Photographer of the Week: Jan Kirwin K. Chua
By Maan D’Asis Pamaran
It is the myriad colors of the Sinulog Festival that inspired Jan Kirwin K. Chua to start his photography journey.
“It was a bonding activity with my uncles Gary and Alvin and my cousin Dendramil to attend the Sinulog festivities and take photos. That was in 2011, and when I learned that there was a photo contest for the festival, I made it my goal to join the top 53 winners that are chosen yearly.” This goal inspired him to keep on shooting with the Nikon D90 body gifted to him by his grandmother, partnered with lenses that he would borrow from his uncles.
By 2013, he won his first photo competition: the grand prize in the Colors of L.I.F.E. contest, where he was chosen for both the L and E categories. He has since joined and won other competitions including 7th Place in the Sinulog Foundation 2015 photo contest, 4th Place and 8th Place in the Sinulog Foundation 2017 Photo Contest along with the grand prize for that year in the Filipino Homes Sinulog Photo contest, and most recently, the 3rd place in the Festival Queen Category of the 2019 Sinulog.
Aside from winning photo competitions several times over, there is another achievement that the 22-year-old Cebuano says he is really proud of. “The best recognition I received was when I became the 2018 Photographer of the Year of the Cebu City Images Camera Club. I feel this validated to me that I was able to compete with people who were my mentors and idols when I started out, and to be recognized as the number one photographer that year was very fulfilling.”
Today, Jan Kirwin specializes in both portrait and food or product photography. For this, he sticks to his three tenets, he explains. “For me an effective photograph must have three things. First is a good story, one that speaks a thousand words to inspire people in their daily lives. Second is great lighting, because it makes the photo even more interesting and viewers tend to dwell in a photo more to understand it. The last one is composition. This is really important since you would like to cut out parts which are distracting so that you are able to focus on one story which we the photographer would like to impart to our viewers.”
His most memorable photography experience was a collaboration with the Cebu Chinese Fire Brigade. “We shot under the rain with studio lights and it was so fun. But it was scary at the same since all my equipment was getting wet. I even remember my Sony a7III was dripping from rain water. It was fun because I had a real fire truck as a prop and some kind-hearted fire fighters as models. I was able to play with 6-10 studio lights mixed with some Nikon speed lights to shoot a scene that simulated a rescue,” he smiles. Unfortunately, he adds, one of his gears was the real “victim.” “I thought none of my equipment was broken but when we took out the softbox, my Broncolor Siros Bulb broke. It was sad but at least we got the shot. That’s life,” the B.S. Entrepreneurship student shrugs.
Mishaps aside, his goal as a photographer is to show what is really true, good, and beautiful as a human, especially these days. “Lately in these trying times, it is very difficult to see the positive side of life, thus we give up on our dreams or even for some, their lives. With my grandfather who came to Cebu to try and build a successful life as my inspiration, I believe it is also important for us to see people who strive even harder in the face of adversity, so that we are inspired to always do more and be more even if we have difficulties in life, and never give up.”