Mon Juan : Reigniting The Passion
Q : How did your photography journey start?
M : I started taking photos using my late brother-in-law's Yashicaflex medium format camera way back in 1980. The following year, I bought my first camera, a Minolta XG1 SLR camera. Barely two months after buying it, the price of film skyrocketed. I was just a student then. I simply cannot afford the exorbitant price, so I abruptly stopped. In 2013, after more than 30 years, I finally rekindled my passion for photography.
Q : In what ways would you say that the film era is better? And in what ways would you say that the digital era we’re in now is better?
M : The film era is probably better because since the margin of error is small, photographers then, in my opinion, composed their shots better. Hindi puwedeng magkamali, even sa settings, because film was expensive. Unlike in digital photography, you can shoot as many as you can. I also believe, lenses then were better, in terms of durability. With regards to digital photography, I believe cameras today are much better. The features are more advanced, making photography much easier for newbies. The same is true with lenses. As for sharpness, I really cannot tell which one is sharper, lenses then or lenses now.
Q : How did you make the shift to digital? Were there initial hesitations?
M : I had no choice, hahaha. Wala nang film camera in 2013. So, no hesitations at all.
Q : What’s the most beautiful place you’ve been to?
M : It's got to be Yosemite National Park. The place simply overwhelmed me when I went there in 2008. Many people left their hearts in San Francisco, I left mine in Yosemite. Here in the Philippines, it's Camiguin. Many times better than Boracay, in my opinion.
Q : What remains in your photography bucket list?
M : A lot! To mention a few, Batanes, Tawi-Tawi, and Bicol - believe it or not, I haven't been there. Overseas, Brazil, New Zealand, French Polynesia, and Vietnam, to name a few.
Q : It’s obvious in your photos that you love sunrise and sunsets. If you have to choose between the two : sunrise or sunset?
M : I prefer sunset. Colors are more dramatic. But I have more sunrise photos because I shoot early in the morning, from 5 to 7 AM, almost everyday. I brisk-walk at that time for health reasons, sinasabay ko na ang photography.
Q : In all years shooting, what’s the one experience that’s most unforgettable for you?
M : The trip to Yosemite. I just wish I had a better camera. I had a Canon IXUS 6-megapixel point-and-shoot with me at that time.
Q : What’s your proudest moment in photography?
M : Proudest moment was when a photo of mine won photo of the day, photo of the week and photo of the month in Fotoreportage.it. It's an Italian photography group on Facebook. Also, when Inday Espina-Varona (award-winning journalist) offered to buy one of my sunset photos. She saw my photo on Twitter and fell in love with it. Ilalagay daw n'ya sa condo n'ya. I was so naive, I said "Ibibigay ko na lang po. Next time po, may bayad na." In hindsight, I should have asked for something, maybe a cheap tripod.
Q : If any, could you share a trick that you usually do that most photographers don’t?
M : A trick? None at all. There are so many things in photography most of you know that I probably don't. I'm old. Tamad nang magbasa.
Q : What’s your ultimate favorite photo?
M : The photo of Mt. Hibok-Hibok and Mt. Vulcan with White Island sandbar as foreground in Camiguin. Not the most beautiful but I just like it. One day, I'll go back and reshoot it. (Photo is shown below)
Q : Let’s answer this very important question : Why do you use "Mali John" as your name on Facebook? Hahaha.
M : Long story. I can't say it here. Too embarrassing. I hope Bobby Jo (fellow Focus member) doesn't remember, hahaha.
Q : What genre of photography would you like to eventually try and master?
M : Still life. Kasi I don't go out much. Not that I don't want to. Istorbo ang trabaho sa photography.
Q : If you knew then what you know now, you would...?
M : If I knew then that I have a talent in photography, I wouldn't stop. But I really had no choice. 30 years was a lot. Baka sikat na ako. Baka icon na, hahaha. Who knows?
Mon's other memorable photos (Click thumbnails to view in full)
Q : What tips would you like to give to those starting out in photography?
M : If you really want to be a good photographer, you should be patient. Practice, as they say, makes perfect. Attend workshops if you can. If not, watch video tutorials on Youtube. Read books. Join a photo club. Join photo contests. Even daily and weekly photo contests on Facebook. Lastly, huwag magkaka-hydrocephalus kapag sumikat na.
Q : Your message to Focus followers and fellow Focus members?
M : Salamat sa Focus Bulacan for featuring me as the Photographer Of The Month. To my fellow Focus Bulacan members, more power to us. Let's be more active next year. Sorry, I haven't been.
Thirty-two years, to be exact. From the time he quit till he decided to come back to his long-lost love. In between, life had to go on but documenting it and his amazing experiences were never the same. Some people keep the stories in their memories, some write it down on journals. For Mon Juan and the rest of us in Focus Bulacan, our cameras are the preferred option. A lot of what-might-have-beens in hindsight, but for now he's focused on the present and future.
Thirty-two years is a long time. The fire was never lost. He was just saving the best for last.
Every month, we have a feature on our members, our photography idols, and other photography issues we feel deserve a heads-up.