JP Klovstad, the person behind touching portrait photos of locals in South-East Asia

By surfing around about looking for interesting content about Cambodia, I found some photos by JPK one day. From the first moment, I felt something special in his photos. I really did not know why, but I felt a connection between him and the people he photographed.  But I did not find anything about him, the person behind, who catches all the stories written in young and also older faces with his camera.  No website, no description – just his impressive photos on Facebook and Google+.

I wanted to know more about him and asked for an interview. During our first contact he told me, that his very first website will be launched officially in a couple of days. I could not believe that to contact him just in this time – crazy :)  Read his answers and you will feel, why JPK is not only a photographer but also connected to the people around him. Im promise you, you will enjoy his photos even more after reading!

1.+2. First of all: What does JP stand for? And tell us a bit about yourself, please. Where do you come from, how did you become a photographer?

The first two questions I will answer with what my friend Roachie wrote about me on my introduction on my new website: www.jpkpics.com

JP………..

Stands for John Petter Klovstad. I hail from the cool climes of Norway. The thing with Norway, as beautiful as it is, is that it’s long way from the African Savannah, the history and beauty of the Middle East, the marvelous Andes and the Central Highlands and Hilltribes of Asia. I left Norway in 1998 for Latin America, then Australia, South East Asia and Central Asia. On my way home, one of my final steps was in the incredibly beautiful Turkish city of Istanbul. In a local bar I happened across a fellow traveller, a person who wandered the world and made living out of doing so.

[pullquote-right] Just read about the most expensive photos in the world. Your photo is one of them! 1 million dollars are waiting for you JP! [/pullquote-right]You’ve heard those old tales of strangers getting drunk and waking up shanghai’ed aboard a pirate ship? Well, when I awoke with a slight hangover the next morning I realised I’d just become a Tour Leader for an Overland Truck company and was now setting off from Istanbul to Cairo, it was a watershed moment in my life, one that would see me relinquish my troubled life in Norway and become a Citizen of the World! After dragging my sorry old truck up and down the African continent from Cairo to Cape Town I was to become Tour Leader for a U.K. based adventure travel company.

John Petter Klovstad Portrait Photographer This saw me leading tours through the Middle East and eventually to the place that has become my home, South East Asia. I transferred to the SE Asia office in 2002 and began my exploration of the region. I was trained to work in Vietnam and very quickly she stole my heart! I worked my way across the region, my experience led me to specialise in a cycling trip from Bangkok, through Khao Yai and into Cambodia and eventually Vietnam, nearly 1,000 kilometres each time. We had monks bless us and our bikes each time and something mushy have worked because one eventful day my group encountered a wild elephant high in the national park that crushed bikes and threw my group around in the jungle. A few cuts and scratches and bikes rebuilt and we were on our way. I finally added a camera to part of my kit and with the advent of digital photography it became so much easier.

My camera…. and my hat went everywhere I went. I had the great opportunity to help develop travel programs in Africa, South America and eventually moved to China to become the Destination Manager for our company. In 2009 the dream was over and the company swallowed up by a gargantuan travel monopoly run by womanising men wearing suits.

JPKphoto-4
What a story this man must have to tell…wonderful capture!

My camera, my hat and my heart took once again to the road. I love spreading the word about the countries I love like Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar. My passion is capturing the portraits of everyday people just living their lives day to day. I’ve made lifelong friends in all these countries along the way and have met some amazing clonal travellers. I’m not so much a man of words, more of actions and deeds. Knowing that my images will live longer than all of us and will become my legacy, is enough to keep me travelling and taking photographs. I’m available to showcase the beauty of South East Asia and the world. I am also available as freelance photographer/Tour Leader for assignments. Give me 10 minutes and I’ll pack my bag and be on the way. Why not come and join me?

3. Seems you´ve found your passion in people-photography. How did you find this passion?

Travelling around in SE Asia on my tours I met lots of people, children and the interaction with them was always the highlight of the tours both for my groups and my self. I always tried to bring with me something to I could give back to the people in the villages i visited. Together with my groups we put money together, bought books, pens, football, badminton etc……. we gave to the teachers at schools for them to pass on to the children. John Petter Klovstad - loved by children

When we took photo’s everyone but especially the children always loved to see themselves and their friends on the screen after. Since I am lucky and in the position that I do the same tours over and over again, I do get the chance to visit the same villages again later. And I started to print my photo’s so I could give back to the children, families when I came back next time. It is great to see the kids when they get their photo or their parents/grand parents when they get photo’s of their children (and of them self).

