Paul Yem

Tell me about your promo.
I used Paper Chase Press for these promos; they are a community-driven, environmentally conscious printing press based in LA. I had a lot of back and forth with Cole, and his knowledge and patience made a usually frustrating process seamless and rather exciting.

I designed these myself; I always laugh a bit at the overexertion of wanting to be found. I think it looks rather funny to list websites, email addresses, and Instagram handles, as they often are different combinations of my name:,, @paulyem, etc. etc., so I went a super minimalist route. I feel strongly about conveying a connection through my portraiture, so I didn’t want there to be much other than the imagery I’m passionate about. I trust that if the work resonates with who I am targeting, they’ll have no problem finding me through the one point of contact.

These images are a somewhat disjointed culmination of an exploration over the past 5ish years in finding my voice as an artist. I moved to NYC in 2017 to pursue a career as a photographer, and as many of us have come to find, being an artist isn’t exactly the easiest way to make a living. Through assisting other photographers, I started to identify the different tiers of what being a professional photographer could look like. I became very passionate about staying connected to my roots as a fine artist and started visualizing my identity being intertwined with my approach to photography as a career. I dreamed of the possibility of being hired for my voice, and I knew the more honest I was with what was bubbling up from my soul, the more compelling my images would be. Staying true to that voice has seemed at times ill-advised, as I never positioned myself as an attractive option for the low-hanging fruit, the e-comm jobs, the sort of mindless application of being a just technician. My goal was to be hired because I was Paul Yem not because I could own and operate specialized tools. More of this work can be found here

I printed 200 of these postcards, Paper Chase had a nice option where you can submit a handful of images per order, I thought it would be nice to send people a little stack of 5 through the mail or to have a variety of images in my pelican when I’m on set. They sort of act as free prints for me to give out.

Unfortunately, from what I’ve gathered through taking meetings with various photo editors, the printed matter is becoming a bit obsolete. I’ve found that our friends in the editorial world don’t often have the personalized desk space they once had, and the collecting of promos has become a bit cumbersome. I’d like to get into a better rhythm of printing things; I think it’s important for us to think about our work existing in the physical form as it gives the images more validity in my mind. I’ve found myself more in the habit of making PDFs; I’m on a much better consistency with reaching out through cold emails and to contacts I’ve made with a nicely designed PDF. It’s something that is minimally invasive and easily forwardable to other editors, and if I’m able to get a face-to-face meeting that’s where I’ll give out my printed promos. I’d say I’d send those emails once every 3 months. I’ve found following up after about a week of the initial email is the most successful in getting a response. Just make work and put it out in the world, and nothing bad can come of it (and emails are a lot cheaper).

I think what this industry lacks the most is honesty. Honesty in what we want to make, in what we want to be hired for, in how we truly want to convey a message through imagery. We are held so tightly by the anxiety of trying to make ends meet that we lose our unique voice. The beauty in art is being unique, pushing the envelope, and being unapologetically passionate. Being an artist is vulnerable, it’s daring, and it’s brave, and so we should let go and be all of those things. I want to see what people truly want to make, not what they’ve made to hopefully make money. I’m not exactly sure what my point here is, but if at the end of the day the rent is paid fuck everything else and just be free and true to yourself. I need our community to do that for my own inspiration and in return, I’ll promise to never compromise in the images I’m adding back into the pool.

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