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Through The Lens

Miguel Jacob

September 27th, 2010, by Dan Grant

Trying to get Miguel Jacob to consent to this... well, I wasn't optimistic.

Despite the fact his August 2008 cover of Fashion Magazine (featuring Coco Rocha) won "Best Magazine Cover" at the inaugural P&G Beauty Awards last year, Jacob is not the type to go on about himself or his accomplishments.

If he was the type to brag however, perhaps he would mention his impressive gallery of covers (heavy on Fashion and Chatelaine, with LouLou, Glow and Wedding Bells sprinkled in), or his client list featuring names like Pink Tartan, Line and Capezio.

Modelresource is quite pleased to share this rather personal interview with a very humble artist.

Location
Toronto

Website
www.migueljacob.com

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Coco Rocha (Elite) by Miguel Jacob
styling: Susie Sheffman (Page One)
makeup and hair: Hung Vanngo (The Wall Group, NY)


You've been one of Canada's more high-profile photographers for a few years now. But photography wasn't why you university. What was your intended career path and why the switch?
Thank you Dan. You are right, I never formally studied photography. I studied French Language and Literature at the University of Toronto, received a Master's Degree in Education and taught French Immersion at the Elementary level in Toronto for a couple of years. During my studies, I had the opportunity to live, study and work in France for a period of three years. While in France, I spent a lot of my spare time visiting galleries, museums, attending fashion events and shows, as well frequenting "ciné-clubs", one of my main passions.

As a youngster, I had always been interested in art, photography and film. I wrote, directed and produced a short film entitled "A tes souhaits" in 2003 and began taking photographs at the same time. I started building my portfolio on the weekends, took a one-year sabbatical from teaching and never looked back.

Do you find any elements of your formal education coming into play with what you do now?
While at university, I had the opportunity to take courses in literature, theatre, and cinema studies. While these courses certainly introduced me to great literary, theatrical and cinematic works, a lot of my learning took place outside of the classroom. Working with children definitely taught me to be patient, organized and assertive.

You come from quite an accomplished family. How did their influences shape the artist you've become?
My father was an engineer/systems analyst and my mother was a doctor/family therapist. My father shared his love of cinema, politics and history while my mother always supported my interest in following the arts as a youngster and as an adult. My older brother Luis, an artist who is presently part of a group show at the Guggenheim in New York, and my twin brother, an architect and designer, have always been supportive and continue to inspire me. We are a very close knit family.

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Addison Gill (Sutherland) in "Oceana Ball" by Miguel Jacob
styling: Dwayne Kennedy (Plutino)
makeup and hair: Claudine Balthazar (Plutino)


Any memorable mix-ups with your twin brother?
My identical twin brother, Marco, is a very talented architect and designer. People mistake us for one another on a daily basis but no real memorable mix-ups.  

I remember you once telling me you never aspired to be a rock 'n' roll type photographer. Do you find clients ever wanting to steer you that way, and if so how do you deal with that?   
I think it is important to be true to one's self. I want my work to speak for itself. I have always respected photographers like Irving Penn, Nick Knight, Bill Brandt, Henri Cartier-Bresson and others who, while incredibly talented, remain humble and treat others with dignity and respect. They exude a quiet confidence that I have always respected, and admired. 

You've never been one to trumpet your accomplishments. Although you're on Facebook, there's no Miguel Jacob Page or Group, you don't tweet, I'm unaware of any blogs. Why so quiet?
Although I am and have always been a very social person, I also enjoy my privacy. I believe it is a question of restraint in this age where people in all fields are constantly updating their "status" or "tweeting" about everything that is going on in their lives. I like to be more discreet.

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Valerie Massie and Denelle Kennedy by Miguel Jacob
from his Portrait Series


I've never, ever heard a bad thing about you. Do you think being the nice guy ever stands in the way of opportunities? Would you care if it did?
Getting along with people, making them feel comfortable and instilling confidence in them (both talent and clients) is an important part of my job as a photographer. Being nice can stand in one's way if you let people take advantage of your kindness or generosity. My approach has always been to be nice yet firm. Just ask my former students :) 

Your knowledge of 20th century culture, from the photographic greats to foreign film through the decades, astounds me quite frankly. How much influence do you draw from film history (still and motion) when developing your shoots?
Thank you Dan. From a very young age, I have always wanted to learn about things that were foreign to me. I am constantly drawing from my own experiences and influences and believe that they have greatly influenced my work. 

That having been asked, which photographers have inspired you the most?
I am inspired by photographers who have a distinct style and whose work evokes a sense of mystery. I find continued inspiration in the work of Guy Bourdin, Bill Brandt, Jeff Burton, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Sam Haskins, Steve Hiett, Eikoh Hosoe, George Hoyningen-Huene, Art Kane, André Kertész, William Klein, Nick Knight, Constantine Manos, Irving Penn, Vivianne Sassen, Mario Sorrenti, Solve Sundsbo, just to name a few.

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Ty States (Sutherland) in Filler Magazine by Miguel Jacob
styling: Tricia Campbell-Hall (Ford)
makeup and hair: Lori-Ann Lazary


Where do you see the future of fashion, and how - if at all - does that affect what you're doing right now?
I think that we are at a critical moment in fashion photography. Affordable consumer digital cameras have the capability of capturing both high quality still and moving images. This hybridity can be reflected in the ever-increasing presence of moving imagery in fashion campaigns and runway shows on sites like Style.com. In addition, I am also noticing the continued collaboration by artists who are not typically commissioned to photograph advertising campaigns. Just this year, we have seen campaigns like Missoni shot by the legendary experimental filmmaker Kenneth Anger and the Bottega Veneta campaign shot by artist Robert Longo. In my opinion, the advertising campaigns that have the most impact are the ones that are conceptual in nature and multi-layered in meaning. In addition to my editorial and advertising work, I am also shooting many personal projects including a comprehensive portrait series and more conceptual work. I have integrated the use of video on various occasions and I am presently working on directing a short in the near future. I will certainly keep you posted.

Favourite photo shoot to date?
My favourite photo shoot is always the one that I am currently working on. 

Are you still dj'ing at any venues in Toronto?
My brother and I have hung up our head phones for the time being. Dj'ing was something that we both enjoyed very much. I love discovering new music that I can play on set.

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Jacqueline Summers (Sutherland) and Frances Coombe (Elite) by Miguel Jacob
styling: Dwayne Kennedy (Plutino)
makeup and hair: Claudine Balthazar (Plutino)


Fellini or Kurosawa?
It depends on my mood. Two of my favourite all-time films are Kurosawa's (1952) "Ikiru" and Fellini's (1960) "La Dolce Vita": two remarkable yet very different films.

What else should people know about you?
I am a big fan of Modelresource.ca and have been following your site since the beginning. Thank you for your interest in including me in your "Through The Lens" section, Dan.

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