By Sadie Maeda
Welcome to the latest installment of MAHFIA.tv’s interview segment, MAHFIA Spotlight! We interview different women in the industry, from athletes to photographers/filmers, industry leaders, influencers, and other rad people supporting women in action sports. More than just a celebration of their accomplishments, we take a deeper look into how they got to where they are, including life changing moments, fears, and inspiration. By shedding light on women who are pushing our community forward, we hope to inspire and empower you all to get out there and go for it.
Nam-Chi Van, one of the few people that could balance a full time software engineering gig and a rad photography career, doesn’t live a normal life. By day, she’s working on her grind coding at Eventbrite but at all other times, she devotes her time to her love for photography. Whether it’s a live music concert or a skateboarding event, you’ll find Nam-Chi armed with a camera and a vision.
Maybe it’s her persistence or strong convictions about fearlessly pursuing your passions, or a combination of both, but in the few years since she launched her career, she’s been living the dream. Oppurtunities to go to the X Games in Norway and Street League and photograph pro skateboarders are just a few things she’s been able to add to her resume.
We were able to sit down with Nam-Chi and discuss her career thus far and insight into the woman living the double life.
What jobs have you worked in your life? How did you get into this industry?
I’ve had a few different types of jobs in my life. From working at a tea store to being a personal assistant. I’ve also had a few web development positions and now I work as a Software Engineer at a San Francisco company called Eventbrite.
When I moved out to the Bay Area in 2012, I was interested in shooting video for skate companies. I had no connections in the industry, so I literally copied and pasted a generic “Hey I’m a skater, filmer, and photographer. I’d love to help your company out and shoot for you guys” email. I heard back from no one…
That’s when I started Moshlounge, an online music publication, to put my creative juices to use! I developed a unique photography style by shooting shows and editing photos every week. Six months later, Kim Woozy emailed me and it’s been history every since!
What are you most proud of in your career thus far?
Probably shooting many X-Games and Women’s Street League. It’s been an honor to get to know all of the competitors and call them my friends.
What has been your favorite project you’ve worked on?
“Ladies of Shred” is a really fun project that kicked off at the first X-Games I shot. I started out by taking portraits of each skater and it’s been a thing ever since.
Who is someone you would like to work with that you haven’t yet?
It would be cool to work with Grant Brittain. He’s an inspiration and a legendary skate photographer. I would love to pick his brain and hear more about how he started his career.
What’s something you wish someone had told you when you were just starting out?
Never doubt yourself. You can do anything you put your mind to.
If you could skate/snow/surf/hang with anyone, living or dead, who would you choose and why?
I would love to skate and hang out with Rodney Mullen because he’s been one of my favorite skaters since I was little. I’ve read his autobiography, The Mutt: How to Skateboard and Not Kill Yourself, and it was such an inspiration to me.
Favorite place you’ve been to? #1 place you want to go to but haven’t yet?
I would have to say Vietnam. I went there a few years ago with my family and packed my skateboard. I ended up meeting a bunch of local skaters and skated the first spine ramp in Ho Chi Minh City. It was unreal!
I think the next place I want to go to is Thailand.
What is something that most people don’t know about you?
Photography is a side-hustle and my career job is being a Software Engineer at Eventbrite.
The last time you were scared?
When I bought my motorcycle and had to drive it from the dealership to my house. The only training I had on a bike was the Motorcycle Training Course. I definitely stalled in traffic about 20 times.
What do you tell yourself when you are feeling scared or intimidated?
I tell myself to calm down and just go for it. What’s the worse that can happen?
Where did you grow up? Do you think there are any characteristics about your hometown or household that shaped who you are?
I was born in the Bay Area, but grew up in a small town called Palmdale. I think that there are characteristics that have shaped me. I grew up around the Pharmacy guys back when they had the mini ramp in the shop. I’d go to Pharmacy everyday after school and skate or help around the shop. I’d say hanging out with them influenced my style as a skater.
Can you tell us about a pivotal (or “a-ha”) moment in your life? ie) a life changing experience?
I’m not sure if this is appropriate, but this one time in college I ate too many ‘shrooms and that night changed my entire life, for the better. I had the worst trip and thought I was going to die. Things really come into perspective when you think you’re not going to see another day.
Tell us about a time where you felt super humbled.
When I was asked to be a part of Yeah Girl, a photo exhibition featuring female skateboarders and photographers. It was humbling to learn that others around the world have seen my photographs and wanted me to be a part of something they were creating.
If you couldn’t do your current job, what would your dream job be?
I would love to have Anthony Bourdain’s job. He gets to travel around the world and eat delicious food.
What is something you would like to see change in your industry?
To see women have equal opportunities.
What is something you would like to see change in the world?
More peace, less hate.
Tell us something you are working right now (can be, a hobby, life skill, etc)
I’ve recently discovered that I really like to cook. I’ve been trying different recipes and cooking new things!
One piece of advice for a girl who is looking to pursue a career similar to yours?
Don’t be discouraged to do anything. If you want something, write it down. You can do anything you put your mind to and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.