Larry Chen: Ken Block, The Head Hoonigan In Charge: Through My Lens Video

Reading Time: 19 minutes
Posted: 2023-04-05 15:00:32
Author: Larry Chen
It is without a doubt that I wouldn’t be where I am today without @KenBlockHHIC. He gave me the opportunities to thrive in my career path and I’ll forever be grateful and in his debt. This video took awhile to put together with my team but I wanted to do my best to tell you all about Ken from my point of view as one of the fortunate few who had the opportunity to work alongside him.

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Larry Chen Video Transcript

This is not easy in any way shape or form this is definitely something I did not want to do ever but here we are and it’s unfortunate my condolences go out to Ken’s family Lucy Leah Kira and Micah you guys are definitely my thoughts I’ve been playing this

In my head and all the things that I’ve experienced with Ken and everything that he’s done for me for the past couple months and I figured I would just put it out there and let you guys know how much of a difference he played on my life There’s just no question in my mind that Ken was the greatest Ambassador for car culture of our time I feel so honored to have been able to capture so many moments with him throughout a big portion of my career for that I will be forever grateful

Personally Ken has done so much for me without a doubt my most famous photo to date was of Ken sliding Evo corner on climb Kana at Pikes Peak because of Ken no matter where I am in the world I look around if I’m at a car event if I’m in

An airplane if I’m in the airport I know so many of these strangers have seen my photographs because of Ken one of the last times I saw Ken I was in this Toyota SEMA Booth which used to be the Ford Booth he was walking through talking with a couple friends and I

Tapped him on the shoulder and I said Hey sir are you lost he had a good chuckle and it was so much fun for me to catch up with him we actually talked about Tokyo on a salon and how he was going and how I was doing a bunch of shooting there

And of course he never made it that’s where I actually I was when I heard the news this has affected me dramatically honestly more than I thought something like this would I’ve been thinking about these stories since this passing over and over in my head just replaying them

And I realized that this affects me and a few other individuals differently just because of what we were tasked to do so it’s me wrong car Lewis yo Tony harmer Mike blabeck us five have hundreds of thousands of photos of Ken Thank you foreign we’re just there to capture his moments with his fans in his race car with his family by himself doing his thing when he’s at his best and at his worst we capture him in so many different ways and it’s just a different kind of relationship

All of our jobs were to document Ken to our best abilities whether the video cameras were rolling or not the first time I met Ken was all the way back in 2007 at El Toro Air Force Base where they actually filmed gymkhanawan we were there for a local Grassroots

Gymkhana event called American Gymkhana and of course Ken Block was a star he had the Crawford performance Subaru STI out there and of course that was the fastest vehicle out there had the most power and I found myself lined up against him at the Christmas tree as you know

Gymkhana is two mirrored courses and it starts like a drag race so when I pulled up to the line in my 1970 240Z with 143 horsepower I looked over and I saw Ken Block and I’m like I have to do my best to treat him

So as soon as I saw the light start to go down I just let go of the clutch and it’s funny after all these years there’s a video of it on YouTube and it shows me like leaving the line first but not a micro second later

He just floors it and just blows me out of the water [Applause] that was before Gymkhana won that was before any time we saw a video from Ken but we already knew of his stature and we already knew that he was the real deal the fact that he would come and hang out with us at a local Grassroots event really spoke volumes

A couple years go by I had a chance to shoot him a couple times at X Games but it wasn’t until Gymkhana 4 when I actually had a chance to work with Ken one-on-one I’ll never forget it when I stepped on Seth for the very first time

I knew I was in the big leagues it was incredible it was over 100 people on set and it was just something I’ve never been a part of it was something so Grand as you guys know it was shot in the Universal back lot and I’ll never forget

It the tram that normal people from Universal Studios can take to actually check out the back lot was running and they would constantly shuttle people by as we were filming and I just thought it was the funniest thing like we were just eating lunch we were just doing our

Thing and anytime a tram came by we would kind of just wave and we were thinking like yeah this is a normal thing right you know you take the tram at Universal and then you get to see Ken Block just hanging out in the back lot

