Jon Cruz is an amazing creative artist who recently moved to Los Angeles. He is pursuing his passion in Photography. Last time I saw Jon was over some Filipino food in Union City. We talked about life and the move to Los Angeles where he plans to take his photography to the next level. His story is very relatable for me because he was born and raised in the Philippines. His family immigrated to the United States in the late ‘80’s, they lived in New York, then soon moved to California where they currently reside now.
I was fortunate to talk to him about his story and what made him pick up a camera. His spark started young. Jon has always been drawn to the visual medium since he was a kid.
“I liked to draw. As I got older, from middle school through high school, I looked into graphic design as a career. Once I graduated high school, I decided to be a graphic artist and went to a technical school for it, bypassing college. I got hired straight out of technical school and it has been my career ever since. Photography was always in the background of my work (gathering images and manipulating them in Photoshop) but I never paid much attention to it. Cameras are expensive and they're hard to learn. Why even bother?”
“In late 2014, I was at a personal low point in my life. To keep my mind preoccupied with something else, I decided to focus on a new hobby, something that could keep me busy. I had to choose between learning to play guitar (I love acoustic music) or photography. After a few months, photography won out and it's taken over the majority of my free time ever since.
I learned about my craft and honed my skills by reading books and watching a ton of YouTube videos. Instagram was a huge influence, thanks to the photographers who took the time to answer my questions. I started with landscapes and slowly learned how to incorporate Lightroom into my work. About a year into photography, I took a portrait workshop to try taking photos of models. I was hooked after that first experience. I attended a few more workshops and wound up networking with a few models to plan my own shoots. That was a couple of years ago. Now, I plan team productions with agency models and a full crew consisting of a wardrobe stylist, makeup artist, and hairstylist so my work and experience have evolved from back when I first started.”
Talk to me about your passion and the type of photography that you pursue.
“It's always difficult to discuss my "style" since I feel like it's always changing. It definitely keeps me from being bored. When I started out with landscapes and still learning Lightroom, I tended to copy the trends at the time (like crushed blacks, teal skies, for example). For my portraiture, I tended to lean more on cool tones and clean edits. Until recently, I shifted my focus on skin retouching to make my work look a lot more professional. I consider my photography a constant work-in-progress and I'm always hungry to learn new techniques.
Tell me about the barriers you had to face as a freelance artist and how did you overcome these obstacles:
“I'm actually not a freelancer. People make this mistake because it looks like I shoot and travel a lot. In reality, I work during the week and shoot on the weekends. I guess my main obstacle since the beginning was finding the time to shoot and edit. I had to make sacrifices and find time to go out and plan shoots. I didn't really overcome it but just adjusted my life to accommodate it. Late nights are a regular thing now so while I'm getting less sleep, it's worth it from the work I'm putting out and the talent I get to work with.
I just recently picked up my things and moved to Los Angeles! The majority of my past shoots took place in LA, while I still lived in the Bay Area. It wasn't practical but all the talent I wanted to work with are in LA. So I would drive down 2-3x a month to shoot in Los Angeles. After 2 years of going back and forth, I finally made the decision to move. I'm still going to be full time as a graphic designer during the week and doing photo shoots on the weekends. But now that I'm actually closer, coordinating shoots and schedules are so much easier since I don't have to travel 360 miles.”
Talk to me about future collaborations, projects and events?
“Future collaborations will involve new and old faces. I'm always on the lookout for new models and have been reaching out to agencies about doing test shoots. I have my first shoot as a Los Angeles resident on June 22nd and it's with a model that I've been a huge fan of for a while so I'm really excited to finally work with her. I gathered a great team for this shoot and got a publication involved so I'm super confident we'll produce great shots. I'm not naming names so I don't jinx it, haha! You'll have to check out my Instagram and my Instagram Stories on that date to find out who it is.”
What advice can you give to upcoming artists and people who want to pursue their passion?
“My advice is to start right now. No excuses. I've heard people use social media as an excuse to stifle their creativity and growth. That just tells me that their passion is based on other people's "likes", not their craft. The real ones don't care and only have to cater to an audience of one -- themselves. I don't have a plan for my photography. I just love to shoot and create with like-minded people. Where it takes me, who knows? I'm just enjoying the ride and taking in the views.”
Much love Jon!