From documenting candid emotions into capturing the beauty of the human form, Tonyjun Agustin's photography affliction has evolved through the years. Staying true to his obligation to their family's ice cream business and charting his own course as a creative demands a lot of time and effort but he strikes a balance by maximizing his potential in both fields. He has put up his own studio aside from being a freelancer who caters events and product shoots. Still, his photography roots remain : presenting stories of people that tug at the heartstrings or making viewers' eyes pop with amazement and appreciation of beauty.
TJ Agustin is our featured Focus photographer of the month.
What was your first camera experience like? Do you still remember?
TJ : It was a Sony videocam. I used it at my sister’s debut in 2001. It was heavy but during that time, ganoon ang uso. But because I was really excited to capture the fun moments during the party eh kahit buong gabi ang filming, okay lang. .
How did you start getting hooked to taking pictures?
TJ : At first, I only took pictures for school projects and academic requirements. Pero napapansin ko sa sarili ko na each time I take pictures especially documentation and social service-related, iba 'yung nafi-feel kong enjoyment. Especially sa mga candid shots. Natutuwa ako when I am able to capture the smiles on people's faces, especially children.
Tell us a story about your first camera.
TJ : My first camera was a Canon Rebel 2000. It's a film camera kaya naging challenge din sakin 'yun. Ang style ko pa noon, 'yung available of film or shots, I divided by number of activities of the program, kaya I needed to wait only for the best moments para kumuha because I only had limited film in my pocket.
Your forte is shooting people. Did it start that way? Were you really comfortable in taking photographs of people or asking them to pose?
TJ : Yes, I started taking pictures of people on the street. Stolen shots ng mga tambay, nagtatrabaho, nagtitinda sa tabi ng kalsada, mga batang lansangan, mga ordinaryong mamamayan sa pang-araw-araw na pamumuhay. Pero nagpapaalam naman ako. Mausok at mainit but the good thing about most Pinoys kasi talaga is we always wear our smile and we love the camera. And mostly, different reactions and expressions from my subjects relay different kinds of story. At 'di ko maiwasang maapektuhan sa bawat kwento, minsan masaya, minsan malungkot. Ganon naman sa photojournalism, you have to capture the emotion, a single shot should speak a thousand words. Tapos 'yun nga, lately, I got interested into taking pictures of women. For a simple reason, because I love women. I appreciate beauty.
What tips could you share about making people pose and look good for the camera?
TJ : First, you need to get their attention. Show them you respect them so you can gain theirs. Make them feel at ease. Have even a little bit of sense of humor so you can be both comfortable.
What’s the one glamour photo that’s your favorite?
TJ : A beach shoot where our model wore a red long gown. High fashion dramatic photoshoot. (Shown below)
Who’s your dream model? Male and female. And which concept or styling would you love to do with them?
TJ : My future wife and kids. I don't know them yet, but reckoning about it gives me chills. Capturing candid memories with my lady and appreciating her in every angle. As for my kids, figuring out how would they look like wearing costumes they prefer will surely be a lot of fun!
Who are the photographers who influenced you in your craft?
TJ : My Dad who is also photography-inclined. And mostly my loving Ate who was the first to be interested in photography. She introduced me to this industry and even gave me her own camera so I can start on my own.
What has been your proudest moment as a photographer?
TJ : There was a time when everyone was doubting my skills. So I opened myself to opportunities so I could continue learning. I went to Dubai to gain more experience. From my earnings, I bought a new camera and other gadgets. I built my own photo studio and proved my critics wrong.
So you’ve had the opportunity to have your own studio. It’s always a work in progress. What would your ideal studio be like?
TJ : I want to have my own crew, of course. 'Yung mga makakasama ko na kagaya ko ay masaya sa ganitong larangan. And as their leader, I want to share them my knowledge and together we can discover more of our talents. It is always my dream to work with people as passionate as I am in this craft. So, 'yung studio ko gusto ko hindi lang mapuno ng mga equipment. Mas masaya kung magiging equipped din siya ng mga kagaya ko and somehow, sana mabigyan ko sila ng opportunity, not only to earn but to grow.
Is there another photography genre that you’d like to explore or eventually master?
TJ : Lately I’ve been traveling to different places with different people. I have been to some places in the Philippines, at 'yung ganda ng mga napuntahan ko somehow is motivating me now to make travel videos showing how beautiful the Philippines is. 'Yung mga videos na kapag napanood ng mga Filipino ay mae-encourage na unahin munang i-explore itong sariling atin bago ang ibang bansa. And also to entice our fellowmen who already migrated abroad to keep coming back, even for vacations.
Photography milestones that you’d like to accomplish 5 to 10 years from now?
TJ : I wish to build my own photo and video production that is not only covering events but also creating indie films. Wala namang imposible sa panahon ngayon if you have the skills and the guts and if you put your faith in God.
More of TJ's favorite photos (Click thumbnails to view photos in full)
How has it been like to be a Focus member?
TJ : It's been a privilege to be a member of Focus Bulacan. It gives me the continuous desire to learn more and aspire more. Most especially, the friendship that we share in the group is the one that is priceless.
What's your advice for photographers who are just starting with their craft?
TJ : Always keep the fire in your passion burning. It is one of our duties as photographers to relay to our audience how we see the world, especially God's creations. And if you’ll make it a profession, love your work, build your attitude, know your client and deliver to them a great memorabilia of the moments of their lives that they have entrusted you to capture.
Your message to Focus followers and members?
TJ : Don’t ever give up. Maraming mga photo enthusiast ngayon ang mas equipped at stiff ang competition. But we have to remember that sometimes, although it's the equipment or the quality of the camera that can produce good results, it is still the heart that can create a masterpiece of artwork.
For TJ, the mantra seems to be : one accomplishment at a time then move on to the next challenge. Change is part of progress. Soul to body. Passion to profession. Freelance to studio. And now, photography to videography. Watch out, TJ Agustin is out to conquer his dreams! His belief in himself and his faith in the One up above tell us there's no reason he couldn't succeed.
Every month, we have a feature on our members, our photography idols, and other photography issues we feel deserve a heads-up.