We turn the spotlight on one of the country’s most sought-after photographers and learn that at 27, BJ Pascual is just getting started.
Currently wandering through New York City, fashion photographer BJ Pascual doesn’t let his unforgiving New York Fashion Week schedule deny the time for a few questions. His Instagram feed is envious, but what we don’t know is that every day, he and stylist friend Liz Uy end up dragging their worn-out selves out of their (respective) beds. He mentions to me that he had dinner with the Tommy Hilfiger principals the other night and nearly fell asleep at the table — and they even dressed him up for the show! If it isn’t obvious yet, BJ is definitely making all the right decisions, showing us that it’s not about making it to the top, but how you get there.
YOUNG STAR: I learned an interesting fact about you from when you were in college. You used to design shirts and style for magazines! What got you into those?
BJ PASCUAL: Friends and I came up with a T-shirt business during our last few years in college, which became a big hit. Magazines started featuring our shirts and one of the editors liked how I styled the looks for our feature and offered me a styling gig.
Describe your “Aha!” moment when you chose to pursue photography.
Photography has always been my first love. When they offered me the styling gig, I was mainly doing photography but thought the styling gig would be a good way to get my foot in publishing.
You actually went to two different schools (abroad) to hone your skills, what was the experience like?
New York was eye opening for me. I had been working professionally for a year as a photographer with no formal training before I went to NYC to take classes and it was very exciting for me. My bachelor’s degree (from DLSU) was in international studies so I did a lot — and I mean a lot — of reading for all of my classes. In contrast, my classes in New York at (Parsons School of Design, Fashion Institute Technology, and International Center for Photography) had a lot more practical exercises in and outside the classroom/darkroom.
Is fashion primarily what drew you towards the craft? If not, what or who influenced you?
I think I’m a fashion photographer by heart. I guess it’s my love of fashion and beauty is what really drew me to the craft. It’s funny though, because I still remember when I really wasn’t interested in fashion at all. I remember I would wear board shorts and slippers to classes! (Laughs) I draw inspiration from everything: films to history books to random things like what I see on the street, or the color of a wall.
From which photographers do you draw inspiration?
Richard Avedon, Irving Penn, Paolo Roversi and Peter Lindbergh, Steven Meisel, Mert & Marcus.
Who are your mentors?
I didn’t really have any. But I would say I learned a lot from people who I look up to in the industry, like Pauline Juan, Vince Uy, Jappy Gonzales, Melissa Dizon and Ben Chan. In my upcoming book — coming out November! — I have a chapter on my industry heroes and what I learned from them.
What’s your most memorable shoot to date? Why?
This is such a hard question! But maybe one of the most memorable would be a shoot I did a few days ago here in New York with Georgina (Wilson). I came from a day of shows for New York Fashion Week, and I had another show to attend after the shoot. It was just the two of us and we had to shoot at the Brooklyn Bridge. Georgina broke her foot a month before and just had had her cast taken off a few days before the shoot. The light was running out so I had to run to the bridge with my equipment, my feet started hurting ‘cause I was wearing dress shoes so I took them off. I was running on the Brooklyn Bridge with no shoes on. George was struggling with the bike. When we got to the spot, it started raining! We just kept shooting, my camera started getting wet, and I had to wipe my lens on her skirt! Definitely one for the books!
How do you choose your muses?
I really think it starts with the initial connection I have with someone. There’s that moment when something just clicks. And I usually get obsessed with my muses. At one period, I would have a specific muse and my shoots around that period would always be (based on) that particular muse. The funny thing is, all the muses I’ve ever had are already signed to agencies and are based in New York now. Pauline Prieto, Danica Magpantay, Manuela Basilio, and now Kelsey Merritt (I also have a chapter on my muses in my book).
Describe the typical work-mode BJ Pascual outfit.
I’m usually in black tees, trousers and sneakers.
What are you up to right now?
Working on my first book! It’s a book aimed to inspire young creatives!
If you were to be photographed by anyone in the world for your portrait, who would it be?
Richard Avedon, if he was still alive.