When it comes to photography differents paths can occour when encountering this art for the first time. It can be a book, an exhibit or simply a word that someone said.
For Jasper Tejano, his amazing work made among the streets is the result of a well conscious path made of study and confrontation with some of his most intimate influences and the Great Masters of photography. Taking Alex Webb as a major guide Jasper created his own voice by re-inventing a style considered too technical.
He re-invented street photography and travel photography in is own way, adding that subjectivity that make it personal, almost like an externalization of an inner thought. Thanks to his studies in psychology he can understand people’s behaviour and catch the best moment without bothering, instead he applies a form of respect that bring his modus operandi on the next level in my opinion.
Take a moment and explore a different view through his very own words.
If you want to support Jasper’s work and show him some love check out his Instagram profile.
Hello Jasper, it’s a pleasure for me to take this interview. Tell me something about yourself and, especially, your first encounter with photography.
Thank you for the opportunity on having me in Jugaad! I’m Jasper Tejano and I work in the challenging yet fulfilling world of Human Resources as an HR Business Partner. This is my corporate day job. When I’m not wearing my HR hat, I’m out there with my wife and young son photographing places and people and experiencing foreign and far away local culture. We go to places enjoying our deliberate misadventures. I am and will always be a student of photography and the genre that I practice and closest to my heart is street photography.
I started exploring photography when I was in my pre-teens. My first artistic influence was my late mother, Ghia. Although she was more of a sketch artist and a pianist, she opened my eyes to visual arts like water color painting and oil pastel. I still remember I used to borrow my mom’s Minolta Pocket Autopak 450E and would use it to photograph school and family events. I was always the designated photographer during family events. However, photography took a back seat when I was in high school and college. It was actually my wife, who was then my girlfriend, who reignited my interest on serious photography. My first serious camera was a Pentax Auto 110 which I borrowed from her. She was also the one who taught me the fundamentals of photography and the art of seeing. When we got our first DLSRs, this was also the time when my wife and I discovered the joy of traveling. Since then we never stopped photographing our journeys together.
As a street photographer I thrive in chaos and unplanned moments. The very foundation of street photography is all about capturing fleeting moments in a mundane scene. There’s no set stage, no stage lights, no actors and models. When you get into a street scene, you are left to operate using your instinct and strong knowledge of photography.
When did you notice a turning point in your photography career? Both emotionally and professionally.
When I got really serious in photography in 2008, I started experimenting on various lenses and researching on settings that can bring out the best in my photos. I started to appreciate the importance of light in creating drama in my images when I attended a workshop on portraiture and creative lighting. However, there was at some point between 2010 and 2011 that I felt that my photography was on a plateau and needed a “creative jolt”. Most of my photographs were in the category of travel photography – which for me were too manicured, too clean and technical. Nothing wrong with that but I guess I was looking for something else. For a while I explored portraiture, still photography and even fashion photography but none of these were giving me fulfillment. I wanted something different – something raw and edgy that somehow defies convention that could bring out my style in visual story telling. It was perfect timing that I started to get interested with the works of Magnum Photographers. The photographs of Henri Cartier Bresson, Alex Webb, David Alan Harvey and Harry Gruyaert have sparked great curiosity in my creative mind. Their works have fascinated me and I was completely in awe of what they were able to do with their photographic approach and vision. In 2012, I started seeing the world through a different lens. Street photography has become my genre of choice.
I read on your bio that you are a huge fan of the great masters of photography (which we are exploring in our column 100 Game Changers), what lessons did you learn from them? Which is the one that influenced you the most?
When it comes to learning and appreciating photography, I would go straight to studying the photographic works of my favorite Magnum Photographers. I would always find myself admiring the works of Magnum Photographers particularly the images created by Alex Webb and Harry Gruyaert – my greatest influences and source of inspiration in color street photography. My curiosity would always be about what made these photographers stay in a particular street or public scene and decide to press the shutter button. What was it that they saw? What was in their minds? What emotion was prevailing during that moment? What personal battles do they need to set aside for them to focus on their work? So many questions to ask.
