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From a Wealth of Experience


By Erick Lirios

‘To me, a successful photograph is one where you achieve your intent as regards composition, correct lighting, expression, color, and right timing.’ – Jacinto Tee

Jacinto Tee’s passion for the visual arts began with doing sketches at the Luneta with his brother, Dr. Ernesto Tee, who eventually introduced him to photography. This was the age of film and by the time he studied photography in his Fine Arts course at the University of the East, he knew more than his own teacher. He was already working part time in a nearby photo studio which exposed him to black and white and color processing. This experience allowed him employment at the Manila Bulletin (then still known as the Bulletin Today) as a freelance photo correspondent and opened doors to contributing to the Panorama, Tempo, TV Times, and Who Magazine. It wasn’t long before the desire to do things on his own resulted in the creation of the Jacinto Tee Studio in Binondo.

  • Dancing Clouds (Jacinto Tee)

  • Window Fashion (Jacinto Tee)

  • Disembark (Jacinto Tee)

  • Wall Paper (Jacinto Tee)

  • The Bridge (Jacinto Tee)

  • Lava Field Moss (Jacinto Tee)

  • Gaudi’s Masterpiece (Jacinto Tee)

  • Horse Families (Jacinto Tee)

  • Love is in the Air (Jacinto Tee)

  • Colored Roof (Jacinto Tee)

  • Lineup (Jacinto Tee)

  • Sunset over Glacier (Jacinto Tee)

  • Fishermen’s Village (Jacinto Tee)

  • Black (Jacinto Tee)

  • Northern Lights (Jacinto Tee)

  • Old Russian Woman (Jacinto Tee)

    His background in art gave him a definite edge over other photographers and this was the start of a passion that continues up to today. “Now, there are many photographers and, in a way, it’s not my time anymore. Before, there really were a lot of clients and I was always loaded. That’s not the case now. I don’t bear any ill will toward all these new guys. Everyone has to earn and photography is one of the easiest businesses to get into. You get yourself a camera and lens and you start offering services.”

    But won’t that flood the market with people who may not really know what photography is all about?

    “That’s why these guys all have to learn the basics. You will notice that there are a lot of people offering basic photography classes. That’s because those who know their stuff realize that there are a lot of people out there who don’t know as much as they do.”

    At his stage in life now, he does still shoot especially because “I can’t leave photography behind because it’s fulfilment for me, it’s happiness for me. That’s also why I really like travel photography now. I like that a lot. In travel photography, I like to tell a story using good lighting and composition. I use either black and white or color because each has its own advantage and aesthetic.”

    “To me, a successful photograph is one where you achieve your intent as regards composition, correct lighting, expression, color, and right timing.” All these things come together, Jacinto says, and many times, a photo does not succeed simply because the photographer didn’t exercise the right amount of patience. He mentioned a case when he was trying to capture the Aurora Borealis and another photographer decided to turn in and sleep. The next morning, Jacinto showed off his photo. When was the photo taken? Just minutes after the other guy turned in. It wasn’t even that late; the photo was snapped at the early hour of 1 a.m. “I sell my photos through this German site that prints photos, posters, and calendars for their clients.”

    This patience also has a bearing on the aspect of professionalism. There was a time, he stresses, that you wouldn’t just say you were a photographer. You’d make sure you knew your stuff first which seems to be the opposite of how things are now—people study while doing a paid shoot. This shouldn’t be the case, he emphasizes. There is too heavy a reliance on Photoshop or Lightroom instead of getting the shot right at the shoot itself.

    “In my time, you had to know all aspects yourself. When I was with the Bulletin, I had to color correct things myself. You couldn’t just know how to shoot. You had to know the other aspects because, more often than not, you really are left to your own devices. Most people now know nothing about printing a photo. That’s one of the main differences of my time.”

    Jacinto adds, “Another main difference then was that we really appreciated how to take care of our clients that these clients still hire us up to today. For example, the Chinese Chamber of Commerce still hires me to shoot their board on a yearly basis. This has not stopped. I never even considered dropping my prices. I stick to my price. I believe that my work has a much higher level of quality because I do it myself. If I were to do, say, two weddings in a day, that meant going to both of them. As soon as the first wedding was finished, I rushed to the other in time for things to start.”

    What does a person like him still want to do after all his achievements?

    “I dream of doing a one-man show. I’ve been able to exhibit with others but for my own personal fulfilment, I do want to do my own exhibit.”

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