fresh no ads
The man who made Bruno Mars dance |


The man who made Bruno Mars dance

KISS ASS - Ana G. Kalaw - The Philippine Star

Sometime late last year, Bench, after months of billboard teasers hinting of the retail brand going somewhere in outer space, finally released images of pop star Bruno Mars. The photos showed the half-Filipino, half-Puerto Rican singer-songwriter in a variety of poses captured mid-movement: dancing, carousing on a city bike, tangoing with a stand-up mic or, essentially, just goofing around. The photos hinted of restless energy and mischievous swagger. Even just shot on a relatively plain brown background, many said that Bruno looked — literally and visually — larger than life.

Young Star’s Raymond Ang reported that the campaign was shot in Los Angeles and was done in less than a few hours, conjointly with a video shoot and a media interview. People wondered if Bench had flown in a Filipino photographer for the shoot or had recruited the services of Bruno’s preferred lensman. Neither was the case.

The photographer behind Bruno’s Bench debut is Jiro Schneider, an LA-based photographer who was introduced to the Suyen group via Bruno’s sister Jamie. Jiro is also responsible for the campaigns featuring K-Pop band Superjunior’s Siwon and Donghae. (Bench flew him into Korea specifically for the shoot.) This time shot against more colorful backdrops, the images of the Korean heartthrobs were more cheerful renditions with laughing poses, ebullient smiles and pastel-colored clothing. But the energy that oozed from Bruno Mars’ campaign was still evident. It seems to be a recurring element in Jiro Schneider’s work.

“A lot of the portraits I do can be a little more fun, a little more different, unconventional. I like people to let loose and get a bit goofy — if they can,” affirms the half-Japanese, half-German photographer, who was flown into Manila recently to do a second session with also-visiting Donghae and Siwon. “I definitely approach shooting with a lot more energy. We didn’t have much time to shoot Bruno so I just went ahead and tried to do what I like to do, which is to feed back and forth on each other’s energy.”

A resident of East LA, particularly of Eagle Rock, which is the address of many artists, musicians, filmmakers and young people related in any way to Hollywood, Jiro Schneider looks every inch the contemporary photographer. “He looks like Jesus Christ,” the Bench people briefed prior to the interview, probably because of his long, distinctly Asian-straight hair that plummets down to his shoulders paired with a several-days-growth full beard. Although no one could probably imagine Jesus in combat boots, nor with a crooked grin. Definitely not with a devilish arch to his eyebrow. And even historians would agree that J.C. is nowhere near as tall as Jiro, who stands at 6’6”.

You can probably call him a “hipster” but that would be a lazy generalization, even a bit irresponsible. Possibly “indie,” considering that he’s shot a lot of covers and editorials for pop culture mag Paper and in the process worked with stars such as Avril Lavigne, Kelly Osbourne and Kirsten Wiig. He’s also photographed stars just when they were at the brink of stardom: Rooney Mara just after being cast in David Fincher’s Social Network (which would eventually lead to her monumental role as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo helmed by the same director), and Janelle Monae, the African-American R&B crooner, whose bottomless contralto gives an even more plaintive appeal to present youth anthem We are Young, and who is now the newest face to join Cover Girl’s celebrity roster. (Turn over Jiro’s business card and you’ll see Monae’s doe-eyed, open-mouthed gaze staring up at you.) And just like his work for Bench, his Paper images capture — and reflect — that youthful luminosity and barely-concealed dynamism that easily enthralls today’s young folks.

But what Schneider is, really, is someone who likes taking creative portraits. “Everybody is different in their own way and you approach them and try to get something personal out of them,” says the man who admires the work of both commercial and fashion photographer Ben Watts and portrait genius Platon. “I like portraiture but it can cross the boundary into many other aspects of photography. This shoot with Bench and Superjunior is, essentially, a fashion shoot but it’s also a portrait shoot at the same time. These kinds of shoots are my favorite.”

In 10 years of shooting, he’s figured out how to develop connections with his subjects, be they supermodels, regular people or non-celebrities who only have a little over 10 minutes to stand in front of a camera. “I try to connect with people’s personalities and bring out their comfortable nature. And then, maybe, the golden moment can be the in-between moment when they forget something in-between shots and they scratch their chin or brush their hair. That’s the moment that you capture.” That’s the moment you put onto a billboard to turn it into a revelation.

* * *

More of Jiro Schneider’s work is available on

vuukle comment








Are you sure you want to log out?
Login is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with