Christopher Kilkus Talks About How His Career Really Took Off in Manila

My career really took off – no pun intended – when I decided to do a bit of travelling on courier flights. Basically, you give up your baggage space so courier companies can use it for urgent packages. You would get reduced rate flights, sometimes even free, in exchange. One day I called up to see if they had any flights within the next couple weeks. They told me if I could get to the airport in 4 hours I could get a free flight to Manila since the other courier couldn’t make it. So four hours later I was on a flight to the Philippines, a place I knew absolutely nothing about.

But I brought my little portfolio, and when I landed in Manila I went around to show it to the local magazines who all said they would be happy to work with me if I was around. I figured it would be an adventure and also a great way to build my portfolio, so I stayed. I ended up living in Manila for the next year working for all sorts of clients, including advertising agencies. This is something I never would have been able to do as a brand new photographer in the USA.

Once I came back to the USA, I figured it was time to get really serious about being a photographer and moved to New York City. It was hard at first, since I really was still quite new to photography. But I slowly started building a client base and a good reputation, and after a few years I could really consider myself a working photographer. My first real job was an ad campaign for Banana Republic. I was still SO new, a job like that was really out of my league and I was quite nervous going into it. And this is back when everything was shot on slide film, a really difficult and unforgiving type of film to use.

But I got through it and the client was happy, so I knew I could actually make a living at this. After about 5 years or so living in NYC, I was shooting in Los Angeles so often for BCBG and other clients, I decided to just move to California and travel back to NYC for work instead of the other way around. California was my home after all, and I missed the more relaxed lifestyle and the nice weather! My career really took off when I got out here. I was shooting quite often and even was put on contract for brands like Forever 21 and bebe.

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