interview with jonathan canlas

yay, i’m back and i’m feeling good again! thank you for asking and wishing to get better soon! and now that the mad throat episode is behind me, let’s get to the main point of this week… wedding photography! as you know, i’m a lifestyle photographer and also focus on weddings, more on the unconventional approach to weddings (you can even see one gorgeous wedding i shot here), but this is still a field of work that i feel i have so much to learn, but so much, i don’t even have words for it. and though i have more experience on portraiture or family/children photo sessions, i also feel that i have a lot to learn too. but then again, we should always be learning, right? and as a blogger, one of my favourite things to do is to bring someone i admire and answer some questions that i find interesting and because i figure that you should find those interesting as well! so after the first series, here is the second with three guests:

wednesday 18th – jonathan canlas
thursday 19th – joie lala
friday 20th – andré teixeira of branco prata

so today we’re having the well-known film photographer, mentor of the famous workshop film is not dead, jonathan canlas. when you think about asking someone you admire so much and whose work you’ve been following for so long, you can’t help to feel like a little child when you reach out and that person is the nicest, the most low-profile and honest as you can get! when i received jonathan’s answer i was thrilled to read his subject line on the email “let’s do it!”. and just like this you know you’ll get some down to earth answers and it’ll be like a face to face conversation! i only wished i could attend one of those workshops he has. so let’s get to interesting part – jonathan’s!

1. hello, how are you? thank you so much for being here today… i really admire your work, so it’s really an honor to have you here today! so, to start, a little bit of a story, how did you get here to be a photographer? i got my footing while living in japan when a dear friend lent me her canon ae-1 with a 50mm 1.4 lens. i actually went to school for japanese and asian studies. then went back and did a BFA in photography. my first wedding was in the summer of 1999 and i’ve been full time since 2001. its been one hell of a ride!!

2. why did you choose to be a wedding/portrait photographer? what drives you in this field of work? i never woke up one day and said “boy, do i want to shoot weddings!”. it just kind of happened. i mean, i was shooting while in college and friends found out i took photos which lead to “hey, will you shoot my engagements?” to “hey will you shoot my wedding?”. and it was a slippery slope from there ;). don’t get me wrong, i love what i do. and i love shooting weddings/events/families. i think the one thing that is a driving force in all my work is the importance of the family unit. i have a big family that means the world to me. and i think these days when you say the word “family formals” everyone, clients and photographers a like cringe. i want to change that. i want to take photos that don’t make people cringe, it makes them cry!!

3. what do you consider to be the main keys for a good wedding photographic work? have a good balance of vision and voice. meaning that as required you can switch styles of photography as needed. i don’t like to brand myself as a “fine art” photographer or a “photojournalist”. i don’t even like to brand myself as a “wedding photographer”.  because that is not all i do, nor is that all i am limited to. i can shoot fine art, photojournalism, editorial, traditional portraiture, lifestyle and travel. being able to do all of those and do them well is a what makes a good wedding photographer in my mind.

4. what inspires you to make your work, what drives you to create the images you create? hands down my family. i think my work is an extension of who i am as a person. i am a husband, and a dad of six. my work is very PG. and i think what i cherish and hold most important in my life, shows itself constantly in my work.5. the most beautiful place to host a wedding is… where your love ones and family can all come together. locations mean nothing to me anymore. when i first started out, i thought international travel was amazing. and the more exotic the better. and now having been to so many places, i’ve realized there is no place like home. home where your family and loved ones are. that is the most beautiful place to host anything.

6. now, talking about a more technical point of view, tell me… what equipment do you use? all of my wedding work is shot on a contax 645 (all portraits/details/family shots), holga 120N for dancing and candid shots at the reception, and mamiya rz pro II for instant film shots. for my personal work it is my mamiya rz pro ii with a 110mm f/2.8 lens i also just picked up a rolleiflex 6006 (square format) which i’ve been shooting a ton of personal work on lately.

7. what do you carry in your bag for wedding days? contax 645 w/ 80mm f/2 lens (x2), a 35mm 3.5 lens, holga 120N, nikon sb80, mamiya rz pro ii w/ 110 f/2.8 lens, arca swiss sliding polaroid back for the mamiya, promaster LED 42, hoya 72mm close up filter set (+1/+2/+4), rechargeable duracell AA batteries, fuji fp-3000b, fuji fp-100c, kodak portra 400 220, kodak portra 800 120, ilford delta 3200 120, sekonic l-508. 8. what do you consider to be a challenge on a wedding day and how do you face that challenge? i don’t see challenges as i’ve shot so, so many weddings. i work the best under insane amounts of pressure. its kind of like, tell me i can’t do something, and watch me not only do it, but do it well!!

9. what do you do when you get home and start working on your other part of the job? what do i do when i get home from a wedding/event? NOTHING. it’s AWESOME! because it is film, i don’t think about it nor do i have to come home and dl the event. i get a 3-4 week break from said event. i package up the film at my studio when i go in on monday and send it all off to Richard Photo Lab in LA and 3 weeks later i get an email to download the images. edit it and 2-3 hours later I’M DONE. i love film for this reason. i get a real life after my events.

10. being a wedding photographer is always a very competitive business, how do you manage to stay focused and stand out from the crowd? staying focused is a self discipline thing. to make it in this industry take a lot more than just taking pretty photos. anyone can do that. you have to hustle, and work hard. and work hard often. anyone who tells you there is a book you can read or product you can buy that will give you success in this industry is flat out lying to your face. people who are successful in this industry or any field is because they worked, they put the time in, and did their market research. they knew what their bottom line was at any day of the month. they diversified, they looked past the wedding happening this weekend or even the rest of this year. and most importantly, they shot personal work. if you are only picking up your camera at paid gigs, you will go nowhere in photography. you will never find your voice, you will never master your craft. so get out, grab your camera, and do what you love, go out and SHOOT!

so what did you think about this interview? again i must say that i loved his honesty and frontal answers. nowadays you see more and more photographers shooting in film, usually with the same camera (contax 645) and it’s quite an amazing mood. i especially love the light and the colours. and then the rest as we know, it’s with the photographer… it’s the equipment that makes the photo, it helps though!

images: jonathan canlas (click on each image for more images on the event)

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  1. Pingback: happy fence friday | film summer days

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