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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Interview with Miami Photographer Jonathan Kama

Jonathan Kama is a very talented photographer from Miami, Florida. His photos can be seen in FHM, Fashion Ledge Magazine, LMH Magazine, and several others. Jonathan enjoys the creativity that photography allows him to explore, and he has extensive experience as a portrait, art, glamour, fashion, commercial, and lifestyle photographer.

I am thrilled to have been able to ask him a few questions about his career. It is equally as great to have his insights into the modeling/photography industry. I hope you enjoy :-)
Above: Model-Natalia, Photo by Jonathan Kama

AVIVA: How long have you been doing photography?
JONATHAN KAMA: I’ve always loved photography, ever since I was a kid but I was never anything more than a hobbyist who liked to take pretty pictures until recently. Back in the 90’s I bought a Nikon 8008s from a friend and used it to take landscapes and typical travel shots while traveling around Europe and the U.S. but didn’t start working with human subjects until January of 2009. Prior to that, it was always just something I enjoyed but didn’t take very seriously.

AVIVA: Who/what inspires you as a photographer?
JK: Initially, my inspiration was my son, Xavier. He was born in the middle of 2007 and, shortly after, I decided to buy a digital camera to document his life. He seemed to, at first, tolerate the camera, then be curious about it, and, not long after, shun my attempts to photograph him most of the time. So, I thought, maybe I should just try to find some models and work with people instead of places. I’d literally avoided having human subjects in anything I photographed prior to that, because, well, to be honest, those people were in the way, rather than a part of the architecture or location I was attempting to capture. An ad on Craigslist and a friend pointing me to Model Mayhem and the rest is history, as they say. Strangely, now I find myself looking at places as locations and backdrops rather than subjects.

Most of the artists whose works inspire me are well-known masters, like Herb Ritts, Ansel Adams, Helmut Newton, Steve McCurry, Joe McNally, et al. However, there are some great contemporary photographers whose work I admire: Kenn Lichtenwalter, Shane Perez, Thomas Dodd, Sarah Small, Mojokiss, Anthony Neste, and Harold Glit. I find myself drawn to their websites and images and am constantly amazed by their creativity.

Above: Photo-Jonathan Kama

AVIVA: What achievements in your photographic career are you most proud of (publications, etc)?
JK: I’ve had a few smaller magazines and websites publish my work, but my biggest publication to date is in the May 2011 issue of FHM, with the gorgeous Tahiti Cora. She is, by the way, one of the sweetest, nicest, most beautiful women I’ve had the good fortune to meet and I’m very proud of the layout we did for them.

AVIVA:  What advice could you offer to photographers who would like to submit to FHM?
JK: Honestly, I just got lucky with them. Cora liked our shots and was approached by FHM. She asked me if she could submit the images we created to them and, of course, I jumped at the opportunity. I am honored to be included in a magazine known for its style and incredible selection of breathtakingly beautiful models. I’ve kept in touch with the editor and they’ve expressed interest in a couple of other models I’ve sent to them and I’m in the process of setting up shoots for future publication in the magazine as well.

As for advice: Treat your models with respect and as equals, rather than objects. If they like you and love what you create together – for it’s not just about you; without them, it’s just a picture of a landscape or abandoned building - they’ll be the ones to make or break your images.

Above: Jonathan Kama's FHM Tearsheet from his shoot with Tahiti Cora.

AVIVA: Do you have any memorable/crazy/funny shoot story that you would like to share?
JK: *laughs* Oh I have some memorable and crazy stories, but most are a bit too risqué to share and most would probably make me a few enemies if those involved found out I’d told about their stumbles on location or wardrobe malfunctions! I’ve had the good fortune to work with some wonderful people but, to me, the most amusing are the newbies. As far as ‘funny’ goes, there was one model who showed up three hours late to a shoot. I asked her why she was late, obviously a bit peeved that she was THAT late, and, without any intended humor, she said, quite simply: “I’m Brazilian.” I started to laugh, thinking she’d made a joke, but realized quickly that she was dead serious. In her mind, it was quite acceptable to do whatever she wanted, just because, I guess, she assumed people would accept that as an excuse. It was our first and last shoot.

AVVA:  What do you personally believe is/are important attribute(s) for a model to succeed?
JK: Well, first, be on time or, if you can’t, at least show the courtesy of letting your photographer know something’s come up in a timely fashion. Nothing bothers me more than a model who books a shoot and either disappears entirely or shows up really late. 10, 15, even 30 minutes I can handle, but, whether or not you’re being paid, show up on time, be ready to shoot, and leave any emotional or mental baggage you have from a bad day behind you. I have a pretty much zero-tolerance policy for flakes these days. I don’t care how gorgeous you are, if you flake on me, you’re on The Flake List and have burned down that bridge. It’s funny, when I first started, there were quite a few models that had flaked entirely that, as soon as someone showed them my publications, messaged me asking to shoot. I politely said: “Thanks, but we had a shoot scheduled at such and such a time and date and you didn’t show up then. Good luck!”

You never know whom you’re working with and where they’re going in life, so, follow the golden rule and give the same respect you expect in return. Other than that, I’d suggest models practice their trade, just like any other; be aware of trends and styles and poses and expressions, but don’t just copy them, make them your own! The world has plenty of those ‘high fashion’ crampy, arms-in and back arched poses, models covered in caution tape, or using a belt as a bra images already. Find the next thing, rather than follow clichés.

One more thing: When you’re practicing your expressions and poses, FEEL what you look like; don’t just see. I haven’t had a single shoot where I’ve carried around a full-length mirror and shot through a hole in it, and know of no other photographers who do either so it’s safe to assume you won’t be able to see yourself while shooting. Hence the reason ‘feeling’ the way your body looks is important to duplicate what you saw in your mirror.

Above: Photo-Jonathan Kama

AVIVA:  Do you have any favorite photography books that you would recommend newer photographers to read?
JK: There were two that were recommended to me when I started and from which I learned quite a bit: “Light: Science and Magic” by Hunter, Biver and Fuqua, and “Understanding Exposure” by Bryan Peterson. I’d agree with those that pointed them out to me that these texts, though at times overly technical, are a must for beginners and those wishing to brush up on their technical knowledge of lighting.

AVIVA:  If you could shoot/meet 5 famous people, who would they be?
JK: The Dalai Lama (love his energy), Adriana Lima (seriously, could she be more beautiful?), George Clooney (coolest man on the planet), Thom Yorke (such an interesting character) and Hayao Miyazaki (I’d so love to watch him create his masterpieces).

AVIVA: What would you do with the money if you won the lottery?
JK: Easy, I’d travel the world with my son and show him absolutely everything I’ve read about or seen in National Geographic and document both the sites and his reactions to the many beautiful and interesting places and people.

I'd like to thank Jonathan for this interview, because if it wasn't for him, this insightful post would not have existed.

You can check out more of his work on Model Mayhem, Facebook, and Deviant Art

Aviva :)

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