Ken actually came up to me and he asked me if we watch his videos if I’ve seen Gymkhana one through three and what I thought about them I just was so blown away I was thinking maybe he didn’t know I was a car fanatic maybe he didn’t realize that

A couple years ago I lined up against him at Gymkhana but it was interesting you know he he wanted to know what I thought this was on the War of the World set immediately after that conversation I asked him if I could take some portraits

Of him at the wrecked 747. you know I made him Buckle in to one of the seats I made him climb into the set and it was just so surreal for me to actually be able to work with him in this capacity I was just so proud of those photos and what

Came out from Gymkhana 4 kind of set me up to be able to work with Ken and the hoonigan guys from then on I was still pretty early in my career in that I would take anything I could get and I really wanted to get my photos in

Front of as many eyes as possible so when I became the official photographer for Formula Drift in 2012 it was a really big deal for me the hoonigan guys called me right after I got that gig and they asked me to come on to shoot the set of Gymkhana 5.

As you guys know that probably will be the grandest Gymkhana of all time you know San Francisco in terms of a location and a shutdown it’s never going to be topped I went back and forth because um that means I would have had to miss Formula Drift Atlanta which is the

Second round second time ever being the official photographer I talked to the guys at hoonigan and I just weighed my options I was thinking ah maybe I can make it for one or two days but then I realized that I just had to stick with what I already committed to and I just

Had to focus on being the official photographer for Formula Drift which I still am after all these years and just missed Gymkhana 5. in terms of career decisions that’s without a doubt my biggest regret because it’s never going to happen again and of course with my luck gym six came around

And I couldn’t make that either again because of Formula Drift and on top of that that was filmed where they filmed Gymkhana One at El Toro Air Force Base in the same place that I lined up against Ken at American Gymkhana the next time I actually had a chance to

Work with Ken was when he wanted to prove that he could full course drift Irwindale Speedway with an all-wheel drive vehicle I was so excited to be able to shoot Stills for that and I wrote an article on speed hunters and Ken actually had a chance to read it and

Check out the photos and the next time I saw him was at Global rallycross it was the opening ceremonies he was next to his car it was in front of all the photographers the fans the media all of that he just left his car went up to me and

Told me how much he loved the article and how much he loved the photos I just started a blush I was so red and I was just happy but a little embarrassed but the fact that he would compliment me out in public in front of all my peers just

Meant the world to me and that really pushed me to want to work with them even more after missing out on gym 5 and 6. luckily Gymkhana 7 was in my home city of Los Angeles It was so cool to be able to be a part of the hoonicorn launch and it was just amazing to be a part of this massive project I grew up in Los Angeles and the fact that we were able to have these dream locations to shoot to slide a car

Around to enjoy to create these iconic photos it’s just something out of a Dream It’s epic you know being able to stand on the 105 Freeway interchange or above the Hollywood sign right next to Homeland Security you know doing handstands on the 710 freeway is just

So crazy I just never thought I would be able to do these things and because of Ken and the whole crew this was possible he just created this ultimate platform for us to be able to create these images to promote car culture to promote just these extraordinary things

Soon after shooting with Ken and the crew on Gymkhana 7 that’s when things really heated up I became an embedded photographer with the crew so when they went to rally races when they went testing anytime they needed a photographer I really went out of my way to try to be there be

Embedded with them I was staying at the same places they were staying I was in their Rental Car in the airport flying with them and I was just trying to do my best to tell the story so it was me his manager Matt his photographer social media guy Ron

It was his family Lucy Lia Kira Micah you know I watched them grow up Through My Lens the thing that I realized as time went on is that Ken actually trusted me to show him and anything he did in the best light possible in fact I actually shot a underwear campaign

With him as well he always had a lot on his plate no matter what we were doing something was going on car was broken stunt wasn’t working right who knows there was always something on Ken’s mind and he was always all over the place in terms of what he had to do

When he was on set or when he was racing and I would always ask for his time and he would always give it to me because he always wanted to make sure that I got the shot that I was looking for And that is so special because there’s so many other athletes and so many other people that I’ve worked with that just could care less and it wasn’t just me he offered his time to so many other content creators he always did it for the shot he was also a very

