Inspired by the media he consumes, avid portrait and street photographer, Jay Ybarra recently became a Fujifilm creator after applying on a whim. I spoke with Jay via email to learn more about his journey in photography so far as follows.
How did you get started in photography?
Jay Ybarra: I had initially wanted to do filmmaking in high school. We had a film program where I learned a good bit, but the team I would work with never got too serious about it. I eventually thrifted a 35mm camera that I would take everywhere with me and pretty much haven't stopped since.
If you could go back in time to when you first started photography, or started taking it more seriously as a career choice, what would you say?
JY: Don't be discouraged. Sometimes it doesn't feel like you're doing enough, or that nobody is noticing, but eventually the right people may. Just keep at it.
How’d you get involved with becoming a Fujifilm creator?
JY: During quarantine in 2020, I had seen Fujifilm share a story looking for new collaborators. I went to the link, signed up and didn't think anything of it. A few days later I had an email from them in my inbox saying that they wanted to work with me! I didn't believe it at first. A year later, they asked if I would like to move up to a creator.
I saw you have quite a following on Instagram and are active on other social channels too. How has social media played a role in photography for you?
JY: I feel like early on social media played a bigger role as far as inspiration goes. I felt like I would have to follow trends a little just to be seen, but I'm glad it did in a way. It made it so that I would want to figure out how other people would edit, or figure out different techniques. I learned my way around Lightroom a good bit just doing that.
I saw that you’re heavily inspired by hip-hop album art, comics and movies. What in particular inspires you from each of these? How do you think the inspiration from these things presents itself throughout your work? Is it the mood, lighting, editing, subject matter, colors etc?
JY: When I was younger I had always flipped through The Source magazine, where they would always have interviews with rappers' portraits of them in street settings. I liked that it had a bit of grittiness to the photos. Another big thing was album art, and CD booklets. I loved going through them no matter what genre, but hip hop specifically had those street photos of just normal looking people sometimes just out in a street setting. Comics and movies kind of go hand in hand I feel, even before the big superhero craze now. Writers like Frank Miller had such cinematic panels, where it just felt like he was storyboarding for a movie. I think no matter what kind of photographer you are, there's a movie still that inspires you.
I understand that portraiture and street photography are your specialty. What about street photography resonates with you? What elements make for a good portrait?
JY: With street photography, I don't have to come home with the best photo I've ever taken, I may not even come home with anything that I even want to share, but just getting out with my camera is sometimes relaxing to do. I love that with portraits, you can go as simple as shooting against a solid wall, or make it extravagant by having elements in the foreground or background as well as the model and location itself. If you have good light, you have the potential for a great portrait.