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Toronto photographer captures the city after dark

Jie Chen (@jiechxn) started taking his camera out at night because that was the only time he could go out and shoot while balancing both school and work.

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Chen, 21, got into photography around two years ago with his iPhone 5. While on vacation with his family in China, he began posting his shots on Instagram and received lots of positive feedback. He was hooked.

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Upon arriving back in Toronto, he picked up his first DSLR and started attending Instagram meet-ups. Through the photo-sharing app, he gained 36,000 followers and also made some great friends - he often goes out to shoot with Sanjay Chauhan (@jayeffex) and Ashton Persaud (@ashtontekno).

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Currently, his feed is filled with a mixture of streetscapes, portraits, and of course, lots of photos of Toronto at night.


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"I was kind of forced into it because I’m always in school and I’m always working, so the only time I have to take pictures of to experiment with things is at nighttime," he says.

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At the same time, he began to appreciate Toronto after dark and the unique colours and moments he can capture when the sun goes down. "It has an energy that daytime doesn't have," he explains.

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This past summer, he traveled up north to Tobermory, along with Chauhan, to get some surreal-looking Milky Way shots. Chen would love to do more of this kind of nighttime photography too.

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“When you look up at the stars and you just think, holy crap," he says "You feel so small and you feel so humbled by it.”

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Chen, who studies marketing at Centennial College, grew up around Dufferin and Dundas and later moved to Scarborough. He often heads into the core to shoot.

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Along with pictures of the Financial District, Chen does some portrait work and has connected with different models via Instagram. He recently worked with former Team Canada athlete and model Rachel Romu, who wants to change how we view people with disabilities.

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Some of his favourite photos are portraits and he think they can be more meaningful than other types of shots.

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“You get to work with someone outside of your creative medium, so you get to collaborate with different ideas," he says of his portrait work. "And you get to express more out of a picture that you can’t necessarily get out of a landscape.”

Lead photo by

Jie Chen

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