Big critic of my work he would tell me when I would drop the ball when something just didn’t look right or didn’t look good so it actually elevated my game that much more because I always wanted to make sure that it was up to Ken’s standards which were very

Very high no matter what we were shooting it could be something so small or it could be Gymkhana I would always bring my A-game come hell or high water if I had a fever if I was hurting in some way if I wasn’t feeling good if my camera was broken no matter what

I would push 110 to make sure I got the best stuff possible and honestly that goes for a lot of content creators that fortunately had a chance to work with him we’ve been able to do so many projects together but there’s one that kind of stands out in that I actually

Had a chance to be in front of the camera for once back in 2015 Need for Speed rebooted their whole brand and they came out with a all new video game with real life characters can vangian Jr Magnus Walker busy Moto Steph Papadakis the list goes on it was just so many

People and we were all in London for like two weeks it was just such a fun shoot because I shot a bunch of still photos I was part of the video game I was in the cutscenes and also I shot a lot of film photos that just meant so

Much to me I got some nice shots of nikaisan my friends from the risky Devils it was just a good crew and it was the first time that all of these different icons had a chance to hang out with each other and hang out with Ken Block it was so cool

Being on screen together with Ken was surreal because even to this day people take screenshots and people send me clips and they’re like hey is that you in this video game [Applause] while we were in London for that period of time can actually tip me off on this

Project that he was thinking about working on which was climb Kana taking the hunicorn to the next level version two instead of naturally aspirated 800 horsepower it turned into a 1400 horsepower Beast climb Kana as a project was collectively one of the hardest projects that I think we ever worked on

What people don’t realize is that they actually shot that over three separate trips over a span of a year and a half over 12 days on that mountain first time we went up there the hopes were high and there was just so much to do in so little time

Unfortunately the car did not cooperate we were able to get some things that made it into the final film but it just didn’t work out we go out there a second time the car worked for a little bit but it didn’t last so long so of course that means we had to wait

To the next year to the next season everything just went wrong there was snow hail sleet rain horrible conditions lightning if you could believe it everything went wrong on the set of clamcona and somehow we were able to eke out all of this good content and footage the third time we

Went was the best time because the hoonigan racing team finally figured out how to make that motor work at Peak efficiency at altitude make all that power and it was just incredible that’s when we were able to shoot that very iconic shot of Ken’s lighting over Evo corner

Two tires on two tires off shooting GoPros into Oblivion it was absolutely incredible I remember it like it was yesterday the first try he did it and everybody’s heart sank because it was just so death defying and it just was crazy I mean this vehicle was built for filming and

It wasn’t built for tumbling down the mountain if you went off so everybody you know had that in their mind and when he did it for the first time we’re like all right you have to do it again because it was kind of like a half slide and we

Knew Ken had it in him and I knew that I wanted this iconic shot I really really wanted to do a stitch that was one by three ratio something that I could print huge I had a 1dx Mark II 135 F2 I shot it at two eight I locked the focus

And as time was going on and we were waiting for Ken to come around the corner the clouds were going in and out in and out and I kept having to do the panorama shot from where I was standing I was at the very next corner Scotto was behind me

Matt Johnston the video guy was right in front of me and it was just three of us on this tiny little ledge I kept doing it because as soon as the light conditions would change I had to do it again and it was about 20 pictures that I would stitch together

And then that one frame of Ken would just be a single full frame shot from my DSLR so when he actually came around the corner Full Tilt guns blazing two tires off shooting all this dirt I just laid down on that shutter like my life depended on it and I just kept shooting

And what people don’t realize is he actually linked the corner afterwards so he just barely grazes us three on the ledge with the nose of his car I’ll never forget it it was just so close to our Shins it was just incredible I just was so excited and you guys could see in

The Amazon Prime special that they did on Clem Kana you can just see my face like I was just so excited going up to Ken you know with the photo on the back of my screen and just shoving it in front of his face just so proud of this

Photo that I know will become a stitch but I had no idea it would become so iconic shooting with Ken has taken me to some of the craziest places in the world for gym 8 we actually found ourselves in the UAE in Dubai and in Abu Dhabi and it was

