When sophomore Chase Sabina started sharing his favorite photographs on a blog, he just wanted to post images he liked. Now, Sabina has been busy doing photoshoots for clients like Brooks Brothers, Google, and Land Rover — and has more than 27,000 followers on Instagram.
Chase begins to describe what he does and who is he is, but he’s not quite sure.
“Photographer, influencer, a lot of different words, I don’t really know,” Sabina said.
Sabina’s original blog revolved around sharing pictures that he enjoyed, but he was not the photographer taking those pictures.
“And then out of the blue I just picked up a camera and started shooting, saying I wanted to kind of replicate the images that I was seeing and sharing,” Sabina said.
Sabina also kept his work somewhat secret, even from his own family. Junior Brooke Sabina, his older sister, said she was shocked when she found out how successful her younger brother had become.
“His success surprised me. His original blog, which he became known for, he had kept a secret from me,” Brooke said, “I think because he thought I wouldn’t approve or that I would tell our mom he was on the internet all the time.”
Within a year the blog had around a million and a half page views. With that kind of popularity, Sabina figured if he could make a blog that popular, he could transfer the idea over to Instagram.
“And then about two years later, after a lot of hard work on Instagram, I got my first client in brand to reach out to me,” he said.
When he started out, Sabina had no thought of monetizing his Instagram or doing photo shoots professionally. But when his first client reached out to him, he began to think about the possibilities.
Sabina now has a variety of clients, some small, some famous. He has done shoots for everything from small start-up businesses all the way to Airbnb and Delta Airlines. Over the summer Sabina worked for a growing company called Grayers, which took him to London, Austria, and Germany.
Though Sabina is in school now, his photography and Instagramming are not on hold. Sabina signed with an agency that represents him and manages his social media, but they are allowing him to work on his own schedule. Now he is trying to find the best balance between school and his work.
“I just recently went to Chicago because I work with Google,” Sabina said. “And then I have another project with them this coming year, so they’ll send me travelling for that. Luckily I’m sort of able to balance it between work and school. It’s definitely difficult though.”
On the academic side of his busy life, Sabina is thinking about majoring in economics or marketing. After working on both the creative and business aspects of his photography and Instagramming, he has come to appreciate the psychology behind marketing and economics.
“The whole process of building social media is marketing yourself and branding yourself, and making a brand out of your own name, which has been crazy,” Sabina said. “I really enjoy the whole psychology behind marketing yourself and trying to figure it out.”
Junior Mark Compton, a friend of both the Sabina siblings, noted the unusual maturity with which Sabina handles his business and success.
“Chase treats his success just like any other part of his life: lightly. He’s willing to laugh at the way he came into success, as well as the failures he’s encountered along the way — there are a lot,” Compton said. “I think managing a business at such a young age can lend itself to arrogance, but Chase operates with maturity.”
His friend, junior Henry Listenberger, agrees.
“He is definitely just a normal 20-year-old clown who happens to have way more experience than most,” Listenberger said.