Photographer Spotlight: Jophel Botero Ybiosa

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Wildlife Category May 2020 Winner, Jophel Botero Ybiosa, taken in Batu Caves, Malaysia

As ASIAN Geographic’s annual Images of Asia (IOA) 2020 Photo/Videography Competition looms closer, submissions to our IOA Monthly competition – the precursor to our annual event – are pouring in. We have received stunning photos across the categories, and are now featuring our monthly winners in an exclusive interview!

Below is our interview with one of this month’s spotlight, Jophel Botero Ybiosa, the IOA Monthly May 2020 Winner in the Wildlife category, selected from the April 2020 entries.

AG: What is the story of your beginning and journey to creating great images?

Jophel: My interest in photography started as a publication staff in Culiat High School. Seeing the works of photojournalists in local newspapers and magazines influenced me to try capturing images. In 2003, I became a member of Sinag Photography Club in Polytechnic University of the Philippines – College of Communications and also joined Ramon Magsaysay Camera Club to learn and hone my skills. I started using a film-based Minolta and Canon camera then Sony and Nikon digital camera. In 2004, I started to represent my university and eventually won my first national award in photography from Art Petron National Students Art Competition and then the Gold Award from World Art Experience. Aside from Photography, I tried creating abstract paintings and was also recognized in Shell National Students Art Competition and Metrobank Arts and Design Excellence National Competition.

In 2009, I became part of an international exhibition for the first time when my print was selected as a Finalist in the Bangkok Triennale Print and Drawing Exhibition graced by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. That year I also received my first international top award: The Grand Prize in ASEAN-Korea Multimedia Competition in South Korea. To expand my knowledge, I also attended a photography class from Federation of Philippine Photographers´ Foundation (FPPF), Philippine Centre for Creative Imaging (PCCI) and Cosmopoint International Institute of Technology (CIIT). To share my artistic philosophy and pursue my advocacy I established the Team Juan Makasining.

In 2011, I was recognized as one of the Top 10 Filipino Visual Artists by WikiPilipinas: Philippine Encyclopedia.  I had an opportunity to work as a photographer and videographer under the production house of famous Filipino celebrity Sir Robin Padilla. Aside from documentary works, I also did stills for one of his commercial films. In 2013, I documented the Binibining Pilipinas 50th Anniversary Fashion Show for Orange Magazine TV. That same year, I was granted a photography scholarship by the SEAMEO-SPAFA Regional Centre for Archaeology and Fine Arts in Thailand.

Photography, my passion and calling, then became a profession.

In 2014 I started working with Princess Cruise Lines as a Cruise Ship Photographer and then elevated to Master Photographer as a job promotion, afterwhich I completed a Master Class with Sir Joe Craig in the USA. My career onboard brought me to different continents and provide opportunities to capture great images. From joining local contests to winning major awards in global competitions, I pursued my goal of sharing my images with the world.

Eventually, I made significant achievements such as being the First Filipino to win Events Photographer of the Year Award and included in the Best of Show Exhibition of Moscow International Foto Awards (MIFA) in 2017 and also First Filipino to win a 1st Place in the Chromatic Photography Awards (United Kingdom), The Societies of Photographers Events Photography Competition (United Kingdom), The Photographic Angle Photography Competition (United Kingdom), World Art Camp Olympiad (Philippines) and ASEAN-Korea Multimedia Competition (South Korea).

My images were also awarded the Fine Art Photography Awards (United Kingdom), Asian Geographic Images of Asia Monthly Photo Contest (Singapore), International Photography Awards (USA), Tokyo International Foto Awards, Paris Photography Prize, Monovisions Photography Awards (United Kingdom), Monochrome Photography Awards (United Kingdom), Malta International Photography Award, Hamdam International Photography Award (U.A.E.), ASEAN Culture and Tourism Contest (South Korea), MILSET International Photo Contest (Belgium), Photocrowd Photo Contest (United Kingdom), Festival of Photos, Reportage and Documentary Film (Vietnam), International Photographic Salon of Japan, China – ASEAN Youth Artwork Creativity Contest (China), Humanity Photography Awards (China), The Print Space Photography Competition (United Kingdom), and Global Festival International Photography Competition (Indonesia).

