Whether high school or college, graduation season is upon us and with it, a haunting sense of fear and uncertainty. Throughout the time I’ve been able to intern in college, I always wished someone would tell me how it REALLY is to do their job. We’ve all got only so much time and so many lives to live that experiencing every career path we dream of is nearly impossible. I decided to chat with people who are doing the jobs they love (because let’s face it, we all want a job we LOVE), and see how they got there to give Chictopians better insight on what it’s really like out there.
First up, Tommy Ton of Jak&Jil. Starting out as a Merchandising major (gasp, like me!) and realizing on the way, that life had something else in store for him. Read on…
Tell us about the beginning of Jak&Jil – how, where, when, why was it born?
It started about four years ago. I wanted to create a lifestyle website in Toronto, where I’m based. So I started taking photos of Torontonians at parties and events and on the street as well. I got very bored quite quickly photographing the same people in my city, so then I took a spontaneous trip to London and Paris fashion week in 2007 to see what it would be like to photograph the people attending the shows. I became instantly hooked and have been going every season since then. It wasn’t until this past September that I launched the blog portion of my site because I started taking so many random photos. So then I just created the blog and rest is history. The response was quite surprising to the blog and my photos
What sparked your interest in this type of photography? Had you done other forms, concentrated on other subjects?
I dabbled into photography when I was in high school but that was really just an extra curricular activity. I guess I only really got into this aspect of photography to bring me closer to the world of international fashion. I made the trip two years ago as a vacation to go to fashion week in London and Paris. I brought my camera and I started from there just snapping photos outside the shows.
When you’re out, whether it be during fashion week or any other week, is there anything in particular that excites you on sight, makes you think “I have to get that photo!”?
I think what especially excites me is when I see someone wearing something that is highly coveted, Ex. When I spot a high powered editor like Emmanuelle Alt wearing shoes straight off the runway, I’ll freak out and chase after her feet until I’ve gotten the right shot. I got overly excited this past season in Milan when I saw Sally Singer of US Vogue wearing a brand new variation of the Nicholas Kirkwood for Rodarte shoes. I completely screamed like a girl when I spotted them and photographed them from as many angles as I could.
I always see amazing shoe-shots on Jak&Jil. Is that your favorite subject to capture?
I do love photographing shoes quite a lot. It’s really become a habit of mine to photograph these amazing shoes on the amazing surfaces on I see them on like sand, cobble stone, pavement, etc. But I really do love capturing the women I photograph in motion. It’s the motion challenging aspect of my photography but the most rewarding. It’s like capturing a beautiful photograph of an amazing creature while it’s in the wild.
The composition of your work is quite different from other street style blogs. Your subject always seems to be caught in the motion of his/her/its life rather than plucked from it for the sake of a photo. That’s probably my favorite thing about Jak&Jil. Is there a reason you choose to shoot your subjects like this; from a distance, in observation?
Why I chose to photograph my subjects in motion was simply by accident. It was a cold morning in Paris and I could sense that most the editors didn’t want to stop for photographs, so I just decided to snap pics of them as they started walking. I saw the amazing results and from there I just started to snap every time I saw coming towards me. It’s so much easier photographing them in motion because I don’t have to bother to stop them and I can get more frames by photographing them in movement.
Are your interests geared more towards fashion or photography? What other interests do you have, and how have you seen them play a part in your work as a photographer?
I definitely consider myself a fashion enthusiast primarily before a photography. I fell into photography by accident and I still kind of giggle when people call me a photographer. I’m really not technically skilled as a photographer and really just point and click with my camera. You can ask me any question regarding designers, shoes or models but asking me about what f-stop or aperture setting I use on my camera, I’ll have not a clue. My life is fashion. I spend most of my day reading and obsessing over fashion. It’s quite sickening
Both Scott Schuman and Yvan Rodic, of The Sartorialist and Facehunter, respectively, have been tapped for book deals. Might we perhaps see a Jak&Jil by Tommy Ton book soon?
I would love to do a book but the timing would have to be perfect and the concept would have to be right. Plus, I don’t think I have enough photos to do a book yet. Maybe in a couple years when I’ve acquired quite a collection
What other projects do you have up your sleeves?
I’m really excited about doing videos. I’ve been filming and documenting all the action outside the shows for the past two seasons but just haven’t had time to sit down and edit all my film. I’ll definitely be taking the street style phenomenon to another level.
The Boring Stuff:
Where did you go to school and what was your major?
I actually didn’t go to school. I maybe spent a year in college for fashion merchandising but then after I realized I didn’t want to be a buyer, I then just taught myself how to take pictures and how to do web development.
Was photography a career path you had always set forth to do?
Oh not at all. If anything I wanted a career in fashion. Photography was just a creative outlet that brought me closer to the world of fashion.
What sorts of things had you done to prepare yourself, so to speak, for this? Internships, part-time jobs, etc.
I guess you could say I’m a self-taught person. I did many self-tutorials to teach myself how to use a digital camera and how to create a website. And I pretty much taught myself everything I know about fashion. When you have a passion for something, your life sort of becomes it and everything revolves around your passion.
Fill in the Blank:
You should be a photographer if you’re passionate about photography and have an eye.
You should steer clear of a career like mine if you don’t love fashion.