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Purpose & Clarity

Photographer of the Week: James Ona

Published

By Maan D’Asis Pamaran

A lot of his clients sit at the head of the corporate boardroom table, presiding over important meetings that shape the destiny of a company. That does not stop James Brian K. Ona from playing around. While he delivers sharp formal images of his CEO clients, the trust that they have in his talent also gets them comfortable enough to loosen up and try something new, bringing other facets of their personality to light.

  • Tukuran Falls, Oriental Mindoro (James Ona)

    Tukuran Falls, Oriental Mindoro (James Ona)

  • Travelers In Sagada (James Ona)

    Travelers In Sagada (James Ona)

  • SMX (James Ona)

    SMX (James Ona)

  • San Juan Fiesta (James Ona)

    San Juan Fiesta (James Ona)

  • Rice Field (James Ona)

    Rice Field (James Ona)

  • Puerto Galera (James Ona)

    Puerto Galera (James Ona)

  • Portrait Of Atty. Ador Tolentino (James Ona)

    Portrait Of Atty. Ador Tolentino (James Ona)

  • Parrot taken at Manila Zoo (James Ona)

    Parrot taken at Manila Zoo (James Ona)

  • Refreshing (James Ona)

    Refreshing (James Ona)

  • Naujan Lake, Oriental Mindoro (James Ona)

    Naujan Lake, Oriental Mindoro (James Ona)

  • Naujan Lake Sunrise, Oriental Mindoro (James Ona)

    Naujan Lake Sunrise, Oriental Mindoro (James Ona)

  • Marlboro Hill, Sagada (James Ona)

    Marlboro Hill, Sagada (James Ona)

  • Magallanes (James Ona)

    Magallanes (James Ona)

  • Khaosan Road, Thailand (James Ona)

    Khaosan Road, Thailand (James Ona)

  • Kambal Bato River (James Ona)

    Kambal Bato River (James Ona)

  • Inside Angkor Wat (James Ona)

    Inside Angkor Wat (James Ona)

  • Purto Galera (James Ona)

    Purto Galera (James Ona)

  • Farmer's Portrait for Landbank (James Ona)

    Farmer's Portrait for Landbank (James Ona)

  • Ayuntamiento Building (James Ona)

    Ayuntamiento Building (James Ona)

  • Ayuntamiento Building, Intramuros (James Ona)

    Ayuntamiento Building, Intramuros (James Ona)

  • Atimonan Port (James Ona)

    Atimonan Port (James Ona)

  • Angkor Wat (James Ona)

    Angkor Wat (James Ona)

  • AMA Shoot Model (James Ona)

    AMA Shoot Model (James Ona)

  • A Potter In Ilocos (James Ona)

    A Potter In Ilocos (James Ona)

  • A Mangyan In Talipanan, Oriental Mindoro (James Ona)

    A Mangyan In Talipanan, Oriental Mindoro (James Ona)

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    40

    From something that started out as a youthful hobby with a Kodak Instamatic camera, he is now a full-time professional photographer, shooting for big projects like annual reports, coffee-table books, company websites, and even marketing collaterals and print advertisements. As his shoot style, he describes, “I really enjoy playing with lights when shooting portraits. Finding the best lighting style for a particular personality is always something that I enjoy doing. Then, because I also shoot for annual reports and coffee-table books, I had to also discover other fields of photography—food and landscape photography.”

    “I still love black and white more than colored photographs,” he reveals. “I am always attracted to photographs with deep black, high contrast, defined highlights and a straightforward message. I wish all photographers of today can go back and learn all the basics and the essence of photography through film cameras.”

    He is an artist at heart, having won early recognition as a grand prize awardee of Art Petron 2006, a national student art competition. He won the grand prize in the same competition the following year, and became a Hall of Famer. As a campus photojournalist at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) in Manila, he was able to train under its senior photographers KJ Rosales and Danny Pata. At the art competition, he was able to meet new inspirations including Wig Tysmans, Sarah Black, Romy Vitug, and George Tapan. He has stopped joining competitions since college, but his best recognition as a pro photographer is receiving a special recognition (HSI Badge and Honorary Membership) by the Homeland Security Investigations Inc. – Manila. “They gave me the badge to recognize my outstanding service as the official photographer for their trainings and events here in the country,” he shares with pride.

    While some may rely on sheer talent to get the job done, James always strives for excellence and that, perhaps, is his secret to success. “I always have this belief, which I never fail to share to all my apprentices: Every single chance to shoot is an opportunity to deliver the best output to our clients so it is our job to always give our very best. An effective photograph is the one that is created with pure dedication and love of one’s craft. A photograph becomes effective simply when it can communicate and unexpectedly send a message to the viewer.”

    He shares his views on photography with his students at the PUP as well, equipping them not just with the technical know-how but also life skills such as resourcefulness, professionalism, and determination that will take them further in their respective careers after graduation.

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