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How a Filipino Photographer Made It in the New York Fashion Scene

NY-based photographer JC Cerilla reveals its ups and downs.
How a Filipino Photographer Made It in the New York Fashion Scene NY-based photographer JC Cerilla reveals its ups and downs.

Before JC Cerilla was able to establish a name for himself in the industry, he had a nine-to-five job that required him to sit behind a desk. This Multimedia Arts graduate from De la Salle College of Saint Benilde quit his corporate job to pursue a career in photography and is now one of Preview Magazine’s go-to editorial photographers. But of course, it hasn’t all been roses and champagne for this New York-based lensman. In a Style Bible interview, JC shares the ups and downs of being a freelance photographer trying to make it in the biz.

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Fashion editorial for Preview October 2015, photographed by JC Cerilla

Hey JC! So what's been keeping you busy lately?

Photography, coffee, and the beach!

Speaking of photography, was it something that started as a hobby?

I discovered my passion for photography back in college when I first held a film camera. Yes, it started as a hobby—and a very expensive one at that.

How did you go about pursuing this as a career?

I quit my work as a graphic designer in an advertising agency here in Manila, and then I sent my portfolio to different publications. Luckily, Cosmo liked my work and that’s where it all started. 

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Fashion editorial for Preview April 2016, photographed by JC Cerilla

We're sure there were challenges along the way. How difficult was it for you to establish a name for yourself in the industry?

Yes, there were definitely a lot of challenges, especially when I first started. You need someone to believe in your work as an artist. People won’t trust you at first because you are new and inexperienced. I think having a solid portfolio from New York helped me a lot. I remember telling myself to just focus on producing good work and people will eventually recognize it.

You mentioned about building a portfolio while you were in New York. Can you tell us more about that?

It was 2009 when I moved to New York. It was a struggle at first because I didn't know anyone, so it was basically back to zero for me in terms of trying to make it as a photographer. Not to mention, I was outside of my comfort zone since it isn't my home country. When I eventually started doing test shoots for top agencies, I'd even have to commute via subway going to my shoots. Unlike here in the Philippines where I have my car and assistants, a lot less of a hassle! (Laughs)

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Do you still remember when you landed your first client/published work as a photographer? Share with us what happened and how you felt after the booking the job.

I was so ecstatic when I first booked a solid editorial work for Cosmo. I remember that day because I even had an excruciating toothache during the shoot. (Laughs) Everything went well and they were happy with the outcome. That moment, I felt that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

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Tell us about your signature style. What do you think sets you apart from the other photographers out there?

Coolchalant! (Laughs) It’s a made-up word actually. It’s basically a mix of two words, ‘cool’ and ‘nonchalant.’ I like to think that my style is effortlessly cool, so it’s the signature style and aesthetic that I’m proud of.

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What's your most unforgettable work to date and why?

To me, every shoot is unforgettable. Every time I look at a photo, I can remember every detail about what happened during the time I shot it.

Any dream projects?

Any project with Cara Delevingne in it.

What's the best thing about being a freelance photographer? And the worst?

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Best thing is that you control your own time. Worst is the scheduling part.

So, what's next for JC Cerilla?

I’m working on something, but it’s a secret for now! (Laughs) More shoots, coffee, the beach, and New York.

*This interview has been condensed and edited.

You can follow JC on Instagram @studiocerilla and @cerillafrommanila and visit his website at jcerilla.com.

Photos courtesy of JC Cerilla

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