People & Inspiration

In Focus: From Coding Nerd To Top Photog, Billboard-Material BJ Pascual Packs Pride-Inducing Talent

In Focus: From Coding Nerd To Top Photog, Billboard-Material BJ Pascual Packs Pride-Inducing Talent

As a young boy, BJ Pascual—who even celebs would declare as one of the country’s recognized top fashion and portrait photographers—unearthed something that would change the course of his life. “I found a set of portraits ng Lola ko na very glamorous sya. Half body, studio portraits sya and she was wearing this strapless dress, naka-cat eye sya and her hair was very Liz Taylor,” recalls BJ. “Nakita ko lang sya sa isang cabinet sa bahay na nakatago. Sabi ko, “Oh my God ang ganda nito, bakit nakatago?”

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This marked the beginning of BJ’s love affair with the human face, a subject that he has made his very own bread and butter, through the countless portraits that he has immortalized throughout the years. “A lot of people say that they are drawn to the faces when they see my pictures, kahit full body shot sya,” he relates, “I’ve always been drawn to faces. It doesn’t have to be super beautiful, but it has to say something. Sometimes, my subjects have to be someone else for the shoot, especially for the editorial shoots. It’s a balance of bringing something new out of that person while still being completely them.”

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It was a talent honed from the perspective of a hobbyist. “I would invite my classmates and we would hang out sa kwarto ko,” he shares. “Gagamitin ko yung bed sheet as my background, yung bed side lamp as my light, tapos gagawa-gawa ako ng portraits.” Surprisingly though, photography was not the career path that he pursued from the start, having a different mindset when he began university. “Nung high school ako, super nerd ako. Yung hilig ko talaga, gumawa ng mga websites -mga HTML, mga PHP, javaScript, ganun. Marunong talaga ako mag code nung high school pa lang,” he shares, adding that he went as far as pursuing Computer Science as a major in college only to realize that it was not what he wanted to do in life. “Hindi ko in-expect na sobrang dami palang Math sa ComSci. Dun ako naloka,” reminisces BJ. “I realized that I was more attracted to the design aspects nung websites not the actual coding.”

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Eventually, BJ would embrace his latent talent as a budding photographer, taking odd jobs that would ultimately shape his present work ethic. “Ang sinasabi nga sa akin ng mga best friend ko dati: ‘Grabe ka matulog, every other day,’” laughs BJ. “I was working extra, extra hard to build my name in the industry. Parang lahat ng shoots, tinatanggap ko.  Of course, hindi lang naman shoot yung aatupagin mo. You have to edit pa the pictures. I’m very OC with editing and the final outputs. I would usually spend all night hanggang morning editing. I would shoot during the day, hanggang gabi or hanggang afternoon, after nun, mag-e-edit na ako.”

Much of his skill set, Parsons alumnus BJ learned through experience. “I came from a weird time, parang an in-between generation in the world of photography. On one end, there was the generation who came before me: they do everything, wala silang distinct look. Yung mga bata ngayon, talagang they do one thing and that’s it,” relates BJ. “When I came in as a commercial photographer, I was doing everything. I had to do a lot of things. I never assisted anyone, it was more trial and error. It helped me narrow down and eliminate what I really like to do and what I don’t like to do.”

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Growing up with his grandparents also played a crucial factor in BJ’s rise in his chosen industry. While his family supported his choice, it wasn’t a career that they wanted for their grandson. “Ako yung favorite nila kasi ako yung first, ako rin yung first apo,” reveals BJ. “I was spoiled but they were protective. They were always parang ‘Huh, bakit?’ Very pessimistic kasi yung mga yun.”

Yet, his grandparents’ skepticism propelled his drive to achieve more. “When I was starting out as a photographer, nung nagkaroon ako nung unang feature na ni-shoot ko, comment nila: ‘Half page lang?’ Tapos, nung meron na akong full page, ‘Bakit full page lang?’ Nung meron na akong full editorial, ‘Bakit hindi cover?’ Nung nagkaroon na ko ng cover, ‘Bakit wala yung pangalan mo sa cover?’ Tapos, nung nagkaroon ng billboard, na ako na yung nasa billboard, sabi nila, ‘Bakit sa billboard, wala yung pangalan mo?’ Nung nagkaroon ng ako ang nasa billboard na may pangalan ko, ayun, tuwang tuwa na sila.”

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Beyond the hard work, BJ points out the importance of knowing who you are and what you stand for in order for you to achieve what you set out to attain. “Before kasi, siyempre, sobrang conscious ko about what other people say. Anyone would get affected by what other people say. As you get older, though, parang it means less and less. It really doesn’t matter what people say talaga. It’s super cliched, but it really doesn’t," he advises, "Kaya important to know yourself so you would also know who to listen to, kung sino yung mga people who’s opinion should matter.” BJ boils this down to a simple premise. “If I could say something to my younger self, it would be about the power of kebs: kebs ka na sa mga sinsabi nila. Yun talaga yung greatest power because you can focus more on yourself instead of just listening to what other people say about you.”

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Produced by Camille Santiago | Creative direction by Barry Viloria | Photography by Vyn Radovan | Shot by Tin Zabat | Edited by Lui Jimenez | Makeup Patrick lcober, Jinx Agabao, and Maws Diaz of Make Up For Ever | Sam Corbillon of Triple Luck Brow and Nail Salon | Shot on location at City Garden Grand Hotel | Special thanks to Margarette Domingo | Banner image by Lui Jimenez

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