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Behind the Lens with James Gui: Harvard Student and Campus Life Photographer

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Harvard chapter.

Besides studying computer science at Harvard College, James Gui is actively involved around campus as a student events photographer. Covering anything and everything from formals to performances, James Gui also serves as a creative director for the Harvard Photo Club amongst other initiatives like the Task Force on Asian and Pacific Islander American Studies (TAPAS) and Chinatown Afterschool.

HC: Could you share how and why you got into photography?

JG: I mainly got interested in photography because all my friends were into it. I jumped on the bandwagon during winter break my freshman year, taking my parents’ Canon Rebel t3i with while I visited my friends. I started out doing street photography and documentary photography, taking photos of whatever was around me that caught my eye and posting it on Instagram. 

HC: How do you feel that photography has grown with you throughout your time at Harvard? What have you done to explore this medium more on campus?

JG: Harvard has definitely helped my photography grow, not only in my technique but also in how I think about it. Taking VES 40 (Intro to Photography) with Elle Perez completely changed the way I engaged with the medium, opening my mind up to not only the history of photography as a medium but also its potential as an artistic form. I went on to take an intermediate class with Elle (VES 143) and continued this exploration, engaging with questions of ethics and perspective. I’ve come from simply making pretty pictures to checking out photobooks and perusing criticism and really thinking about what I can add to what is out there.

HC: What do you think is the most challenging aspect of photography? What is the most rewarding?

JG: For me, portraits are the most challenging type of photography; specifically, knowing how to pose people and maximize the effects of different light sources are challenging for me, since most of my previous work has been snapping candid and documentary shots. Setting up a scene and thinking of what a photograph will look like before I even take it is something I would like to continue improving on. The most rewarding part of photography for me is sharing my photographs and hearing what others think and get out of them.

HC: What has been your most memorable past photoshoot?

JG: The photoshoot that pops into my mind is the first time I ever did a commissioned gig. I was asked to photograph the annual dance performance for the Asian American Dance Troupe because I had many friends in the group. I had never photographed a dance performance before, and halfway through the show, my SD card ran out of space. So, during the intermission, I ran back to my dorm in Canaday, grabbed my laptop, and started transferring the photos that I had already taken to my laptop before clearing the SD card again. Luckily, I did not miss too much of the second half. But I am a pretty panicky person, so this was quite the ordeal for me!

HC: What is the best advice you have ever gotten?

JG: I would say the best advice I have heard regarding photography is just to get your shot! If something catches your eye, take a photo!

harvard contributor