From Alex Webb I learned the visual impact of layering subjects and using “searing light” in adding drama to the scene. His book The Suffering of Light is a great reference on how he masterfully applied layering and lighting in creating his images. With Harry Gruyaert, it’s his use of vivid colors, light and shadows that have drawn me to study his works. His book Last Call, which he made photographing airport passengers around the world, is my favorite.
Now let’s talk about your style. I’ve noticed that is very colorful and focused on people’s silhouettes compared to other street photographers, what “colors” and “shadows” represents in your visual language?
Before, I interpreted street photography as photojournalism (telling it as it is with objectivity) or documentary photography. In the recent years, my street photography has become really subjective. What matters to me now is how my subject interact with the scene considering light quality, how the colors would complement my subject, how the other details would strengthen my subject and lastly, what fantasy would my finished frame be revealed to me. Though I admire many street photographers who present their work in black and white, color street photography has its way of presenting life with much more realism and dynamism. Especially with my work on silhouettes, the blackness of my subjects will just drown in the different shades of gray. I need color to make my subjects emerge from the frame.
©Jasper Tejano – All Rights Reserved
I love how light and shadows complement my subjects. When I was young, shadow puppets have fascinated me – the way they move, act and the very mystery of their character. In my street photography, what these shadow puppets impressed in my memory is their dark mystery, their anonymity. My curiosity for their anonymity and capturing that brief moment with them has become my creative pursuit. I guess my work is an “homage” to these shadows and I am their story teller.
We both know that street photography represents a huge portion of today’s society, highlighting details and random moments that sometimes are just hiding in the mass. Do you have any favorite moments related to this kind of matter?
This could be a long list! Anyway, my favorite moments in street photography are the ones documented by Alex Webb. From the Mother and Baby photo on an apartment rooftop with the World Trade Center up in smoke in the background during 9/11 to his images made in Mexico in his book La Calle which capture fleeting moments in the streets of Mexico, these are moments that will make you appreciate the effort and vision of the visual storyteller.
Different photographers have different methods, what is yours, related to street shots?
When I see an interesting traffic of people, captivating background or scene and light pockets, I would go on a state of “creative restlessness” (that’s how I describe it) and before I know it my camera is turned on and ready to shoot almost instinctively. I’d go to urban places where there is a busy flow of people traffic and decent lighting. When I finally found a good spot, I will exhaust that spot until I feel I already have a good photograph.
I know that you are a graduate in Psychology, is there a relationship between it and photography in your life?
I got interested in Psychology because I was curious about human behavior. Subconsciously, my approach to street photography has something to do with sensing the mood and disposition of the people in my frame before I press the shutter button. When I sense uneasiness in my subjects because of my presence, I stop photographing them, step away and move on.
Do you have any scheduled exhibition for the next months? We are very curious about it!
I may not be participating in any exhibition in the coming months; however, I am excited to let you know that I am launching my first ever self-published book “At a Moment’s Notice”. It is a monograph of my ten years in street photography. The launch is tentatively scheduled and will be up for purchase and shipping in December 2021.
Last question. Since you worked with many huge clients and made relevant advocacies, what tips can you share about this kind of job? Not just to me, but also to our readers.
Photography will always be a reflection of yourself. It reveals who you are, your imagination, your hopes and even your fears. By presenting your work to the world, you are also opening a window for people to see who you really are. Question is, are you ready to reveal yourself to your audience? That window will reveal to everyone that you are either authentic with your vision or a mere copy cat just trying to get “likes“ from photography communities. I learned that to define your vision, you need to build a solid body of work that your audience can say is your signature work. You can only achieve this if you are consistent with your outputs.
Being serious about practicing street photography is studying the works of photographery masters, going out often and making lots of photographs by exhausting your street scene. It’s all about making the most of whatever camera you are using. Photography is never about how cool or updated your gear is, but about your creative vision and the commitment and dedication that you put in your work to develop that vision. Lastly, it is also about being consistent with your outputs because from these will eventually emerge your style that will define your work and provide identity to your brand of photography.
Thank you very much for your time Jasper, it was a honour for me. Hope you all the best!