Just so crazy to see the car culture out there they ate it up they loved Ken so much and I was just able to get all of these iconic photos I actually have a story about one of my favorite photos from Gymkhana 8. I just was about to

Sign my contract with Canon cameras as a Explorer of light I would be their first ever Automotive photographer I went to New York where their headquarters are located and I was to speak at the Javits Center on the Canon stage to the photo plus audience I was walking

Around with all of the Canon Executives all the explorers of lights all of the Canon folks and we just happened to walk by I think it was like an AM PM or something I just pointed at the window it was this huge picture that I shot of

Ken from Gymkhana 8. it was a monster advertisement but it was just front and center and it couldn’t have been better timing for me to kind of show these guys that I’m actually able to contribute in this way and that’s kind of a thing that I think

About all the time you know when you’re working with somebody like Ken you’re transcending car culture it’s beyond just this small community it is a global thing and it’s mainstream culture I definitely got emotional when I heard what gym 10 was to become it was pretty much not so much the last

Gymkhana but it was the last of its kind and I thought it was cool that it was a multi-part series and I was very excited to be a part of this project so I split duties with Lewis yo he covered a couple of them because I couldn’t make it to all of

Them because of Formula Drift of course but I was able to shoot the one in Texas I was able to shoot the one in Los Angeles and I was able to shoot the one in Guanajuato Mexico I’ll never forget it it was such a good marker on my

Career the way I think about it it’s everything before gym 10. and everything after gym 10. up until that point Ken has made such an impact on my career and my life there’s just no way to discount it It’s just never going to be the same without him and of course we’re all gonna miss him I’m definitely gonna miss him one of my favorite parts of Jim 10 was being on set in Mexico because that was actually my first dive into video it was the first time

That I actually wanted to show how the meat was made how I created these photos and it was such an honor at that time to be able to contribute to the hoonigan bonus Channel as well as the hoonigan tangents show that they had on Fridays

It was a time in my life where I was transitioning from just being a photographer to being somebody in front of camera as well and that was just the perfect time and it gave me the perfect platform to tell my story it was very early on in my video

Production so it wasn’t the best video but why not kick it off with Ken Block he’s belting up getting ready to warm up Just from being able to tell my story from gym 10. has led me up to now this channel wouldn’t exist without Ken and hoonigan all the shows that I do everything that I do in front of camera started right there one of the funniest moments for me on the set of gym 10

Which I actually got on video was when this uh female fan broke through security somehow snuck onto set and just embraced Ken like right when she saw him she just melted and uh it was very very touching I guess it was interesting to see she started just bawling her eyes out and um

I pan from Ken and this woman to Matt his manager and just deadpan he looked at me and he said I’ve never had a woman get this excited about me and I just I was just so excited to be able to get that moment I just thought it was so

Funny and I just kind of replayed this in my head but uh yeah it was hilarious cue the video thank you for being a fan yeah well thank you thank you I’ve never had a woman be that enthusiastic about me in my entire life there’s so many moments that I remember

With Ken but specifically there’s one that really stood out to me in 2020 The shutdown as you guys probably can imagine affected so many creatives so many photographers there was a point where we pretty much didn’t work for four months we had so many gigs lined up and everybody just canceled and I never got any calls during this time my good

Friend Von getting Jr launched his Ford Maki 1400 and of course he invited Ken Block with the hunicorn to join this epic video of all of these amazing Ford vehicles and this was the very first project that we were back on from the shutdown the shutdown affected me so much

I broke out on hives I just was so stressed out and I just could not imagine things getting better it was just a rough time I had a chance to talk to Ken I actually shuttled him around in my Toyota Supra because uh it was really

Hot it was in the middle of summer and I had the AC blasting all the time so he would come in hang out with me and we would just chat it up and there were so many things that we talked about but talking with him kind of reassured me that things would

Eventually be okay sheepishly I asked him if he could help me out and if he could sign posters for me so I can sell them and I can sell them to you guys he agreed to me right away without any hesitation or any question he’s like whatever you want

