From Manila to La La Land—for Malcolm Bacani, the LA-based Filipino photographer, getting hate texts every day can only mean you’re the one to beat. Having photographed people like Cole Sprouse, Lucky Blue Smith, and Scott Eastwood, we talk to Malcolm about his path from styling to photographer, what it’s like to be in the middle of the glamour, the magic, and the legend that is Los Angeles.
I never pictured myself as a photographer before. I just wanted to create art and have fun with it. My story started when I migrated to LA in 2007 with my family before I could finish my last year in CSB for a degree in Multimedia Arts. So when I got here in LA, I went to FIDM (Fashion Institute for Design and Merchandising) for another major, Fashion Design. In 2009 I got in the Advance Program which led to work for films, commercials, fashion editorial shoots and music videos here in Los Angeles.
After a while I got so stressed doing styling, so I decided that I wanted to take pictures of models and actors. I bought an SLR camera and asked the people and models I know if I can shoot them, and the rest is history.
Why LA? LA is a good place for everything. Also I feel like I’m in Manila — just take out the heavy traffic. It’s a melting pot for new artists. Most importantly, I wanted to be close to my family. I put my work in Instagram for photography. It’s my business card and website in one.
Well, I did get a lot of haters for a year when I was starting, like I got hate texts everyday for a week. I just wanted to shut down. I didn’t wanna do any shoots. It broke me. Typical Hollywood drama — your so-called “industry friend” starts talking bad about you and then they leave you because you’re not useful for them. But I did survive and started fresh. That’s why my first portraits are dark and gritty, it reflected how I felt about myself and about everyone here in LA. They’re not perfect!
Working with a couple of good and amazing models and actors, like Dylan Sprouse, Lucky Blue Smith, Scott Eastwood, Uzo, and so on.
I love Dylan Sprouse! He is so nice to work with. I first worked with him on a movie that I costume-designed and being with him for a month was so fun. He’s basically a down-to-earth person who likes to talk about video games and brewing beers.
Richard Avedon and Annie Leibovitz are two of my favorites. Then I have a couple of new photographers that I liked because of their style: Diego Villareal, Bj Pascual, and Darren Black. Also I’m such a fan of Andy Warhol—everything about him and his art.
I love emotions and I try to capture it. I like to shoot male models who aren’t basic-looking. I like it when they have something odd about their physical attributes.
I always talk to my model first about everything and we go from there. If they are comfortable with you it opens up possibilities for the shoot. I always make sure that I always get the best out of them.
For me, there’s no difference because when I shoot the male form I usually bring out their feminine side and vice versa. I like to break the norm and push some boundaries of male and female form. I always like when it’s genderless.
Be unique, Be truthful to your style and be consistent! Because that will be your ticket to the industry. Don’t ever let other people stop you from doing it unless they are paying your bills.