Having a grandfather who took Cory Aquino’s presidential photo sure helped in Kimi Juan’s decision to pursue photography. Still, she was drawn to subjects with even grander personalities—ones she found in places rather than people. By turning her lens toward landscapes and locales, the 21-year-old has amassed quite the following.
Indeed, many eyes have traveled through Kimi’s Tumblr and Instagram accounts, where the College of St. Benilde photography major has captured the character of places near rather than far. Through her charmed perspective, locations such as Baguio, Mt. Pinatubo, or even a tapas restaurant in Alabang manage to exude the exoticism and mystique of far-flung destinations.
Inspired by summer wanderlust, B/BLOG followed Kimi through the streets of Escolta and talked to the camera-clicking nomad about inspirations, itineraries, and the surprises she’s snapped along the way.
Hi, Kimi. What have you been working on lately?
Lately, I’ve been doing travel photography. This year, I’ve visited Mt. Pinatubo, Bataan, and I’m planning a trip to Mt. Pulag. I had a recent exhibit, too, called “Vessels.” It wasn’t really my thing ‘cause it was portraiture but I did it to get myself out there and be more diverse with the work I want to do.
What led you to travel photography anyhow?
I started with creative portrait photography but that didn’t really work out and I realized I didn’t enjoy it that much. In school, I just learned lighting for fashion and all of that. With [the travel photography] I’m doing now, it’s self-taught. I figure things out on my own and learn from other photographers, as well. I realized I like doing landscapes and going around places. I started on Instagram, taking landscape photos of different places I visited and my love for going around and shooting beautiful places around the Philippines grew from there. I have a blog where I put non-iPhone photos and show my film work. That’s how people started recognizing my work. I decided to take it to Instagram because it’s easy to access—you don’t need a laptop.
Those amazing photos on your Instagram, they’re really just from an iPhone? No other accessories?
Just the iPhone. Sometimes I use a tripod.
So what’s the bigger picture for you, now that you’ve got a huge following?
Oh my God, I would really like to work for Condé Nast Traveler. It’s an international travel magazine—kind of like the more artsy version of Nat-Geo. I tried to do documentary photography before and I really didn’t enjoy it that much. I like to look more at the beauty of a place.
Can you recall the moment you decided travel photography was exactly what you wanted to do?
I think when I hiked out to Mt. Pinatubo. Going through that hard trek, I told myself the view better be worth it and it was really more than what I expected. It was so beautiful. That was when I decided I want to pursue travel. You have to go through these obstacles before you see the beauty of a place and that’s what excites me.
What have been some other places that really surprised you with their beauty?
There’s no specific place but what I like about being here in the Philippines is that people don’t really expect to see beautiful things. There are nice beaches and all of that but if it’s from around Manila, people say, ‘Oh, is that from here?’ or ‘Did you take that here?’ What challenges me most is showing people everyday things and getting people to say, ‘Oh, why didn’t I see that before?’ or ‘Why didn’t I think of taking that photo?’
Besides doing portraits, have you deviated from travel photography?
I really enjoy food photography. I also did some fashion photography in school but I always had a problem with artificial lighting. It wasn’t really my thing ‘cause I like working outside.
How do you go about getting inspiration?
Well, right now, I look around Instagram. I follow photographers and browse the VSCO Grid. I take inspiration in terms of subject, framing, editing.
You have a lot of cameras in your arsenal. Which do you prize most?
My Hasselblad. It was handed down to me from my grandfather, who was also a photographer. He once documented People Power and all of that. He pushed me to shoot more and also to shoot with film. He used to critique my photos on composition and lighting and gave suggestions on what I can do better. He was one of the greatest teachers I can have.
Is there a photo of his that really struck you?
He did the presidential photograph of Cory Aquino. Every time I think about him, that’s what comes to mind. I have the photo of him taking the photo, so I always remember that.
And your parents are cool with you pursuing photography as a profession?
Yeah, ‘cause before, I wanted to be a veterinarian, so I took biology for a year. Then I realized, it wasn’t really where I was supposed to be so I took photography. They said that as long as it’s my passion, I can pursue it.
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