Jean Therese Main­gat: Find­ing the Ex­tra­or­di­nary in the Or­di­nary


Af­ter grad­u­at­ing with a de­gree in busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion, Jean Therese Main­gat’s in­ter­nal jour­ney be­gan, which two years later saw her fall­ing in love with pho­tog­ra­phy. The de­sire to cap­ture the spirit and beauty of the things that sur­rounded her found her board­ing a plane and trav­el­ling 7,000 km to a for­eign city as an em­ployee in the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try. In Dubai, she re­lied on pho­tog­ra­phy to keep her­self busy so as not to sulk over her de­par­ture and the things she missed most about home. There, she also came to dis­cover her true pas­sion, which ever since, has fu­elled her into an en­tirely dif­fer­ent world of mar­vels.

Tell us a lit­tle bit about your­self: What was your ca­reer path? I like to doc­u­ment life, which started when I doc­u­mented my­self but as time went by it blos­somed into doc­u­ment­ing the world I live in, cap­tur­ing the soul of the place and the peo­ple. Pho­tog­ra­phy is all about pre­serv­ing the mo­ment. It also lets me see the world dif­fer­ently. I be­came more ob­ser­vant than ever. Most im­por­tantly, I learned how to see beauty in things and in peo­ple. It’s find­ing the ex­tra­or­di­nary in the or­di­nary.

What’s the best part of be­ing a pho­tog­ra­pher?

You get to pre­serve a mo­ment and share it with oth­ers.

The hard­est part of your job?

For me it’s chas­ing the light and fail­ing to cap­ture a mo­ment that is gone for­ever.

If not a pho­tog­ra­pher who you would have been?

I hon­estly don’t know. But I’ll prob­a­bly still be in the cre­ative world. Maybe a writer or a stylist?

How would you de­scribe your style and how did you de­velop it?

Peo­ple say that most of my pho­to­graphs are bright, lively and colour­ful. But I think, I don’t have a spe­cific style. It changes de­pend­ing on my sub­ject and goal. I can go from vivid and crisp to dreamy to bright to dark. In­die to mod­ern. It really de­pends. I ad­just my style de­pend­ing on the theme of the shoot.

Which pho­tog­ra­phers in­spired you most, and how did they in­flu­ence your think­ing, style, and ca­reer path?

If you take a look at my In­sta­gram feed, I post ran­dom stuff, ba­si­cally pho­to­graphs that show my life in a nut­shell. I don’t like to limit my­self when it comes to pho­tog­ra­phy. I do por­traits, street, life­style, ed­i­to­rial, fash­ion, and travel pho­tog­ra­phy. For street pho­tog­ra­phy, I look up to Vi­vian Maier. Her pho­tos from the 60s are my favourite. They are noth­ing but short of amaz­ing. Each photo has a story to tell and very cap­ti­vat­ing. For life­style, ed­i­to­rial, fash­ion, and travel, it would be Mar­garet Zhang. At the age of 21, she has ac­com­plished a lot. I like how so­phis­ti­cated her works are. I al­ways check her blog for in­spi­ra­tion. Th­ese great artists serve as a mo­ti­va­tion for me to do bet­ter in my craft and to pursue my pas­sions in life.

How do you ed­u­cate your­self to take bet­ter pic­tures?

I don’t put too much pres­sure on my­self. I just go out and take pho­tos. Real learn­ing comes through ex­pe­ri­ence.

One of to­day’s main dis­cus­sion points amongst pho­tog­ra­phers is about the use of dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy; do you use dig­i­tal cam­eras?

I do dig­i­tal and mo­bile pho­tog­ra­phy, but I am keen in try­ing film pho­tog­ra­phy again. I love the whole stren­u­ous process of film pho­tog­ra­phy, but I also love the in­stant photo de­vel­op­ment dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy gives you. I re­mem­ber in my high school days, I used to own a Ko­dak film cam­era. I would bring

I ob­serve my sur­round­ings care­fully, I watch the peo­ple, I lis­ten to the buzzing, I live in the mo­ment. I be­come one with my sub­ject.

