Glenn Santiago took up photography as a pastime, a diversion he enjoyed in his leisure time. Formerly a fry cook for a Filipino restaurant chain, he chanced upon an exhibit of Focus Bulacan while at work and decided to apply and become a member. Little did he know, his affiliation with photography was just getting started.
Seeking greener pastures overseas, he was hired to be a kitchen staff in Norwegian Cruise Line. It was there that he decided to try his luck and become a cruise studio photographer. Traveling to many places (for free!) and taking photos of countless faces have been the way of life for Jehutz the past two years, and he couldn't be happier that he enjoys his craft and getting paid for it.
Turning passion to profession, Glenn "Jehutz" Santiago is the featured Focus photographer of the month.
How was the transition from working in the kitchen to working in the studio?
J : Noong time na nasa utility galley ako, puro dishes kaharap ko. Sobrang laking area na dapat linisin ang sinasagupa ko araw-araw. In other words, patayan talaga sa work, with little to no fulfillment. Working as a photographer naman, you just take as many photos as you can, talk to the guests and assist them sa questions nila regarding camera settings. If by chance nagustuhan nila 'yung shot mo of them, abot-langit pa yung pasasalamat nila. Mas naramdaman ko 'yung appreciation ng ibang tao sa craft ko.
Did you plan on being a cruise photographer, or was it something that was spontaneous with the opportunity presented to you?
J : Siguro masasabi kong the opportunity presented itself to me since ang original plan ko talaga was to apply at the housekeeping department. However, for some unknown reason, I was rejected by the housekeeping manager. Na-down ako doon for a while and considered shifting to another department. 'Yun pala, this rejection would lead me to something better. I overheard two photographers talking at sabi nila nahihirapan sila sa work nila dahil undermanned sila kaya nagtanong ako kung pwede akong mag crosstraining with them. Nag-apply ako for crosstraining as a photographer, however, rejected na naman ako dahil wala daw akong professional experience. 'Di ako sumuko. I waited for the next manager and tried to apply again. This time around I was finally accepted but I had to prove myself first if I can really do the job. And here I am now.
Do you keep count of the countries you’ve visited? How many?
J : Yup!!! As of now I've been to 20 countries.
That's a lot! Which destination is your favorite? The one you’d most want to come back to?
J : If given the chance, I would definitely go back to Alaska’s great outdoors. The cityscapes of Japan are also definitely a sight to see din.
What are the particular challenges of being a cruise photographer?
J : First, you have to be able to capture the moments of the guests while sailing on a rough sea day while making sure you provide high quality photos. There are times when you have to be a mascot too. Lastly, which is personally the most difficult part of being a cruise photographer, is the language barrier. You have to be able to communicate to the guests properly and it is challenging for those who are not so good at English like myself.
Tell us your most memorable moment in being a photographer.
J : Being a cruise photographer gave me the opportunity to visit Alaska and personally shoot the northern lights. In fact, before I became a professional photographer, I’ve been looking forward to the day I’d be seeing the Aurora Borealis.
How long do you plan to keep working as a cruise photographer?
J : Siguro mga ten years pa, or even more. Hanggang sa kaya ko pa.
Five to ten years from now, how do you envision yourself in terms of your craft?
J : Right now I am aiming for a higher position. I envision myself being a portrait artist at the cruise five to ten years from now.
What’s the photo you’re most proud of?
J : Since I’ve been wanting to see the northern lights for so long, pinaka-proud ako sa photos ko of the Aurora.
Which destination remains on your wish list?
J : Europe! Especially Paris. Sino ba namang 'di gustong makita 'yung sikat na Eiffel Tower? Sa Pinas ang dami nun pero maliliit, hehe.
Do you notice any striking differences between Filipino photographers and other nationalities?
J : Siguro personality-wise, I think Filipino photographers have better sense of humor than other nationalities. Other nationalities can make the guests smile, but Filipinos can make them laugh.
What aspect of your photography do you think you need to improve on the most?
J : I really want to improve on portraits. As of now kasi I am just following the standard posture for my shots of the guests. I want to someday develop my own style in taking portraits that the guests would like and would recognize as mine.
Who are the photographers you look up to or who influenced you?
J : Siguro I will not namedrop na lang but there is this photographer from Focus Bulacan I really look up to. Two of my cruise colleagues heavily influenced me too.
Glenn's other travel photo favorites (Click thumbnails to view photos in full)
You’ve also been flying drones. What’s your most unforgettable aerial experience so far?
J : So far, unforgettable para sa akin yung Pamarawan photomeet ng Focus. I flew a drone then to shoot the BTS video for the said event.
Your message to Focus followers and members.
J : Be brave to face any circumstances in your life because you will never know what will be waiting for you on the other side of the finish line.
Alaska, Australia, New Zealand and around Asia. The list of beautiful places that Glenn's work has taken him to will only get longer in the coming years. It's a blessing and a great opportunity that he never takes for granted - so much so that it's imperative for him to capture the landscapes he's fortunate enough to visit. Knowing full well that when the time comes for him to finally stay home, he has the photographs as proof of the wonderful adventure - and career - he's enjoying right now. He let his dreams set sail... and now he's just enjoying the journey.
Every month, we have a feature on our members, our photography idols, and other photography issues we feel deserve a heads-up.