Since 2006, I received around 282 local and international awards in various categories and currently serving as Captain of Team Philippines for the World Photographic Cup. Some of my works were showcased in global exhibitions such as Baltic Biennale of Photography (Russia), Venice Arts Gallery Summer Juried Exhibition (U.S.A.), Our Stories Documentary Photography Exhibition (United Kingdom), European Union Centre Photography Exhibition (Singapore), Picturing Asia Exhibition (Netherlands), Explore the World Exhibition (Bangladesh), Alfred Fried Awards Exhibition (France), Greenvoice Environmental Photography Exhibition (Switzerland), Horizons Photography Exhibitions (Italy), ASEAN Culture and Tourism Exhibition (South Korea), etc. It’s really fulfilling to represent my country in international exhibitions and competitions and has been part of my advocacy and that is to promote our distinct socio-cultural identity and put the Philippines on the global map of art. For bringing honor to my country, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) under the Office of the President conferred on me the Ani ng Dangal Award (Harvest of Honor) for the ninth time. My journey is not complete without trials and sacrifices. There was a time that I almost quit Photography and might try something else. But I reflected on my purpose in life and realized that I could be a source of inspiration and touch the lives of others through my art. My curiosity and enthusiasm lead me to an exciting and vibrant world of photography.

AG: How would you define your style and concepts you enjoy exploring?

Jophel: In my early years of the craft, I started to introduce the use of a side mirror to frame and reflect a particular subject. This kind of style has been noticed and awarded in some international competitions and also featured in some print and broadcast media. In terms of workflow, planning is an important aspect, and doing research is helpful especially for challenging photo projects. During the shoot, I keep my subject simple but meaningful. Practicing patience, keen observation, connection to the subject, and applying the Gestalt Principles such as Proximity, Closure, Similarity, Continuity and Segregation are essential. I always give my best to achieve my goal during the shoot, getting the right exposure and composition and I don’t spend too much time post-processing. I focus on Travel Photography, Cultural Photography, Events Photography, and attempt to introduce Inspirational Photography. Shooting with heart, I always make it a point that my images evoke meanings, narratives and symbols. I’m extremely interested in capturing unique culture and tradition, stories of people, and moments of life. It’s good to experience different genres of photography, capture and appreciate the boundless beauty of God’s creations, and create meaningful images to inspire people.

AG: What is great photography to you, and are there any photographers you would like to work with? 

Jophel: I believe that great photography comes with passion, connection, artistic sensibility, and creative vision. Photographic masterpiece is a result of preparation, conceptualisation and sacrifice. It is visually-arresting, speaks for itself and creates an impact on the viewers.

I really love spending time with my artist friends and co-members in Team Juan Makasining especially in out-of-town shoots, photo sessions, and related events.

I’m deeply inspired by my mentor in portraiture, Sir Joe Craig. His philosophy and technique motivates me. I also admire the works of Steve McCurry. Major respect and admiration also goes to Filipino veteran photographers.

AG: What is your preferred imaging gear to work with and why?

Jophel: Every camera brand has its own features and capabilities. I did use various imaging gear at some point, but now I primarily use Nikon D750 for its great elements like excellent full-frame sensor, stunning image quality and impressive ergonomics. I also use GoPro camera for my adventures and explore Smartphone Photography with Huawei P30.

AG: What is the next Asian destination you’d like to explore and why?

Jophel: I still love exploring my beloved Philippines because of beautiful tourist spots, rich culture and heritage. Given the opportunity, I would also like to explore India, Middle East, Bangladesh, and Bhutan.

AG: Can you share more about your current and upcoming projects?

Jophel: I just finished my contract with Princess Cruise Lines as Master Photographer/Platinum Artist and looking forward to the next one. Regular participation in various photographic competitions and exhibitions are also part of my projects plus workshops, events coverage, and photowalks.

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Congratulations once again to Jophel for being the Images of Asia (IOA) Monthly Winner in the Wildlife Category! You can check out Jophel’s Instagram here!

Read about the other May Photographer Features of Images of Asia Monthly Winners:

1. Black & White Category Winner, Mohd Nazri Sulaiman, with his photo taken in Terengganu, Malaysia

2. Wildlife Category Winner, Jophel Botero Ybiosa, with his photo taken in Batu Caves, Malaysia

Follow Asian Geographic Instagram for the latest updates.

Love shooting photos of the vast and beautiful Asia? Submit your entries today! More details of Images of Asia Monthly here.

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