Interview #22 - Ian Kristoffer

Ian Kristoffer is a portrait photographer from the Philippines. I found his work through #weshootsouls on Instagram and has constantly checked on his images since then.

You can find more of his work on Behance, Facebook, Instagram and Flickr

Tell us about yourself? 

Hi! I am Ian Kristoffer, 23 year old Philippines-based self-taught photographer. I’ve been shooting for roughly around 2 years now. I love travelling, listening to all kinds of music, different genres, artists, as long as it fits my mood. I also like watching films, documentaries, anything videos and short clips that makes me curious. Most of all, I love food. I might die from diabetes for being a sweet tooth!

What’s happening with you lately?

Currently, aside from having a boring day job in the electronics field, I am currently having a hard time finding what will be my total focus in photography. For instance, I started shooting landscapes, then shifted to events, then conceptual, then fashion portraits. Up to this point, let’s just say that I’m still time finding myself, but that finding-myself-period makes me happy and maybe that’s my very reason why I still keep on shooting.

What draws you into photography, specifically shooting portraits?

I started using a camera ever since my mother bought a compact Kodak film camera. I like how you can preserve moments and tell stories just by a simple click and print. When I bought my very first DSLR (a Nikon D5100), I was amazed and hooked in shooting landscapes. I travel a lot with my friends. Camping, hiking and going to beaches with only few people are aware of is our thing and my camera became my tool preserving those precious moments, capturing the beauties of places that we have been to.

But we started losing time going out as time went by. We all became busy. I don’t know what to do my camera. As I was browsing Facebook, I met this guy, Joed Barallas. He shoots portraits, not just simple portraits but photos that make you feel something, like it was telling you his story without having a single conversation. Amazed by his work, I added him. He messaged me and commended my works. He also invited me to join him for a shoot. I was so excited to meet another photographer. I became more amazed when I saw that he was also using the same camera as mine. When me met, he told me about his inspirations, why he shoots and showed me some of his techniques on shooting. That day, my photography style changed a lot. I tried different kind of things, experiment with colours, set-up, light conditions, and the most important thing of all, I learned from him that shooting portraits is not simply shooting people’s faces, but also telling their stories and most of the time stories that reflects your own as well.

Do you remember your first ever shoot?

Before I really started portraits, a friend of mine invited me to this car show event. I shot cars and models. Being self-taught, just through YouTube and Google, basically that’s where I practiced my how-to’s but I never really learned the why’s.

How’s the photography scene over there in your perspective?

From my personal experience, photography here in the Philippines is something that I’m not proud of. Let’s just say that it is true that there are so many great artists in the field, many with outstanding outputs and artworks that will make you say “wow”, but only few with the right attitude. The experienced bashing the amateurs, co-photographer treating each other as competitors, always makes gossips behind each other’s back. It’s sad. Photography is something that should makes us feel closer to each other, that make us understand feelings what cannot be expressed in words. 

What are your challenges being a photographer?

There are so many to mention, but the most common ones are finding the right subject for the concept and time. Having a day job is hard for me because I can only do shoots on my day offs. Offs that are usually set around weekdays and we all know that weekdays is working days for the most of us. Models usually work or study on weekdays. I’m having a hard time arranging sets because of this, so most of the time I leave work, my attendance and productivity are affected. But whenever I find the right subject and produce a solid output, all I have to say to myself is that all my absences and efforts are all worth it!

How does the environment you’re living in influence your photography? 

As I was saying, many here criticises your work, especially when you’re new to the field, there are so many “pros” that will try to pull you down, pretend to be your friend then stab your back right after.  It’s something that I don’t really like but also made me aware of who’s real or not. It reveals who the true inspiring people around, makes you continue to do your thing, that criticisms should not make you stop, instead it just proves how you love your work. Photography is not about others thoughts, but your own personal perspective and feelings. It’s not how the world see’s you but it’s how you see the world.

I am blown away with your work. Tell us how you become interested in doing fashion?

Fashion is something that I’m not really good at. I just wear some stupid shirt and jeans that don’t even match then go out. Like “whatever”. But I love it when I see people look really presentable even they’re wearing their “whatever” looks. It’s like they’re just doing their thing inside their own habitat, being comfy without minding others business. Just being you. Without really having proper knowledge about fashion, I just describe it as the first thing that you’ll notice to someone and gives you some hint of their personal life. It makes you ask questions like what the story behind those tattoos? Why the denim jacket when it’s really hot? Why wear revealing tops on public places? Why wearing those shades when it’s already night time?  As if she’s giving you a glimpse of some interesting story, makes you curious and makes you want to know more. 

Do you have certain aesthetics or method of shooting?

I don’t really follow specific rules and methods in shooting. I too, myself hate rules. I just tell them to their thing, don’t always look through the camera, talk to them casually then make snaps whenever they’re not really posing. Best photographs are not instructed, they’re caught naturally.

Describe how do your approach your work

a.    Preparing before shoot - - > (research, time, planning etc.)