I am also used to share my photo’s on Facebook, so my groups could have them after the trip finished. As I become a better photographer I got more and more comments on my photo’s and it made me feel good, wanted to take more and better pictures to share. I joined a photo workshop (Hoi An Photo Tour & Workshop h) and learned a lot from the owner Etienne Bossot, especially how to take portraits and how to approach people.

4. What do you want to express with your photos, what is the meaning behind?

First of all I love to see the smile and laugher in people face, children and adults, fantastic here in SE Asia but special in Cambodia. I also want to pass on to all my friends and followers in rest of the world how fantastic this part of the world is. Most of all the beautiful and good parts, but also the darker sides of the life here.

5. What are your three best practice tips for people-photography?

First of all learn a few words in the language, be happy, polite and show respect. Be ready to put away your camera as soon as you see someone who doesn’t want their picture taken. Spend time and share the pictures, don’t be afraid to interact even if not speaking the same language. A smile and laughter goes a long way.

6. Please describe a typical day in your life.

At the moment I work as freelance Tour Leader, so when on tour I travel around SE Asia with my groups and having a great time sharing my passion for this part of the world with my fellow travellers. I try to share with them all the things I find special. When not working I travel a bit around my self with my camera. Not having a group to look after gives me a different way to get close to people and to learn more about the countries. My plans for Cambodia in the near future is to visit Kampot and around, Ratanakiri and Kampong Chhnang, even after 100-150 times in Cambodia it is so many places I still want to visit.

7. Why do you love South-East-Asia, especially Cambodia?

For me South East Asia is a paradise, I love the weather (born in North of Norway), the food, the culture and the people. Especially in Cambodia I love the people for their smiles, their eyes and for how nice and friendly they are. I also find the history of the last 50 years in Cambodia very interesting and sad, I try to understand how the people of Cambodia have been able to get through such a horrible past. During my 12 years visiting Cambodia I have seen lots of changes, some good and some not so good. It will be interesting to see how Cambodia will develop in the future. I hope one day Cambodia will get politicians who care about the people of the country and not only about them self.

8. How do you support the locals Cambodia?

Through New Hope Cambodia, an NGO in Siem Reap. I support a family of 11 with $ 50 a month (most rice) as long as the children goes to school. Also through the company I work for G Adventures we support New Hope bringing groups to eat at their training restaurant.

JPKphoto-9 JPKphoto-6Every time I am in Phnom Penh with my group we visit Friends Restaurant  for dinner and every time I buy a “brick” for $ 50 where the money goes to help disadvantages children in Phnom Penh. On my Facebook I have an album with pictures of almost 30 “bricks” :-) When I have the chance I support Jayavaraman the 7th hospital in Siem Reap, bringing volunteers from my groups to donate blood for the children. I have donated blood my self now close to 20 times.

9. Do you have some tips for tourists, how to help in the best way?

The best way would for sure to shop and use money in Cambodia, buy from parents so they can take care of their children, not the other way. It is ok to bargain, but there is no need to get everything as cheap as possible. Please leave your money behind when you visit Cambodia. Also contact serious NGO’s like New Hope Cambodia and Friends International you can do a lot of help through them.

10. What is your biggest dream in life?

This is my dream:-) In 1998 I left my job, home and Norway to do what I had been dreaming about for a long time, to travel around the world and I have lived that dream ever since. I love my job, my hobby (photography) and my life.

11. Is there anything else you want to tell us?

I do hope with my pictures that I can share my passion for Cambodia and SE Asia and this way to get more people interested in visiting this part of the world. If they like they can follow me on:

And last but not least: Feel free to contact JPK – directly under his E-Mail address – info@jpkpics.com 

New: Project in Siem Reap for teenagers and exhibition

[update: 24 April 2016] JP has bought 6 new CANON 1200D plus one more used camera to support 12 teenagers from a poor area of Siem Reap in collaboration with New Hope Cambodia to give them training in photography. Also, he organizes an exhibition in his new Gallery named Asian Hideaways Gallery from 22nd June to 20th July in Norway with his Cambodian pictures. The income will go to his project in Siem Reap! Stay tuned!

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