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  • Race Week - Philadelphian Perspectives: Samantha Choy

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    Race Week - Philadelphian Perspectives: Samantha Choy

    Philadelphian Perspectives is our new series in name, but a concept that has been authentic to us for the last 2 decades: highlighting the individuals who give the Philadelphia Running Community its flavor. As athletes, a lot of us are looking for that perfect digital moment that captures the emotion we pour into our training and racing. Photography has become such an integral part of the running culture. I mean if that picture isn’t on Instagram, did you really train? Did you really race? Did it really happen? 


    We recently caught up with Philadelphia Runner Samantha Choy for an insight, in her own words, into how she got her start on the other side of the camera and why that translates into her own running journey.

    I am a go–with–the–flow, cross–that–bridge–when–we–get–there, and take–life–as–it–comes kind of person. The question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?” was always my least favorite question. I was content (read: comfortable) in my low–level, support staff roles as a Graphic Designer. Tell me what to do and I’ll do it. Require nothing less and nothing more of me, and we’re good. However, photography was always the one thing that gave me undeniable joy. I never wanted to fully commit to it or take it too seriously for fear that the joy of it would go away; but mostly because I didn’t take myself seriously and carried around a lot of self–doubt. So, I didn't always know what I wanted to be doing in 5–10 years, I just knew how I wanted to be, which was simple and cliche: I wanted to be happy. I refused to make a superficial goal when I didn’t actually believe I could make it there. But I am okay with every decision I made, or didn’t make. I am okay with every way that I was, or wasn’t. Because it has all led me here, at this point in my life where I know what gives me purpose. 


    My interest for photography started pretty early on in the 90’s with a pink Barbie Point & Shoot or my dad’s Pentax film camera in high school. But my passion for photography didn’t really come to fruition for me until college during this photojournalism class. I should have been more concerned, focused on getting done what I needed to in order to graduate. Instead, I signed up for the most challenging and expensive class I’ve taken; a class that had nothing to do with my major and did not apply to any of the credits I needed to graduate. And looking back it is probably one of the reasons I graduated a semester late. Of course, I didn’t know how invaluable that class would eventually come to be. 


    I discovered how much I love photographing people in a candid and uninterrupted way…whether it be strangers on the streets or friends and family going about their daily lives. I loved making people feel seen and beautiful, and I loved seeing people in their most authentic ways. As much as I loved it and as much as other people enjoyed it, I still questioned how I was supposed to make a career out of that. The natural response would be to become a full–time wedding photographer, and I would immediately turn that down because I knew setting myself up for that kind of stress and pressure would not do me well. But I have found a little corner within the running/fitness community–a community I never could have pictured myself to be so involved in. 


    I haven’t yet figured out the long–story short version of how I got from there to here, but these days running/fitness has become the outlet for the majority of my photography and has helped me gain confidence in my skills and form real ambitions for myself. Street photography will always be my bread and butter, but I’m so fortunate that the work I get to do still allows me to see people in all of the wonderfully authentic ways that they don’t always see themselves. I photographed someone during a race once and without even knowing how the photo looked they said, “Photoshop that!” And sometimes I’ll capture someone smiling and after they realize it happened you can tell they’re cringing. It’s hard to see that, but I always try to remind people that they’re beautiful when they are accomplishing something challenging, and especially when they’re just being themselves authentically. 


    When I’m not taking photos of people, I like to take photos of ordinary objects/scenes around the streets. Sometimes it's hard to explain what I found beautiful about the photo…even if I can’t explain it. It’s always my hope that other people see it too! If there is one thing I want my photography to accomplish, it would be for people to see and believe the same beauty that I see. To see beyond the flaws they immediately want to see photoshopped, and beyond the ordinary. 


    When I was working as a graphic designer full–time I thought I could do this for the rest of my life and be content as long as my work contributed to something greater, or was positively impacting the world in some way. And while that is a nice sentiment I realized I was copping out from putting in any real effort to achieve that personally. Since stepping into November Project Philadelphia leadership, I have had to face a lot of my fears and I’ve had to overcome my self–doubt and learn how to approach new and uncomfortable situations with an open mind. It opened a whole new outlet for not just my photography, but for this unrelenting instinct of mine to give and give and give and to be there for others. Anyone who knows me knows I have a way of overextending myself to others, and it is a cycle of constant readjusting and finding ways to give back to myself. But I’ve stopped trying to find this equilibrium and have accepted that it’s never going to be perfectly balanced. I think I’ve finally found a way to give to others that also gives back to myself.



    I’ve lived a lot of my life doing enough just to get by so I really do what I can to take advantage and chase after opportunities because this is the first time I’ve wanted to give something my all. I’m looking forward to starting my second season as a Girls on the Run coach, and my first season as a Development Coordinator AmeriCorp VISTA at Students Run Philly Style. I’ll be approaching 1 year being a November Project co–leader and am beginning my journey as an Athletic Brewing ambassador. I’ll have been invited to participate in my 4th art show, and will start setting my sights on marathon #4. 

    To keep up with Samantha’s journey, you can follow her HERE


    Students Run Philly Style is partnered with our friends at Brooks Running. You can shop the latest and greatest from Brooks online, as well as at any of our four locations.


    PR Center City: 1711 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA

    PR University City: 3621 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA

    PR Manayunk: 4358 Main Street, Philadelphia, PA

    PR Glen Mills: 505 Glen Eagle Square, Glen Mills, PA


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