it on school trips, loaded with a 36 roll film. The whole roll would be bud­geted. It’s lit­er­ally think-be­fore-you-click-forme. I don’t just take a shot. I study it first be­fore click­ing. That’s prob­a­bly one of the things that I like about film, you don’t click un­less you’re cer­tain that it’s worth tak­ing a shot. To­day, on the other hand, pho­tog­ra­phy can be ev­ery­one’s thing. Peo­ple take pho­tos of ev­ery­thing be­cause it won’t cost them a dime (apart from a mem­ory card and a cam­era bat­tery, of course). I, my­self, take pho­tos of al­most ev­ery­thing as I want to cap­ture all an­gles, for fear of miss­ing a mo­ment. Out of 100 shots, I’ll prob­a­bly end up with just 10 good shots. How­ever, I am now try­ing to take lesser shots and live the mo­ment too. Mov­ing for­ward, for me, it’s not about which medium I am us­ing-- it’s all about the pho­to­graph; the mes­sage and com­po­si­tion. One last thing… Ev­ery­one can take a pic­ture, but not ev­ery­one can cap­ture a soul.

What kind of mode do you go into when pho­tograph­ing a con­cept or idea you are pas­sion­ate about? When I’m tak­ing pic­tures, I’m step­ping into a dif­fer­ent world where it’s just me, my cam­era and my big can­vas—the world. I cre­ate sto­ries in my head and I take pic­tures ac­cord­ingly. I ob­serve my sur­round­ings care­fully, I watch the peo­ple, I lis­ten to the buzzing, I live in the mo­ment. I be­come one with my sub­ject. We know that each of us has some­one or some­thing, which in­spires our life and work. Tell us the true ba­sis of your in­spi­ra­tion. My fam­ily will al­ways be my main source of in­spi­ra­tion. But work wise, I usu­ally browse through the works of other artists and then cri­tique my work – we are our worst cri­tiques. When it comes to pho­to­shoots, it’s al­ways two way. A clear un­der­stand­ing be­tween the client and the pho­tog­ra­pher must be es­tab­lished. Next would be com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the pho­tog­ra­pher and the model.

What is the favourite im­age you have shot re­cently?

It’s from my re­cent travel to Egypt. It’s a panorama shot of the pyra­mids and the Sphinx us­ing my mo­bile. To be able to get a good pho­to­graph, you have to con­sider light and an­gle. So, I climbed into a rock for the best view. I like the per­spec­tive of cap­tur­ing the whole place from above, putting ev­ery­thing into my frame. What makes a good pic­ture stand out from the av­er­age? A pho­to­graph with a heart and soul. A pho­to­graph that speaks to you. Ex­actly what it is that you want to say with your pho­to­graphs? I want my pho­to­graphs to show life. I do that by con­nect­ing with my sub­ject, by be­ing in that mo­ment. What has been your most mem­o­rable ses­sion/as­sign­ment or maybe you can tell us about a project you’ve felt really con­nected to and why? It would be the re­cent In­sta­gram’s World­wide Instameet. I joined the Dubai and Shar­jah meet as I wanted to cover two things; new and old. In Dubai, it was held in Boxpark where I cap­tured ur­ban life and peo­ple de­picted by mod­ern struc­tures and the busy city life. In Shar­jah, we went to Kalba where we ex­plored the old and aban­doned Ice Fac­tory that was turned into an art in­stal­la­tion about life and the Kalba Man­groves, which brought us closer to na­ture.

Do you get to work with ad agen­cies on spe­cific as­sign­ments?

No, though I was able to col­lab­o­rate with blog­gers and start-up brands for some pho­tog­ra­phy re­quire­ments. I also take my own pho­tos for my blog. In ad­di­tion, I am part of a cre­ative team that does pho­tog­ra­phy and film, The BLCK Cre­atives Co. (www.the­blck­cre­ – and we were able to work on sev­eral projects. Mov­ing for­ward, I am al­ways up for fun and chal­leng­ing ex­pe­ri­ences. So, work­ing on an ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign would be awesome!

Do you see your­self as a pho­tog­ra­pher many years down the road?

Yes. I fell in love with pho­tog­ra­phy so much that I want to do this for­ever.

What ad­vice do you have for pho­tog­ra­phers just start­ing out?

Just go shoot. It’s a big world out there, go out, ex­plore and take pho­to­graphs. “Your first 10,000 pho­to­graphs are your worst.” - Henri Cartier-bres­son.

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