Technically for the every shoot I made, most of them are prepared on the spot. Usually I contact my subject, ask them if they agree with the concept I prepared, then finalising the set like what are the wardrobes needed, any more locations that we need to go then lastly set the date and time of the shoot. Then for the most cases, there will be changes day or even night before the shoot, like we can’t find the suitable wardrobe, the location is not available that day, or even worse the muse herself has an emergency or something. So even when we planned the shoot like a week ahead, I still update them a day before if they’re available. Even wardrobes and locations change as long as the subject is available, details can be changed on the spot.

b.    During the shoot - - - > (your process, flow of working)

During shoot, I usually just bring them to nicely lit areas. Then shoot. I don’t usually ask for poses. I just talk to them casually, take snaps, and then talk again. Being lazy and comfy at the same time. I just make them pause for a sec whenever I saw that special moment and I need to change angles. Shooting for me should be more natural as possible. Talking makes the set more casual, it builds a better connection for you and the model.  It makes them more comfortable and not stiff in photos. Most of all, it helps you to get that natural look you want to see in them, like you’re not just looking to the photos instead you’re looking to their stories.

c.    After shoot - - -> (post-processing, sending photos to clients etc.)

After shoot, I usually secure my card first. It’s basically my whole life at that moment. I edit using Lightroom. I just use Photoshop for major retouches and editing. For people like me that doesn’t like too much edit and retouching, Lightroom suits me well. I just like the photos having warm colours and contrast, then black and white when there’s a need for a deeper feel. For my personal sets, it usually takes a minimum of 2 weeks or a max of 1 or more months for me to complete the whole set. I usually do edit depending on my mood. So my editing phase also differs depending on the client and my mood. I usually upload the finished product on Google Drive then send the download link to the muse and for clients I burn it to discs and meet them personally. 

Do you have preferences for choosing subjects or models?

In choosing subjects, I don’t go for the beauty, I go for their appeal. Models with amazing eyes really intrigue me a lot. Also those with deep collar bones and spine, ugh!

Why putting your photos in sets?

Photos in sets is kind of a story-telling for me. I like sets because it can narrate a story, it can build up and have a finale. It's like telling the whole side of the truth instead of just telling someone a hint of it that could possibly mislead him to a different story.

Do you prefer images in colour or monochrome?

I'd say I like black and white better but I do like photos both in colour and in black and white. It mostly depends on your mood while you're looking at or editing the photo. For me when doing photos in colour, you are set for a specific mood like when you're in a good mood or hyped colours could be vibrant, saturated, warm while in the opposite being depressed could produce a flat, less contrast, blues and darker shades.

Black and white is different. For me, it's not some specific mood or tension you want to show but its mostly the whole you, not specifically happy nor sad, just being you. It doesn't focus on a specific mood rather it defines your whole form, your blacks and whites and how they beautifully bend in your shadows and highlights. Its easier to define a photo that way, because most of the time, for me, we don't specifically shoot when we're happy or sad right? We just shoot because it's just who we are.

Any other works or photographers that you follow?

My inspiration, and became my close friend, Joed Barallas.    I also recommend these artists: Ian Jasper Olbes, Danix, Adriantheevangelist, Hannah Cepe & Jerferson Permejo.

Do you value quality or quantity?

Quality. Admit it, for every artist we know there’s only at least a single that makes him famous and remarkable. That sole photo that tells the world that he is unforgettable, a great artist and someone that leaves a mark inside their head and inspires anyone seeing it.

In what ways that camera gears or cellphone apps matter to you in producing the work?

I’m not that tech kind of person that always talks about the gears and the new apps. As long as you have something to capture a photo, you have the greatest camera in the world.

Do you earn enough as a photographer?

No. I hope someday. But for now, I just love creating photographs, and for me that’s more than enough.

Who do you think are the audience of your work?

I’m not really quite sure. As far as I know, most of my photos are not good for minor viewing. Haha, I don’t really have specific target audience, I just share it with my friends through social media.

How much you think people will value your work?

I haven’t thought about it yet. But for me, I think we all need to appreciate our own works first. When you love what you’re doing, it blooms, and people know and appreciate works with the touch of blood, sweat and love.

How do you cope in getting the attention through social media or word of mouth?

I use social media. Instagram and other photo hosting sites. I don’t really much believe in the word of mouth. Stories coming from different people may change from time to time. It also changes depending on how the listener understands it. But with photos, a visual representation of your story doesn’t. People may have a different understanding from what they’re seeing but at least you know for sure that it’s you, and only you telling that true story.

Any music that you listen to lately? Books that you read? Movies that you just watched recently?

My music selection always changes every time, but the most influential ones are those coming from some underground indie artists and some coming from the Casual Majestic playlist. I don’t really read nowadays. I don’t have any reading materials on me, and when I’m browsing, I usually do editing or watching videos instead. For movies, I recently watched Comet, Lars and the Real Girl, One Week and lastly, Frances Ha. If you’re into indie films you should try out Frances Ha, it’s basically about someone who’s caught in between choosing her career or passion.

Anything that keeps you excited in the future?

I don’t have any major upcoming events or sets. In fact, I’m not really expecting something in the near future, I’m not thinking about the future at all. I just want to enjoy this very moment. Cherish this very second that we have right now. I guess it’s the most efficient way for us to enjoy and become more excited about the future. Living the life without expectations and without worries.

Any last words?

Travel. It’s the most inspiring thing you could do in your life. Sit and do nothing while watching the sunset. It’s a total waste of time actually, but something inside you will tell you that’s the most relaxing thing you did in your life and it’d make you happy! Cheers!