“Once upon a time, carrying only bags of hope and courage, I moved from the Philippines to the United States to embark on a series of unexpected adventures.” We are thirsty to know more about your story.
Few months after I graduated from college in the Philippines, my dad decided to take me and my sister to the United States with no plans at all. We basically came to the states to wing it and see where the tides of life would take us. Fortunately, we were able to make it and we are still surviving. I used to do a 9-5 accounting job in an office for 6 years but I left it for my love and passion for photography. It was probably one of the craziest things that I’ve done in my life but I will never regret it.
Getting out of your comfort zone to pursue something that you love is something that I will forever cherish.
How did you discover this passion for photography, especially for fashion? Was that an easy path to follow or have you encountered many difficulties?
My fascination with photography started back in college when I discovered the speed of creating something from the medium. I used to draw a lot (sometimes with oil pastels) when I was a kid and a single artwork takes time. Photography changed that for me.
Photographing people’s portraits is, I think, the core of my work. Fashion came along a lil bit later as soon as I got immersed into the fashion photographs from magazines and blogs. Since then, I started digging the works of masters like Avedon, Penn, and their contemporaries. I was mesmerized by the beauty and the story conveyed by their fashion editorial stories. I specifically remember Avedon’s Vogue story in Japan with model Veruschka and Editor Polly Mellen. It was grand and magical. Those types of images inspired me to create something that can also inspire other people. Like any other field, it was never an easy path. It requires long hours of work, patience and dedication. You have to develop a really thick skin to be in the fashion photography industry. You will get lots of criticisms, rejections, and unsolicited comments about your work that’s why you have to be really tough.
But I guess if you have a positive outlook and if you push real hard and never lose sight of your vision, you can always reach your goals. There’s an over saturation of beautiful images in the market right now but if you keep the soul and the story to your images, you will never be astray. Take each criticism constructively and keep learning and improving- that’s how I am surviving up to now.
What do you love about US? And what do you miss about Philippines?
There’s less politics in the art scene in the United States as compared to the Philippines. I love how even for a “nobody”, you can create a name for yourself if you push for it. There are more opportunities for artists here than from my country and that’s what I love about this place.
My friends. I miss my friends and my family a lot. I also miss the authentic Filipino food that you can get from the streets.
A self-taught photographer with a model like… Kobe Bryant. Wow, we are impressed! How did it happen?
I got the Kobe gig through a referral. I was on vacation when I got a call from a producer asking me to photograph Kobe. It was surreal. I immediately said yes and that was probably also one of the most challenging shoots that I did so far.
What has been your most successful moment so far?
Being one of the winners of the 2015 Photo District News Portrait Photography (PDN) Competition is probably one of the most successful moments of my career so far.
You say that you like to tell stories through your shots, Chantelle Winnie and Shaun Ross have been clearly chosen from the industry to send a message. What is YOUR personal message when you portray them?
This is what I always say whenever I get interviews- Anything is possible. Seriously. Your creativity and resourcefulness will help you along the way. There’s no excuse to not pursue your dreams. I did editorials in my kitchen, in my living room, at the basement, at the garage and nobody can tell unless I say it. So I guess the underlying message that I want to portray with my photographs is that you can do anything.
We usually ask our interviewees to inspire the readers, and encourage them to follow their dreams. We would love some words from you also.
Have a vision of what exactly you want to achieve in life and always use that as your guiding star wherever you are at your career. For photographers, always keep your eyes sharp. Find ways to see things differently and always put your soul into your work. For an image to be effective, it needs to have a story. It needs soul.
And we were totally captured by Irvin’s Soul, do you want to have a look?