Ophelia Chong isn’t just an Instructor at Art Center College of Design and Art Director at CalArts, she’s a woman on a mission, a mission to bring beautiful images of marijuana to the world. What was little more than a spark of inspiration a few months ago has quickly grown into a full operation appropriately named Stock Pot Images. With (insert your favorite marijuana nickname here) now completely legal in four states and counting, Ophelia saw a need to provide professional quality photos to a once underground market. Not only that, she also found a way to give her ACCD students a chance to start earning money with their craft by becoming contributors to Stock Pot.Â We’ve always admired Ophelia’s overwhelming support of her students and caught up with her shortly after Stock Pot’s official launch on, what else, 4/20. Learn more about her remarkable endeavor before it “blows up” this year.
What inspired you to do this?
I had been encouraging my students at Art Center to photograph cannabis for a year, and none did. In the shower on January 8th, I realized the need for cannabis-related imagery because my sister was testing CBD and CBNs for her scolerderma. On that thought, I realized that if I had a central area for my students and grads to offer the images, it would work. As I stepped out of the shower, I was on a mission. I looked at Getty, Corbis, Masterstock and Alamy, I ran through their collections, and as I scrolled through I knew this idea had legs. There was nothing of note in the collections; there were no real photos of real people. They looked like stock. They looked like the mass media fed stereotypes of the cannabis community. I was on it. Within 2 weeks, I had the name Stock Pot Images, the funding and the LLC and TM in process.
When a lot of people think of stock, they think of products/people on white background with little esthetic information, how is Stock Pot different?
We are different because my goal is to show the real faces and communities of the cannabis industry. They are farmers, growers, dispensers, chefs, marine vets, seniors, the young, the middle aged, black, white, yellow and brown, each group has endless possibilities for documentation. What sets SPI apart is that we endeavor to capture those true faces, not a stereotype. The contributors are split between my Art Center grads and professionals who I have approached to shoot for SPI, each one has been chosen for their distinct style. I donât want wax figures or typical stock image production styles. That is not the cannabis community.
Do you see what you’re creating as having the potential to change the face of marijuana?
With our images, I am hoping that the stereotypical âstonerâ image becomes a #TBT (throwback). With each small step, with each image of a real person, we move forward in the general publicâs perception.Â There has been a self-made and media-generated image of the cannabis community. You donât see the women growers, the old-timers who have been growing for decades, the guy-next-door who smokes, the person you are sitting next to on the train, etc. The real people who partake in cannabis encompass a wide swath of our population. The public stigma and laws have pushed these people underground. Only in the last few years have we begun to show our faces, because who wants to be labeled a stereotype.
Where do you see the cannabis market going as companies like yours are becoming a part of it?
The market is the Wild Wild West, rules are being made on the fly as we learn how to manage this industry. Already Miracle Grow has bought the largest hydroponic manufacturer General Hydroponics, Founders Fund has invested $75M into Privateer (holdings include Leafly, Marleyâs Naturals). The market is growing with large corporations investing money now for the next decade, and SPI will be there to serve their image needs. We are here now, and in the next 3 years, I plan on being the best cannabis stock agency in the industry.
Why students as contributors? How did that happen?
My students and grads from ACCD are the best. The business of photography is harder today than it was a decade ago, the pool of work is smaller, but the amount of swimmers diving into that pool is getting larger, amateur and professional. One of my goals with SPI is to help them create work, to sell it, and to have them enter a market unexploited by other businesses. I encourage them to shoot.Â If a photographer doesnât test, they loose that sharpness. One cannot wait for a job to land in your lap, you have to be constantly creating.
Youâre an Instructor at Art Center, what kind of response have your students had? How about your peers in the faculty?
The response from students and grads has been overwhelmingly good, and my peers are supportive. I have two fellow instructors on my roster.Â On the whole it has been âwow, itâs about time.”
Youâve been doing a lot of research in the marijuana world, what do you think would surprise the people out there who are skeptical about the cannabis revolution?
That the plant is a medicinal plant, that there is the process of removing the THC (high) and keeping the cannaboids for healing. Again the stereotype of the user comes into play, we need more education out there. Over the 4/20 weekend, CNNâs Dr. Gupta came out in support of the health benefits of Cannabis, a big step closer to educating the public.
Hopes and dreams for Stock Pot Images? Where do you see it going in the next 5-10 years?
In 3 years, I want to have the best collection of cannabis-related imagery.Â I want to create income for my contributors, but mostly to
help educate the public about cannabis and with that understanding, we will be one small step closer in the run for legalization.
Photo by Josh Chastek
See full post here: Marilyn Cadenbach Blog2015-05-01.