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Portola Pilot

The student news site of Portola High School

Portola Pilot

The student news site of Portola High School

Portola Pilot

Local Photographer Lisa Hu Chen Illuminates Campus Life

Photography is a medium of communication that transcends words, a concept local photographer Lisa Hu Chen employs to capture the emotions of and foster connections between the students and staff of Portola High.

Chen’s photography journey began when she purchased her first camera in high school, but photography was not more than a hobby at the time. She later worked as a graphic designer for 20 years before revisiting photography in pursuit of her passion for storytelling.

“If you have any passion at all, just a piece of advice, keep that in your back pocket,” Chen said. “Because I found out when I was doing graphic design that it wasn’t really suited for me. I didn’t feel confident about it until I decided to really concentrate on photography, and then I felt like I found my fate.”

Starting off as a parent volunteer at Woodbury Elementary in 2009, Chen said capturing moving subjects in less than ideal lighting was an invaluable experience that later translated to her current interest: sports photography. It was not until Portola High’s first year, when Chen received a request to photograph the girls’ soccer team, that she decided to focus on recording campus life.

“Coming here was just a whole other world for me to explore because there’s just so many things going on,” Chen said. “Whether it’s sports or campus life or whatever it is, if you can make a picture that makes people want to look at it and wonder what it is, it’s just really cool.”

Yet what distinguishes Chen from most photographers is her dedication to ensuring all players — from those on the bench in frosh to varsity captains on the court — have their stories documented. She sees value in the photos beyond action shots to reveal team dynamics and interpersonal moments, much like when sophomore Kara Niho set the school record for three-pointers in a game.

“The other day I took pictures of the girls’ [basketball team]; I get emotional thinking about it,” Chen said. “I’m like, ‘She made it. [Niho] made her 10 three-pointers.’ Everyone was so happy, cheering and hugging her. Can you imagine growing up and going into work and having a community like that support you all the time? I don’t think it really happens. Somehow when we get to be adults, it just somehow goes away.”

What continues to drive Chen to continue her photography journey are the responses of coaches, athletes and parents to her work. Chen said athletes are always eager to see themselves in her photos after a game, motivating her throughout post-production and for the next game.

“It just reinforces my reason, my ‘why,’” Chen said. “Everyone’s always like ‘Oh, you have to have a ‘why.’’ It’s hard to get sometimes. I think that you don’t really know what your ‘why’ is until you go through a lot of experience or you do a lot of your craft. But for me, particularly the people’s reactions is my ‘why.’ They’re so appreciative.”

Ultimately, having learned how to cultivate her passion and now documenting memories in our community, Chen’s journey reflects a genuine dedication to uplifting those around her.

“I really love the culture that you guys have created,” Chen said. “Every time I go to a new situation, I just get even more happy that my kids are gonna be here, that they are here. You want your kids to have the best and to be surrounded by really good people.”

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About the Contributors
Maya Tedini, Opinion Editor
Maya Tedini is the Opinion Editor for her second year on the Portola Pilot. She’s looking forward to working with the leadership team along with getting to know the new members of the Pilot. She’s excited to discover all the fascinating opinions of the wonderful staff and to continue to grow her strengths as a journalist. Outside of the newsroom, she’s most likely listening to music, that may or may not all be by Taylor Swift, at cheer practice or spending time with her sister.
Ruhi Samudra, Sports Editor
Ruhi Samudra is the Sports Editor for her second year on the Portola Pilot. She’s looking forward to being her best social butterfly self this year and getting to know all sorts of people on campus. When she’s not counting the days until she can cover a game again (yay sports!), you can find her obsessing over her purple dinosaur, inhaling all of the cereal-scented candles at Target, or investing her entire life into memoirs just to avoid accepting her own bewilderment.
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