“We are all unique and have great gifts of our own to offer others. I think the unfortunate thing is sometimes we don’t see it in ourselves and we wait for someone else to point it out in us, that we are beautiful.” says Phen Mas when I ask him about beauty - and I totally agree to that. The Californian based photographer tells us how he got into photography, what it means to him and what else is important in life to him…
Phen, what does photography mean to you?
- Photography to me is an art form that allows you to express whatever concept, mood, or event you want in the way that you want. The first page of my website is a quote I said about photography as an art form, and I really believe what I said. “I think that the most amazing thing about photography is it’s the truth that tells lies. Everything is a capture, but you make that capture say what you want it to, and that to me gives you the creative expression to call it an art form.”
Has it always been your dream to be a photographer or did you have a plan B too?
- I originally went to college/university to study computer science and mathematics as a double major. I was always interested in art, but never found the right art form for me. After a year of being bored with my studies, I switched over to graphic design, where I learned a lot of interesting things and different genres and styles of art. In that process I took a photography course and it was then I knew what I really wanted to do in life. At that moment I signed up for a course at Brooks Institute for Photography and graduated 3 years later. Studying photography really helped accelerate my career, but it is not necessary for everyone.
You are shooting editorials, celebrities and you are also doing beauty shots. In your eyes – when is someone beautiful?
- I think the moment they come to existence is when someone is beautiful. We are all unique and have great gifts of our own to offer others. I think the unfortunate thing is sometimes we don’t see it in ourselves and we wait for someone else to point it out in us, that we are beautiful. I believe the moment someone really see’s you for you is a great thing that helps us realize how beautiful we are. It is great to surround yourself with great people who believe in you and wish the very best for you. However, you also need to believe in yourself and do what is right for yourself. Then you will realize you were beautiful all along, and no one or nothing makes you less or more beautiful.
Which celebrities have you shot so far? Is there anyone that you really would love to shot?
- So far I have worked with a lot of TV stars, and some movie people the following is a list: Kay Panabaker, Shay Mitchell, Ian Harding, Christian Serratos, Kiowa Gordon, Sarah Hyland, Dan Byrd, Laura Vandervoort, and Blaise Embry. I really would like to do a high end fashion editorial with Shaun White. Honestly I love meeting and working with new people, and would be glad to work with any celebrity that would be down to take some fun new photographs.
What has been your best shooting so far and why?
- This is a hard question to answer, but I would have to say my opening sequence with Blake Gillespie wearing the Phen Mas t- shirts would be the best so far. She is my favorite model in the world, and is always amazing to work with. We just had some fun and just shot on the tennis courts with available light and on camera flash. I really enjoy raw photographs that are not over produced; they provide a realness that I feel can be left out of some photographs. I love my music the same way.
What equipment do you use?
- I am not an equipment snob, I really use everything but my main camera system is Canon. I shoot a lot with the 70-200L F4 lens by Canon and a Canon 40D or Canon 5Dmk2 depending. I use a Nikon D700 with a 105 macro Nikkor lens for portrait/beauty shots, because that is my favorite lens for that type of work. I believe every piece of equipment has its pros and cons and you use your equipment accordingly. I do not use a lot of strobes, but when I do I use either the Hensel Porty Pack or the Profoto 7B, as they are reliable and quality systems.
What or who inspires you in your work and in your private life?
- I really believe in surrounding yourself with talented and supportive people. People who believe in you and want to see you succeed. Many of my friends are my inspiration to keep creating and coming up with new ideas. My grandmother was a painter, and I find her paintings and poems inspirational. Many of my ideas come to me when I am listening to music, hanging with friends, or when I just sit down and brainstorm. Some of the strangest things have inspired me to create new photographs. Today I saw a really interesting motel that was rundown and abandoned, and I storyboarded an entire editorial in my head. I say just be open minded, and the more you create, the more you come up with creative things.
Do you have any role models – any photographers that you really admire?
- OMG so many! Kevin Zacher is a good friend and a role model for me, even though he shoots a total different genre of photography than I do. Some of my favorite photographers are: Albert Watson, Perou, Chris McPherson, Yu Tsai, etc.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
- I have a lot of things going on a lot of them are secret until they come out, but I have two projects in particular I am excited about. One will take me around the world photographing models along the way in interesting locations. The other is a beauty editorial that focuses on a real issue that women all over the world deal with and many are looking for a way out of the situation. I am currently looking for a magazine to run the story idea.
And now some typical C-Heads questions:)
5 things you cannot live without?
The best life lesson so far was…?
- You really do not know what you have until it is gone.
The most important thing in life is…?
Thanks for your time!
Interview by Sigrun Guggenberger