Jem Calija, is not your typical nocturnal artist. Born & raised in Ilocos Norte and currently residing here in Baguio City with his cat Norah. A photographer and graphic artist, and the mind behind Where To Baguio?. In between YOLO and work, he is a serial art scene searcher.
We at The Local Folke adores his aesthetics on how dreamy and melancholic his photographs are so we decided to feature him next for our segment for "On The Spotlight". We've always been passionate about featuring fresh and undiscovered talents, with his late nights and morning sleep-ins he was able to do this interview with us and this is what he has to say.
TLF: What Inspires you to take photos?
J: My inspiration is my ambition to be the person I know I am meant to be. Until then, I will keep improving. I am also huge on the whole YOLO thing. Not the stupid sense of it but the philosophical sense of it. You only get to live one life. Might as well do what you love most.
TLF: What makes the good picture stand out from the average?
J: I think a good picture is the one with character, your own personal character. Knowing who you are as a photographer is very important.
TLF: What does photography mean to you?
J: Photography is my way to tell the world who I am without using words.
TLF: What motivates you to continue taking pictures economically, politically, intellectually or emotionally?
J: I want to see my progress in everything that I try to do. With photography, I can see my progress by comparing my old photographs with the recent ones. Seeing my improvement motivates me to keep shooting.
TLF: How do you educate yourself to take better pictures?
J: I try to learn from my mistakes and I can only do that by constantly shooting. I only see my progress (and mistakes) in the photographs I take. So I keep shooting.
TLF: What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos?
J: 1.) Gear is important, but it is nothing without skills. 2.) No two photographs are alike. Take a photograph the way only you would. 3.) Do not take photographs to impress anyone.
TLF: You have a signature style and feel in your photos. How did you come up with your style or decide on one?
J: I like my photographs to feel moody, if not magical. I started editing my photographs the way my favorite photographers edit theirs until I found my own preferred style. I see nothing wrong with having an inspiration as long as I know who I am as a photographer. All of us should start somewhere, and I started from knowing what I want to photograph to how I want to show it. I also rebel from the technicalities of photography most of the time. I do not like to think that there is a certain standard for what makes a good photograph. Like I mentioned, it feels limiting and it shouldn't be.
TLF: What course did you taking up in college? Does it affect your chosen path now in some way?
J: I have a bachelor's degree in Communications. My course does not affect my decisions (career-wise) as much as my instructors do. They were very inspiring and very supportive. We all need teachers who teach us more than what's in the lesson plan.
TLF: Who are your greatest influences as a photographer? and how did they influence your thinking, photographing, and career path?
J: I really look up to Shaira Luna (@shairaluna) - along with Ruby James (@rubyjamesphoto), Diane Villadsen (@dianewithonen), Mox Santos (@moxsantosx), and Emman Montalvan (@emmanmontalvan). I really admire their aesthetics. I mostly love how great they are at giving each photograph its own character. I am very inspired as to how they're not afraid to "break the rules". They influence me to develop my own aesthetic, something that is different, unique, rebellious, and fun.
TLF: How did you develop an interest in photography?
J: I got into photography when I started blogging on Tumblr in 2010. I used to follow a lot of very talented and inspiring photographers and I knew I wanted to take photographs too. That same year, I got my very first DSLR. I never stopped taking photographs since then.
TLF: Do you have any formal training?
J: I had a photography class in college but I had been taking photographs before that. I'd like to say that I'm mostly self-taught. Although I have to admit that there's still a big room for improvement and I'm very much open to learning more about photography. Right now, I am reading about studio lighting because I mostly shoot in natural light.
TLF: What challenged you most about photography?
J: The biggest challenge I (still) have with photography is not having the gear that I want. I had the notion that the more expensive your camera is, the better your photographs are. In some sense, it is true but I realized that skills are more important than gear. Also, I do not like that there are rules in photography. I used to follow most of them, if not all. And it felt limiting. I honestly hated it. Little by little, I started breaking the rules until I finally felt comfortable with it.
TLF: Are there any books or any people whose work you'd advise newbies to look into?
J: If you are a visual learner like me, I recommend the series "Abstract" in Netflix. This may sound a little off to some, but trust me the Internet has everything you need to know these days - from photography blogs to Youtube channels.