What’s up everyone, my name is JP Calubaquib. I was born and raised in Chicago. I’m a freelance photographer/videographer. I also am the store photographer for Una Maes. I’m 27, going to be 28 in the next couple of weeks. Shout out to all of my Geminis.
Let’s take it all the way back to the beginning. When did you first start getting into photography?
I was a shorty following my Dad around. He had a film SLR and we would go on trips to Hawaii, Paris, London, etc. Being on all of these trips, I would ask my Dad to use his camera to take photos. I enjoyed looking at things that marveled me. I remember being 4 feet tall, 8 years old, in the redwoods and seeing all of these tall ass trees…I took a look up photo before it was a hashtag. That stuff was fun man. My Dad would always allow me to shoot full rolls. We would drop off the rolls at Walgreens and wait 2 hours to go back and pick them up. That resonates with me now looking back on how I fell in love with photography.
How about professionally?
I was about 21 years old and in college as a Communications major. It was the first weekend of my JR year and I went to a party. At this party, I was wearing my glasses. I saw a drum-kit in the next room and decided to go play. While playing the drums for a bit, I got sucker punched by the guy who owned the drums. Long story short, he got fucked because he put me in the hospital. I got mad surgery on my eye. I have a lens corneal transplant implant. I’m partially blind in my right eye. While all of this was going on, I fell into this weird, deep depression.
While continuing school, I had the chance to intern for a streetwear company called Another Enemy. They would get spots in People and US Magazine. Rihanna, Chris Brown, and Corey Gunz would wear the product. I came on board to help them with their marketing and PR. Justin told me they needed help with their photography. While I was always interested in it, I was still a broke college kid and couldn’t afford my own setup. I was able to use some gear and shoot their stuff as well as concerts. I was shooting Kendrick Lamar, Wale, Kid Cudi, Mac Miller, and many more. Through that, I was also working with a Rochester, NY hip-hop duo. It was cool because I was surrounded by this culture that I was always in love with, but never really got to immerse myself in.
Being in Cleveland for college, when did you decide to come back to Chicago?
I graduated College and didn’t want to stay in Cleveland. I knew I could make it in Cleveland and that was the saddest part. I knew at 22-23 years old that making it in Cleveland was going to be easy and I didn’t want easy. I wanted to come back to Chicago where I grew up and saw a lot of creatives prosper. Plus, in my heart, Chicago is my favorite city in the world.
You were in Cleveland for five years. Did you have a hard time getting back in the Chicago scene?
It was very hard. I didn’t have any friends that were into the creative scene. Things changed when I was away. Five years is a long time in the social media scope. I wasn’t able to experience the renaissance that had been starting to take place in Chicago. Coming back home, it was tough to find my niche. It took me years to find the group of people I’m comfortable being around. But, back then it was tough because after college I needed a job. My parents weren’t going to support me financially. I worked a 9-5, for a few years between companies. It was tough. During my first job, I was shooting a lot of EDM concerts at night on the side for damnthatsepic.com. I shot Flying Lotus, Clean Bandit, Flux Pavillion, A-Trak and a bunch of others. I was working and shooting these concerts and just not in love with it. It wasn’t until I was at the second company where I was a bit more willing to juggle a corporate 9-5 and freelance photo projects.
You brought up how you are the store photographer for Una Maes. How did that relationship come about?
My homie moved to Chicago from Cleveland. He and I worked at a boutique out in Cleveland called NEXT. He started working at Una Maes and hit me up because they needed help with their store photography. When I first started, a lot of what I shot was for their e-commerce. After a few months go by of shooting for them, I end up getting Diverticulitis. I was pretty fearful of my well-being, so I just focused on my 9-5 and doing creative work here and there on the side. Once that subsided and I started working for DNAinfo, I wanted to do more photography work. Una Maes brought me in again and I pitched them on creating their social content. I’ve been with them for two years now and it’s been great.
While I know you have your love for photography, recently i’ve seen you starting to make that transition into video. Did that come naturally?
I wanted to make more money. I’ve been doing photography professionally now for six years and for the first five, I remember saying I don’t ever want to touch a video camera, it’s a lot of work, etc. That was the lazy mindset of myself. Then I realized I could make more in video than photography. Through working on video for this past year, I’ve come to learn that I actually love video. I love sitting down and learning. On my docket for 2018, I plan to get into graphic animation and shooting more documentary-style projects.
Rumor is, this summer you want to have a Pop-up show…Speak on that!
I want to do a pop-up shop this summer. I don’t want anybody to think that I’m piggybacking on anybody’s idea of making clothes. A lot of my love for good design or art, in general, was based on clothing. I’ve never seen my own work on clothing before nor have I seen many other photographers do that locally. I want to create a pop-up that consists of ten different t-shirt designs of ten photos I’ve taken. I want to call the pop-up shop ‘Wearable’. I haven’t decided on where it’s going to be at yet, but be on the lookout, since I want to do this by the end of summer. If the Chicago pop-up does well, I’m thinking of doing a pop-up out in Cleveland. Cleveland has been such a second home to me. I’ve spent many years there and a lot of my early support stems from that city.
What has been your favorite lesson you’ve learned over the years?
Be your biggest critic. I am very hard on myself. The reason is is because there’s always going to be somebody that’s hard on you, but if you’re the hardest on yourself, whatever anybody else says, it doesn’t really matter. In my head, I can say the worst shit about me. I’ve just learned to take everything with a grain of salt. Bad shit is going to happen. You just have to keep trucking.
You’ve been shooting for so long now, if you can pick you favorite photo, what would it be?
My favorite photo I’ve ever taken was of Chance and Kanye. I’ve taken a lot of great photos of great people, but the reason why that’s my favorite is because as a kid growing up in Chicago, Kanye was everybody’s hero. And Chance is that second coming in Chicago. He is currently Chicago’s son. That photo embodied diversity in Chicago making its name. I’m colored, I’m super Asian, we didn’t have it easy being colored growing up and African Americans definitely didn’t have it any easier, but to be able to capture that photo of them on stage together, felt amazing to me. It made me feel good about being where I’m at.
What’s your favorite thing about being an artist?
That it’s completely acceptable to be publicly weird.