Just recently Junior Space hosted the launch of Jean-Paul McAllan's debut solo exhibition and the release of his photo publication 'Tadhana'. Jean-Paul or JP is a freelance photographer currently based in Melbourne with such a great skill behind the camera. We were stoked to hear that he was putting on an exhibition displaying work from his recent trip to the Phillipines. Wanting to know more we went down to Junior Space during the day helping him setup for the show later that night.
For people not familiar with your work, who are you? how long have you been shooting and what do you like to shoot?
My name is Jean-Paul McAllan I have been shooting for about 14 years but seriously for about 7 years. I mainly shoot what a lot of people call 'street photography' but I prefer to see it as me shooting life. I really believe art creates a dialogue between the external physical world and the inner spiritual world of the mind and soul. Historically, every culture created art to communicate insights of life and spirit through their unique world view. Indigenous Australians communicated through rock art and ancient Egyptians with hieroglyphics. Photography is my method of expressing my personal reality and insights. Whether it’s called street photography or documentary or whatever, it doesn’t really matter I guess, but its essentially just me shooting life and things that move me.
Congratulation on your first solo show, word around town is that this was long overdue. Why did you feel now was the right time to showcase your work?
Thank you. I have been working on many projects for a lot of years and have never released anything properly mainly because I didn't feel it was 'perfect' enough. As time has gone on though...I realise that I have been my own worst critic and my self criticism has been stopping me releasing work and been hindering progress that I should be making. This year I made the decision to not let that self doubt and self criticism slow my progress anymore and just put my work out, regardless if I feel it's really ready or not. I think creatives will always feel like this and are always their own worst enemy in that sense. We just need to silence that doubting voice, say 'F- It' and just release our work!
You named your show Tadhana, how did you come across that word, what does it mean and what does it mean to you?
So basically I went to the Philippines at the beginning for the year for a couple weeks and shot as much as I could. I fell in love the culture and people and it was an amazing trip with a lot of serendipitous moments which made me feel like the islands had some spiritual magic about them. It might sound corny to some, but that's how I see the world and that's how I feel inspiration. It’s all about feeling that magic. I wanted to capture that feeling I had in the title of the series while paying homage to the Philippines but not in a cheesy, typical way. I googled Tagalog words for days and asked a lot of Filipino friends for ideas and eventually I stumbled upon the word Tadhana on google which I liked. Tadhana is a Tagalog (Filipino) word that essentially means fate, but a deeper, more poetic definition is ‘an invisible force that makes things happen beyond the control of mortals.'. I had the idea to further pay homage to the heritage of the islands by using ancient Baybayin script (which is no longer used) for the word. It turned out the four characters that make up the word reminded me of the four elements of Earth, Air, Fire, Water which worked out perfect because I included all those elements heavily in the series. Kind of worked out beyond my control.
Why did you decide that Tadhana would be your first solo exhibition?
Initially I wanted to submit this book to the 'National Gallery of Victoria Art Book Fair' as my first kind of 'soft release' to see if it would sell and see how people would react. Unfortunately the submission deadline had passed by the time the book was complete so I had to figure out another way to release it. I figured, I might as well go all in and do an exhibition for it. It was long overdue and I was happy (enough) with the series and wanted to share it with people.
The Philippines looks like a really beautiful place to visit, what made you want to travel there?
I actually traveled there for my good friend's wedding and bucks party, shout out to Emma and Jeff! I had been to Philippines when I was 14 for a holiday and was always looking for an excuse to go back so it was perfect.
From the work on display at Junior Space gallery which are you most drawn too?
I should explain first that had this theme of duality running through the series of light and dark, good and 'evil', and complimentary pairing photos with each spread in the book. It's something I've been really into lately and you will no doubt see more of in my future work. I wanted to show this somehow in the exhibition so I divided the work shown into three sections. One long wall with the 'light' photos of bright landscapes of beaches, greenery and waterfalls. The opposite, parallel long wall features complimentary 'dark' photos of shadows of palm trees, apocalyptic sunsets and sinister silhouettes. The final middle wall, (between the two) were 6 small portraits of some interesting characters I encountered along the way, such as two Yakuza napping on the beach in Boracay. But out the three sections, my favourite were the ones featured on the ‘dark’ wall such as the silhouetted/shadowed palm trees. It has a mysterious feel to it and you can’t quite tell how it was done, I like that kinda photography the most.
Is their any photos that have an interesting story behind them?
One of the photos in the book of a man holding a chicken on a beach. My friends and I were staying in San Enrique in Negros Occidental province and decided to go visit this beach called ‘Sugar Beach’ which had a reputation of the best beach in Negros but was hard to get to and we didn’t really know how to get there or where we were going to stay. But we went anyway. We took a van and travelled all day on rough roads and mountain paths without barriers and ended up at a beach area called Punta Bulata and had lunch then continued on the journey until it was too dark (keep in mind the roads aren’t lit) so we found a place to stay at another beach area called Sipalay for the night. Then the next day trekked again in the van all day and finally made it to a little village called Barangay Nauhang which was at the end of the road…literally the dirt road didn’t go any further. The only way to access Sugar Beach from there was going through the mouth of a stream of this village. The locals make a living farming roosters, and chartering Bangka rides to Sugar Beach to the people who can find it. When we got out of the van I snapped the photo of the man holding his chicken and then we asked them if they could take us to Sugar Beach. An old husband and wife agreed and we jumped in their tiny boat and they took us around all these little uninhabited ‘islands’ and caves until we reached Sugar Beach finally. It was really beautiful like everyone said and was really quiet, a truly secret beach that was worth the travel to get to. The crazy thing is that this was just one beach area out of the 7000+ islands in the Philippines. Thats insane! Think about how many other amazing island secrets there are…