Larry Chen, Car Culture’s Most Influential Photographer, on Hard Work and Speaking Out

Chen is well aware of how grim it can look on the outside to people of color. But he, like driver Bubba Wallace, is also adamant about how welcoming the sport has been to him. “On the surface it looks like, ‘Wow, this is crazy. It looks like I don’t belong at all,’” Chen explains. “Then, when I dig deeper, it’s completely not the case. They love cars, car culture, they love racing so much, and they want people like myself from all colors included because they want the sport to continue as well.” It does not do, after all, to have a sport exclusively reserved for one kind of person in 2021.

The same goes for off-roading. “I’ve been shooting off-road racing for over 10 years and I feel like I’m a part of the community,” Chen says. “They see me as one of their own now. I think that’s probably my favorite part of car culture. I’m really good friends with people from all different political parties, all different walks of life. It doesn’t matter.”

It all comes down to not being afraid and being willing to get outside of your comfort zone, according to Chen. “I feel like it’s just too easy for people to just say, ‘Oh, I don’t want to go to this thing because I’m not welcomed,’ or ‘I’m of a different social class’ or whatever,” he says. “You just have to throw yourself into it.” Chen agrees that the car community has been one of the more welcoming ones you can be a part of. So, yes, take a chance, because you don’t know what kind of people you might meet.

“I’ve always been proud of the fact that I’m Asian American,” he says. Sure, sometimes people tell him that he “doesn’t look like a Larry,” to which he responds, “What do I look like then?” (I shudder to think of the responses to that question.) But largely, Chen’s experience in the automotive industry has been very positive. 

Your race should not hold you back and neither should you let others use it to keep you out. Chen believes this. “If your work speaks for itself and you are willing to put in the hours and sacrifice to get these pictures or to tell the good story,” he says, “then you deserve it.”

As a prominent figure in the automotive industry with one of the coolest jobs, Chen gets tons of messages from people, asking how he does it. How do you get started as Larry Chen? How do you do what he does? Chen always explains it’s not something that happens over night. It takes discipline and a hell of a lot of sacrifice.

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