Los Angeles artist and educator Ophelia Chong is a force of nature with her own gravitational pull, captivating her graduate students and colleagues alike. Setting trends while simultaneously mentoring other creatives to find their own unique artistic expression, her personal sense of style, boldface black glasses, youthful exuberance and calm wisdom coalesce into a memorable persona, one that has found a way to reframe marijuana with fine art photography.
Ophelia does not have to fake her artistic cool, she exudes it from the fiber of her being and has the credentials to back it up. This petite self-professed “Shorter Boss Lady” is a woman who stands out as authentic in a world of LA posers.
Setting the Scene
In the late 1980s Ophelia planted herself and raised her young family in the yet to be discovered Los Feliz Oaks enclave in California. Over the decades Hollywood evolved out of its squalor and her stylish mid-century modern home now sits in an area highly desirable to entertainment’s A-listers seeking incredibly rare residential privacy and quietude among the live oaks, steep ravines and rambling hillsides, just above the Hollywood Boulevard fray.
For our interview, Chong, no relation to Tommy, directed me to her secluded home studio nestled amid lush mediterranean vegetation just below the watchful Griffith Park Observatory. I was welcomed into her world for an afternoon of locally sourced culinary treats and conversational delights spanning the arts, Parisian life, gourmet food, cannabis culture, the college student debt crisis, and primarily to discuss her new business venture—a foray into the world of blending marijuana and fine art photography.
Photography as Marijuana’s Medium
Through her teaching position at the Art Center College of Design, Ophelia Chong is intimately familiar with marijuana’s quiet yet omnipresent role in the creative arts world. To many an artist, marijuana is an integral aspect of their lives, helping facilitate thoughtful contemplation and creative expression. The attraction she finds is that an artist is able to create while high on marijuana. Conversely, pharmaceuticals and alcohol, in her opinion, allow negative emotions to surface with adverse long term effects on the brain that affect creativity, whereas marijuana does not.
After Chong formulated her business plan she quickly raised funds from angel investors, she trademarked the name Stock Pot Images and began pitching her idea to colleagues and former students, many of whom were still saddled with crushing student debt. She takes pride in offering a potential revenue stream opportunity to help turn their professional talents and passion for marijuana into marketable ancillary products for the new and rapidly expanding world of legalization.
So far the response from photographers and videographers has been resounding and Chong has already signed 70 professional artists whose works will be represented and available to purchase for Rights-Managed use on her new website—http://www.stockpotimages.com. Her company’s official launch date is, of course, April 20, 2015.
Chong was effusive about the possibilities of connecting talented artists who can deliver consistent, professional quality results to a broad base of businesses in need of cannabis-specific art. While the artists are able to work with a company they trust to understand their unique skill set and manage the business side of the equation.
Chong envisions editorial clients such as Bloomberg and The New York Times seeking out her unique images and even healthcare provider clients in need of more naturalistic images representing what she described as the “real face of cannabis.” Stock Pot Images will highlight professional, documentary caliber artistry, not the typical degrading industry shots of festival-goers taking bong hits while clad in green sequined bikinis.
Pairing Art with Opportunity
Over the millennia artists have been known as the catalysts of societal change, not out of willful defiance, but more as soul searchers feeding the fires of the collective human creative spirit. Often marginalized by social norms, many great artists are celebrated posthumously as creative geniuses.
Ophelia Chong is giving living photographic artists the opportunity to capitalize on their unique perspective to the marijuana industry in what has been described by many as the greatest entrepreneurial opportunity of the 21st century, an untapped resource for job growth and marijuana-based tax revenues.
The age of cannabis has clearly arrived and a bespectacled female powerhouse wants to place herself and her artists squarely in the center of marijuana’s mainstream sea change.