw it out? Horseradish on demand, THAT excites me!

// What does winning Commercial Photographer of the Year mean to you?

Wow. It’s incredible. I’m still digesting. I’m so honoured and proud to be named among all the other great photographers here on Stocksy.

// Anyone special you’d like to thank who has contributed to your success?

My husband Kevin Hewitt. He’s been beside me all the way: my tech guy, my lighting guy, my why doesn’t my camera work guy… my everything guy. How can you not love someone who supports everything you do, and also cleans out your chicken coop and feeds the pig?

View Jill’s entire collection >

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