This Photographer Focuses On The Real Faces Of Cannabis

The cannabis industry is filled with passionate, forward-thinking people who have devoted their lives to changing people's perceptions. But the question remains - how do people become involved in the cannabis industry in the first place? It turns out everyone has a unique personal journey that has brought them to the world of cannabis. Each week, cannabis professionals, activists, and others will tell their stories in their own words. This essay comes from Ophelia Chong, Founder of Stock Pot Images, LLC and Co-Founder of Asian Americans for Cannabis Education (AACE).

When I think of water, I think of the source for life and inspiration.

I was in the shower January 8th, 2015 at 7 a.m. As I was applying another round of shampoo, I thought, "Is there a stock photo agency that only licenses cannabis?" After I got dressed, I went and did a search.

There was none. Getty Images and Corbis had images, but as I was scrolling thorough I only found stereotypical images, nothing that in my 20 years of curating photography for my clients that I would call "artful".

Photography: Kristen Angelo, Stock Pot Images

As an instructor, I had been encouraging my photo students at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena to photograph cannabis. There was a need for professionally-shot imagery. There was a market waiting to be filled. In the last year since launching Stock Pot Images, we have grown to more than 100 contributors: the comment I hear most is "finally - two of my loves, photography and cannabis. Thank you for creating a place for this". So far, four of my grads have graced the covers of magazines with their work with Stock Pot Images. I am so very proud of them.

My goal is to present the real faces and communities of cannabis, because through images we can educate and de-­stigmatize. Stock Pot's contributors are embedded in the communities (some for more than three decades) and are trusted by the communities. Because they are in the cannabis communities, they are able to create images that are truly authentic. Images range from a two-year-old to 90-year-old grandmothers, military vets to people post-­bust, from farm to grow house, from tabletop to medicinal. My one and only rule is "don't objectify women." We have a chance now to change that paradigm of sexualizing women to sell a product or to tell a story.

Photography: Linus Shentu, Stock Pot Images

One of the best connections I made through Stock Pot Images is signing Monica Lo, from that we had conversations about diversity and how our families and the Asian communities viewed cannabis. That series of conversations led us to co-found Asian Americans For Cannabis Education (AACE) with Tiffany Wu (a Harvard law graduate and attorney for cannabis companies).

I know that education is an important part of the Asian culture, and for the community to not investigate or research the benefits of cannabis is turning a blind eye to better health and medicinal choices. Studies have shown there is more criminal activity from legal drugs than illegal, that 106,000 people die each year from prescription abuse as opposed to none from cannabis.

From personal to business, my interest in cannabis is intertwined, and I am lucky to have this passion in both worlds. I am honored to be a part of AACE with Monica and Tiffany, two smart, creative and impassioned women that show the best of what being Asian-American is today.

Banner image: Ryan E Young / Stock Pot Images

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