Alfonso Calero

Alfonso Calero is an Australian-based photographer and educator. He is born of Spanish decent in the Philippines but when it was time for a high school education his family saw fit to send him to Ballarat to a boarding college. Later he met the love of his life, Ritsuko, who was born and raised in Japan. Alfonso is unusually culturally aware, and brings this understanding to his photography of food, travel and people. 

How did you come to photography, what about it appealed to you?  

My first SLR was a Canon T50 when I travelled through Europe at the age of 19. It gave me wings to express myself visually.

Tell us a story of that time that illustrates how you this affected your outlook on life?

Coming to Australia from Manila as a 15-year-old and being put into a Catholic boarding school has clearly affected my outlook on life.

With a sink-or-swim approach on life I was forced to build on myself as a person. Like most teenagers we can easily blame our environment or family for the circumstances we are in. But what does not kill you makes you stronger, and this experience allowed me to have a positive view on the world. I am a visual person as seen through my work. 

Who or what was influential on how you see and photograph? 

Initially, National Geographic magazines at home as a kid. Now anyone or anything inspires me. Inspiration is everywhere; I'm hooked.
Tell us about your early days photographing and how your approach has changed.

Not much has changed except that my vision, purpose and messages are crystal clear now as opposed to random acts of exploration in the past. 
Can you tell us about your relationship with equipment.  
The equipment has simply been a tool and I am more attached to the image made than the camera used.  If you need to know, when I travel I use a 85mm 1.2 lens for street portraits and a 12-24 mm lens for my landscapes on my Canon 5D Mark III. Lightroom and Photoshop are my two choices for editing along with the Nik collection plug-ins working off my Macbook Pro 15 inch laptop.

It would seem that for photography there is a constant hunger for the new, whether that be equipment ‘style’ or computer work, or even subject matter. Can you talk about your relationship to the concept of the ‘new’ and how it fits your work?

New to me is that my personal perspective or interpretation of something has to be better and deeper than the last image taken. I need to keep challenging myself and seeing other points of view. I love to look for inspiration in art for style, lighting and hidden messages. I love to look at contemporary issues for a story to be retold in my way. I am not so hungry to get new equipment and would prefer to master what I already have, which is more than enough.  
Is there a perfect photograph? How would we recognise one? 

A perfect photograph is one that stops me in my tracks. One that makes me miss a heartbeat. One that wakes me up emotionally and makes me think on a deeper level.

What are your underlying themes and rationale for making photographs; what would you like the audience to see?

A unique perspective or different interpretation on a situation are my themes.  I enjoy looking at the social, historical, cultural and political aspects when it comes to street portraits for example. 
Tell us about work that you’ve seen lately that inspires you and you would like to see other people to see?

Lately I have been fascinated by seascapes and street portraits. With seascapes I was influenced by William Turner's dramatic depictions of the vulnerability in nature such as storms. For this series I picked days with heavy dark and low cumulus nimbus clouds. I also made sure to arrive before sunrise and have a high tide. With the correct weather pattern and some cinematic editing in Lightroom I was able to come closer to my vision.

On a recent trip to the Philippines I was walking along the boulevard in Manila Bay when I came across lots of interesting street portraits. To my surprise many are not from Manila and have come from the provinces. Some of them are homeless and make their living from the street selling food, drinks, toys.... I am interested in looking at the social aspects and their positive outlook and boundless resilience. 

Tell us about the changes in the photographic industry since you come out of college? 

I graduated 15 years ago from Sydney Institute of Technology in Ultimo, Sydney with an Associate Diploma in Photography. Feeling technically confident it was time to mould my style of shooting creatively. Over the past 15 years most of my work has been people, places and food photography. Travel photography combines all these genres and more. In the last eight years I have been running travel photography workshops all over Australia and photo tours in Japan, The Philippines, Spain and Tasmania. More info on

Tell us about how you have adapted to a new model to create an income from photography?

In the last decade work started to slow down so I had to reinvent myself to find another income stream. Having previously worked as a teacher and tour guide, teaching travel photography seemed like all my jobs bundled into one.

Tell us about the different parts of your business and why you started them.

Educating other keen travel photographers has taken over 60% of my business. 40% of my time is still dedicated to shooting photography jobs involving mainly people. Teaching photography while travelling has been a labour of love.

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