By Braelyn Diamond

At 11 years old, she wasn’t like most girls her age. Looking off into the distance, Kathaleena Chhien recounts how most girls in her sixth-grade class would gather in the bathroom mirror to take selfies with their friends.

While most girls that age enjoyed dressing up, posing and having the camera flash in their direction, Chhien found a passion behind the lens.

After watching her mother take millions of pictures of her little brother, Chhien, a junior at the College of Charleston, started taking pictures with her mom’s old camera, and it’s been a hobby that she’s kept up ever since.

“Every chance I got I would grab that camera and take pictures of the dog, take pictures of my sister and just take pictures all around the house,” she says. “One Christmas, my mom got me my own camera, it’s the one I still have.”

With the College centered in what is often acknowledged as one of the most beautiful and historic cities in the country, Chhien, a studio art major, has found a lot of inspiration from the scenery and people around her.

“I love taking pictures,” she says. “Especially in Charleston because there are so many places that people have never explored.”

When asked what exactly she loves about taking pictures, Chhien, who is also a registered cosmetologist, answered without hesitation.

“I think it’s nice that you’re able to control what you see through that lens,” she says. “You’re able to let other people see what you see through your eyes.”

As both an artist and photographer, Chhien hopes to use her artistic abilities to inspire others.

“I used to be very insecure about myself, but I’ve grown to love and accept everything about me, and through my art and photography, I hope to make other people feel the same way,” she says.

Inside the classroom, Chhien has been able to present her artwork in front of Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg and the public. She has also had the chance to channel her creativity as the public relations chairwoman for her sorority, Phi Mu, creating banners and flyers for the organization’s social media accounts.

“I manage our social media and showcase all of the amazing things our chapter is doing,” she says.

As a photographer, artist and cosmetologist, Chhien describes herself as an onion.

“There’s more to discover as you get to know me, and I believe my art similarly expresses these layers,” she says. “As a photographer and artist, I feel like I’m an eye for the future. It’s crazy to think that years from now people can look back at my work and see what life was like.”

Braelyn Diamond is a junior from Blythewood, South Carolina, studying communication and marketing at the College of Charleston. 

Featured image: Studio art major Kathaleena Chhien has a passion for photography. (Photo by Heather Moran)