Finding the feed of director and photographer J.K Chekpo has been one of the greatest early surprises of 2021 for us. His electrically-charged photographs bursting with vibrant colors will have you hooked and his masterful composition will keep you browsing for more. J.K has such great command over his photography skills that he makes things look easy.
However, that wasn't always the story for him. There was a time in his creative career that he didn't find the need or desire to take photos anymore. It was a fateful encounter with a film camera he didn't know anything about that would get him back behind the viewfinder again. We are glad that he's still making images with a renewed sense of wonder. This is his story.
Hello, J.K, and welcome to the Magazine! Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Thanks for having me! I'm a Beninese-German director and photographer currently based in Berlin. I really love exploring cities so shooting a lot of street photography came naturally and I slowly started also focusing on portrait photography a few years ago.
What made you choose film photography? How long have you been shooting?
I was living in Tokyo at the time. I took a trip to London. There I felt really uninspired and barely shot any photos strangely. Upon my return, I started questioning myself and wondering if my photos were good only because the Japanese city was so rich visually. It's funny to say now but in a sense, it got me somewhat depressed, and I didn't touch my then Canon 5DIII for some months.
I was strolling randomly one day with a friend through the Akihabara district known mostly for tech and gadgets, and we ended up in this tiny film photography shop. There on a shelf, I saw this huge and almost ridiculous camera: The Fuji GW690III. It just gave me a good feeling, and I just bought it without knowing anything about it. The super friendly guys from the shops gifted me some expired films to start with. I was shooting my first roll on the following day.
The results shocked me. I stopped asking myself any kind of stupid questions and it's almost as if it hit a reset button for me. It's been four years since. The third photo of that roll is still my favorite photo to this day.
Your photos have really great color and composition. Was that a particular style you were going for?
Thank you! I believe you can tell a lot about a photographer when you look at their personal work. I really like colors in general and I guess my photography reveals that. It happened naturally over time the more I shot film. I started shooting when I was still riding BMX, I really like the idea of how you need to show that exact moment of a trick but also the spot and the direction of the movement. I can catch myself still composing like that for street photography and sometimes portraits.
What do you wish to get across with your images?
I watched a lot of movies growing up and I really like telling stories. It's nice when you look at a photo and wonder what happened before, what led to that moment but also what happened after. I'm not sure whether my images achieve that or not but that's what I'm going for haha
Please describe your style in five words.
Colorful, emotive, dramatic lighting, cinematic.
What do you look for in a frame before you hit the shutter?
Definitely the colors first, It should feel right. Second, the interaction of the subject with the space they're in, depending on what I'm going for.
Why do you take photos?
Unlike filming, shooting photos is a much faster process, with its different set of challenges. I'm still doing what I love but in a different form, it's very satisfying and almost calming.
What's your dream photo project?
As of right now, I don't really have a dream project. Any personal passion project that I can shoot and makes me happy feels like a dream project. It's important to me because everything is so unpredictable nowadays you never know what's happening next (Bye 2020). I can't foresee the future however, something might come along... Let's see!
How are you doing right now? How did the pandemic affect your photography work?
I'm holding up fine! Luckily my family and friends were mostly unaffected so I'm thankful for that. It hasn't made it easier to shoot the projects I wanted to since I have to go back to Tokyo and Hong Kong for that. So I resorted mostly to editing my backlog of old photos but also fleshing out some ideas I was working on. Hopefully, this situation ends soon!
What does a perfect day look like for J.K Chekpo?
Waking up early, riding around the city, and grabbing breakfast to go. Take the ferry from one side to the other while eating, looking at the city, and smelling the sea. Exploring some more and ending the day on the rooftop of a tall structure with an ice-cold tea or boba tea with the city at our feet. A perfect day in Hong Kong with my girlfriend.
Any last words for our readers?
I think It's important not to forget that we're always learning, stay curious, venture, and try different things, different films, different formats. I feel like it's common for people to have opinions on things they have never even tried before. So explore! And make sure it stays fun, it's supposed to be after all!
We would like to thank J.K for letting us feature their work in the Magazine. Follow him on Instagram to see more of his colorful compositions.