I’ll sign anything you want I was just so blown away because that single-handedly saved us so much I mean we had nothing but the fact that he was just so generous in that way and to so many other people so many other photographers and so many other fans you know I would

Just watch him sign autographs for hours at a time I mean these people that were fans of his were just ravenous it was something I’ve never seen before with any other personality I remember specifically when we were in Europe when I was following him when he was doing WRC

They would hand out posters that he would sign and this poster would basically get handed to this person but it would just get ripped up into like 10 different pieces from the entire crowd just grabbing at this poster and these individuals were so happy just to get a little piece

Of this poster that he signed maybe not even the piece that he signed but it was just a piece of paper that can actually touched it was incredible aside from that Ken actually signed a lot of Charity prints for me for really good causes and the fact that

He just goes out of his way to do such simple gestures means so much to me and I feel like everybody else that he’s helped because of efforts from can and the hoonigans I got extremely busy coming out of the shutdown 2021 and Beyond has been absolutely insane for us

And that brings me to honestly one of my biggest personal regrets as you guys probably know Ken is such a big family man he always has been able to incorporate his family in what he’s doing that’s why I had a chance to know his family you know whenever he was

Racing whenever he was filming his family was around and no matter how busy he was he was always able to spend time with his family at one point he invited me and my family to hang out at his place but I was just so busy and selfishly I

Thought you know what when I have a little more free time I’ll come and hang out but of course he got busy I’m busy and it just never happened on a lighter note Ken and I had this fun thing going we actually have a folder on our server called blocks finger

And what it is is it’s a collection of photos of Ken flicking me off because for whatever reason he thought it was funny to essentially ruin my photo whether he’s like suiting up and he just like lets a finger go or he’s in the car waiting on grid and he just kind of

Sticks his finger out real quick it’s just kind of like a a lighter more fun moment that I just kind of have to double take because sometimes I notice it right away you know I take the picture I laugh he laughs it’s a funny thing but the best is when he does it

And I find out later that he did it and that means obviously I can’t use the photo but it’s something that I can keep for my collection and now finally you guys get to see some of these photos but it’s just so many of them

And that’s kind of a way I know that he’s in a good mood you know he’s like joking around on set racing or whatever just flipping the bird and this really showed that no matter how busy he was and no matter how stressed out he was he always made time

To have fun and not take things too seriously and joke around that’s one of the things I really loved about working with Ken and the rest of the hoonigans we were just a bunch of friends not co-workers we just had cameras and cars elektrakana was an interesting one

It was the ultimate shutdown it was downtown Vegas middle of the strip all these iconic locations in Vegas that I’ve been around my entire life now when I drive down the strip I look at all these places where I stood shooting pictures of Ken and I just it just

Brings me back it’s just so different it changed that place for me electricana was also interesting in that Ken was really battling that car it was something that he’s never really driven before and it was something that was completely different compared to all the other vehicles can being can you know

He’s the wheel man he’s just so good at what he does he did his best and for what that car was I think he did such a great job and the imagery for me really stands out it was without a doubt some of the best photos that I’ve taken that year if not

Of all time what was really crazy to me was that the car itself didn’t move like anything else it just didn’t look real it looked like it was in fast forward and one of the things that really was hard to convey on video was how loud it

Actually was I actually had to wear earplugs even though it was electric the tires and the noise the mechanical noise it made was so loud and it was just something that was just so piercing it was just something that I’ve never experienced before and it was really

Cool to be a part of that project when I think about all of these things that I’ve talked about there’s just so many more moments and so many stories that I have but these are the ones that kind of stand out and these are the ones that

Really are near and dear to my heart I’ve been shooting photos for 19 years now and this is obviously something that I’m gonna have to deal with more and more as time goes on but it’s never going to be easy my job was to photograph this man and

His amazing ideas and his creations and the people that surrounded him and I’m just so lucky to have had the opportunity to do so I wouldn’t have had it any other way can wherever you are whatever you’re doing thank you so much from the bottom of my heart I’m gonna miss you

I think everybody will miss you I try and inspire people to uh be creative and live a fun life and don’t be an laughs