At the heart of our camps for kids and teens are passionate and knowledgeable instructors who share their love of photography with our campers each year. We caught up with Jake Borchenko, our Teen Camp 1 instructor in Toronto with expertise in both photography and cinematography. His portfolio showcases his passion for travel, documentary, and street photography, and prominently features the people he meets around the world. Jake is a Broadcasting and Film graduate of Centennial College, and an active volunteer and mentor with Skatelife Canada.
He shared with us what sparked his passion for photography and travel, his favourite gear, advice for amateur photographers, and much more!
When and how did you fall in love with photography?
I grew up with photography. My dad is a photographer so I’ve been surrounded by it all my life. In high school I was fortunate to travel to India and China where my love for photography really began. For me, it was a great way to have a creative outlet and practice a foreign language (in attempts to ask people if I could take their photo). It was also a great way for me to document my travelling. It developed into a passion when I got back, and I’ve been shooting ever since.
How would you define your photography style?
My photography style is heavily focused on documentary and street photography. I love meeting people and engaging with the world. For me, photography in these natural settings is the most fun but can also be the most challenging. I’m travelling a lot for my work as a filmmaker so photography is great way to tell stories while overseas.
What was your most memorable photoshoot or photograph?
Two years ago I travelled to India to shoot a documentary about an Indian martial art. When I was driving to the hotel, I caught such an amazing moment. We landed at the airport in Kolkata and quickly hopped into an iconic yellow taxi. I had the window open and was taking photos while enjoying the beauty of India when we pulled up beside a truck at a red light. Out my window, a beautiful man in a big dump truck looked down then reached out to shake my hand and said, while smiling, “Welcome to India!”. I quickly shot a photo and said thank you, then we drove our separate ways. The kindness and beauty of people is truly amazing and I’m so glad I was able to capture it through a photograph.
Which piece of gear (lens, tripod etc.) is your favourite?
My favourite piece of gear is a lens for a couple reasons. Having the right lens can do wonders for a shot in creating the right look. The drama achievable from having a wide or tight lens is awesome. It’s really cliché, but investing in good lenses is always a great idea. I’ve owned lenses ranging from 8mm all the way up to 250mm so it’s great to experiment with as many lenses as possible.
What’s your next photography purchase?
Recently I’ve been shooting lots of film therefore my next photography purchases will likely be some more film! On my most recent trip to Nepal, where I’ve been working on a feature documentary, I brought an old Canon AE-1 film SLR. Literally EVERY single morning in Nepal I would go for a long walk with that camera. I’ve also been exploring Toronto every week while shooting some 35mm and medium format film.
What advice would you give to amateur photographers?
Get out and shoot. Shoot the streets, shoot your friends, shoot what’s in your house…shoot, shoot, shoot! You learn so much by just doing it. Along, with shooting lots, check out photographers with styles you like and get familiar with the work. If I’m not shooting I’m always finding cool photography books to read, or I’ll be on Instagram discovering someone new. Also, learning manual mode is the best way to open up new ways to be creative. You can also shoot film when you learn manual mode which I cannot recommend highly enough!
What do you love about teaching Teen Camp 1?
What I love most about teaching Teen Camp 1 is seeing how much the students’ photos transform over the course of week. Every day we learn something new that adds to what campers can do with their cameras. The improvement by the end of the week is always so awesome, and what’s great is that it happens every week with every camper.
Just so we can find out a bit more about the person behind the lens, could you tell us…
Who is your favourite photographer past or present? My favourite photographer of all time is Steve McCurry. He’s a photojournalist who’s famous for shooting really striking portraits and landscapes from all around the world. Most famously and controversially he had the cover of Nat Geo with his “Afghan Girl” portrait. I really can’t get enough of his work. It’s also really hard to pick just one photographer so some others (in no particular order) that I love are: Nan Goldin, Christopher Doyle, Alec Soth, Elinor Carucci, Martin Parr, Stephen Shore, Vivian Maier, Rita Leistner, Joshua Jensen-Nagle, WeeGee and Ed Burtynsky. Just to name a few!
What makes Nepal so special to you? Nepal is seriously an underdog country. It’s right in between India and China which are two major countries. They’ve had such a unique history with such tragedies in recent times but the people are so friendly, resilient, community based, and extremely kind! It’s a beautiful place and I’m so fortunate to be able to travel and work there. If you ever get the chance to visit or are thinking of a place to go, I really can’t recommend it enough.
What’s your favourite Movie? Any film by Wong Kar-Wai pre 2004 is amazing. He is a director from Hong Kong who create these awesome contained love stories that are super gritty and filled with hopeless characters. They are visually so rough, but gorgeous. The energy and grime of Hong Kong in the 90s always translates so well on screen. I literally can’t watch these enough. On a pure fun level, The Blues Brothers is just such a blast. So many legendary musicians make appearances and the ridiculous plot is so enjoyable. How many films have a dance scene with Aretha Franklin in them and a 200+ car police chase in the same film? It totally kicks butt.
What would you do if you won the lottery? If I won the lottery I’d maybe break even, because I usually just buy scratch lottery cards for about $4, and then if I win, I only ever get the $4 prize!
What’s your favourite hobby outside of photography? Besides photography, I spend a lot of my time skateboarding, filmmaking, listening to music, and playing JRPGs. Skateboarding is so complementary to filmmaking and photography, because I can do those things while skating. It’s also how I grew into being a creator because I was shooting so much skateboarding as kid.
Learn More About The Camp Jake Instructs: Teen Camp 1
If you are a new to our camps this is the place to start! Teen Camp 1 is where we teach the foundations of photography and campers master manual mode. (Teens: ages 13 – 17)