When I first contacted Calope to schedule our interview he suggested to meet at a place where we could both feel comfortable and forget about any type of framework. He told me he likes to chat in a close and approachable atmosphere because it’s the only way a conversation can happen naturally. He was so right. We met at Le Neuf Café at Clarence Square and he revealed how he became a photographer, how he brings his signature to every photograph and a special place he dreams to take photos.
Born and raised in the Philippines Islands, Calope is a Toronto-based passionate fashion photographer who puts every piece of his heart in all the photographs he takes. Sensitive and romantic, he tries to make people fall in love with his photography through the seductive glances that he captures.
When did you realize that you wanted to become a photographer?
I think it was something that happened naturally. When you get older, sometimes, flashbacks from the past just popped in your head. I remember times when I was younger and I had a toy, which was a small red telescope and I totally loved it. I put it on my eyes and click the switch on the side so the images I saw through it were changing. I also have flashbacks opening and browsing through my mother’s magazines so I could discover new photos. I some way, I think photography was something that, subconsciously, I always wanted to do but at the same time, I think that passion grew organically.
What was your most memorable photograph you’ve taken?
Honestly, I’m thinking of a lot of photos because every photo that I took has its own particular story behind. I have a lot of favorite photographs that I took but now, looking back, I think the best image that I’ve ever taken was one of a model who is now a very good friend of mine. I photographed her when we were both starting out and, somehow, she was my muse because I had multiple shoots with her. I don’t think it was my best photo but the reason why I remember this photo is because one day she told me that her grandma printed that picture and framed it and put it in the middle of her living room so, whenever she visits her she sees her face. The story behind this picture is the reason why I will never forget it.
How did you start working as a photographer? When was your first formal job as a photographer?
Well, even that I’ve been working as a photographer for a while, I consider my first ‘formal’ job as a photographer last year when I was one of the photographers shooting for ‘The Room’ for the Fall/Winter 2014 campaign. When I was on set for that shoot, I told my assistant who is a very good friend of mine, that day was fantastic and that I could do that type of job anytime and everyday. My sister recommended me to read The Alchemist book and I really liked a line where the author, Paulo Coelho, says that ‘the universe lets you feel how it feels to reach your dreams and then they’ll test you to see if you really want to do it’. With ‘The Room’ project the Universe let me feel how it feels to become the photographer I’ve always wanted to become, and that’s why I consider it as my first job, because that was the first taste of that success.
In your portraits, the glance of the people you captured is very seductive. Is that your signature as a fashion photographer?
Just as you said, it’s the glance what gets your attention so, my personal work is very much based on that glance. If you go to my site, you’ll see that my tag line for my photography is ‘Calope Will Make You Fall In Love’ so, when I’m shooting for my personal work, I try to incorporate this signature. As a photographer I like to focus on the eyes so, when someone look at them they feel they want to starred at them forever, and everything else in the picture becomes out blur. When this happens, you forget about the clothes or if the model is wearing a pair of Manolo Blahnik shoes. Now I’m working in my portfolio and my opening line is ‘when you see the eyes, everything falls into place’.
When it comes to fashion projects you don’t have that much freedom to be yourself because you have a brand, a designer, an art director, etc., behind you telling what they want you to do and the way they want it. Therefore, any time that I shoot something a little bit more commercial I would ask my friends: Did I loose my self here? Am I not there anymore? Did I totally bend over? And typically they said that, even that is for a commercial campaign, you look at the eyes and you can tell it’s me.
When you started your career as a photographer, who was your reference? Was there any photographer that inspired you to pursue your goals in your career?
I have so many photographers that inspire me but I don’t have a photographer that makes me feel that I have to do my job the same way they’ve done it. Everyone has their own journey and their own roots and that is something I want to project on my work as a photographer. However, and as much as I don’t have a photographer in mind in that sense, I do have references that I like to look at in order to get some inspiration. Photographer Sarah Moon is, probably, my number one, the Toronto-based photographer Barbara Cole, Paolo Roversi is also very close to my heart, and a very good friend of mine who passed away. He was a fashion photographer and anytime that I looked at his photos I thought ‘you are awesome! These images are timeless!’ That is how I would like people to feel about my photos, I want my pictures to be timeless.
If you had to pick one person to capture, who would it be?
I actually have a book where I write all the people that I want either shoot or just meet but to be honest, I’ve never thought about choosing one single person to photograph. I don’t think I will be able to give you an accurate answer because my choice would depend on a particular situation and the feeling between that person and me. However, I have to admit that I would love to photograph Princess Diana even that I didn’t really grow up by the time she was still alive.
You have collaborated with emerging Toronto menswear designer Rank by Rani twice, for her SS15 and FW15 campaigns. Do you think you are a good photographer-designer ‘couple’?
I love Rani because she is a very talented yet down-to-earth person and easy to get along with. The first time I met her was when I came back from New York, she happened to get in touch with me so I took a look at her work and I really liked it. It was a good timing and the vibe between us was very good. When we were on set together to shoot for her Spring/Summer 2015 lookbook, everything was amazing and all the decisions we were making about the shooting happened almost naturally. I guess the feeling and the connection we had were the key of that atmosphere we created together.
For the Fall/Winter 2015 lookbook, I asked her to bring the exact same team just because the previous experience had been perfect. That wasn’t possible and we couldn’t put on set all the people we wanted but, again, the energy with her was amazing and as a result, we did an amazing job.
That being said, I think we are a good photographer-designer couple because we both have a so many similarities in terms of style and also a good connection. When I’m on set with her, it just feels so right.
What has been the most exciting project so far?
Probably, as I mentioned before, the project with ‘The Room’ that I did last year was very especial and, anytime I think about it and I go back to that spot and feel it like a dream. However, I have to say that I’ve done so many exciting projects and any work I include on my website it’s because I really loved it. If it’s there it means is something that I’m proud of.
Nowadays, everyone can have a good camera and take pretty decent pictures. How would you respond to those who say ‘the camera does all the work’?
Equipment is made because there is a need for it and a camera is just a tool. It’s like asking a good writer what pen did he use in order to come up with that brilliant book. So, as long as you can afford it, it’s nice to use the expensive gear because they do have specific uses which are built to do that particular thing. As a photographer, if you have access to a little bit of luxury in your equipment you should take advantage of it, why not? But, typically, a photographer doesn’t really need that luxury in order to take a good photo.
A lot of people ask me what I use and I just have a 40mm lens. That’s all I have in terms of lens but, if I need some equipment for lights, I do have gear that helps me get the light that I’m looking for a photo. Although that really helps, you have to be able to understand light and how to play with it to get the result you want. Gear is just gear, and photography is about the eye and vision of the person behind that tool. The talent is not the tool.
As a photographer, what’s one dream you’d love to come true?
I do have a lot of dreams but, if I have to pick one, I would say that I would love to collaborate with another artist from a different discipline such as an illustrator or a painter. Also I would like to shoot under the water in the Ocean maybe in one of the islands in Philippines because is where I grew up and I want to have a reason to get back.