Photography Challenges: Jenny Peñas, a student of the Master of Professional Photography, has won the Catch The Sun competition

Accepting a challenge means facing, with determination, something that one feels to be difficult or new, it means daring to overcome something which we know will be hard, and this is what the latest promotion of the Postgraduate Course in Advertising and Editorial Photography did when they were asked to take part in the Catch the Sun challenge. The CTS challenge is a photography competition promoted by the company Catch The Sun, which sells simple and decorating solar lamps. The challenge has been won by Jenny Peñas, a student of the Master of Professional Photography in the 2015-2016 academic year.

The idea of the competition was to present these objects in a unique, attractive and magical way, in three kinds of photographs. The first kind, Product photo, centres on the object itself, the brand, the packaging, the accessories, etc., while Photo living is linked to the day to day experience of the lamp and its coexistence with other elements in the home, while the last type, Creative photo, aims to explore the photographers’ imagination.

Jenny Penas, Master of Professional Photography, IED Photography, IED Master Madrid

Jenny is a photographer from the Philippines who lives in Madrid and specialises in portraits and travel photography, some of which have been published in media of the calibre of the New York Times. She owes her photographic gaze to each of her professional and personal experiences, which have been very diverse, and to the trips she made around Southeast Asia when she was working as an art director and photography editor, before deciding that her ultimate place was behind the camera.

We spoke to her to find out more about her great passion, photography, and about how she has managed to turn it into her profession.

One can travel around various Southeast Asian countries and suddenly land in the Madrid neighbourhood of Malasaña. And all thanks to your photos. When did you realise that your passion was for photography?
I've always been interested in photography and films. I grew up watching classic films with my grandparents while the spark of photography came on a trip to HK in the mid-90s and my father first let me use his camera. I loved looking and studying the images in magazines like Colours and National Geographic but it didn't become a full-fledged passion until I had my first point-and-shoot digital camera, a Canon Ixus 500 and then my first D-SLR, a Canon 550D which I took on most of my travels in Asia.

You have worked as a photography editor, art director, English teacher, theatre usher and even as a waitress in a Mexican restaurant. Have these experiences influenced your photographic work?
Being a photo editor and art director definitely helped me hone my eye. My years as an English teacher helped me with my interpersonal skills - I know how to interact people and hopefully, make them comfortable in front of me and my camera. And all the other odd jobs I've done have made me open to different experiences, no matter how mundane and ordinary, there's beauty in it and there's always something worth photographing.

You have won the Catch the Sun photography competition. Product photo, Photo living and Creative photo are the three sections in the competition. In which of these areas do you feel more comfortable?
I was most comfortable shooting the "Photo Living" section. I enjoyed putting things together and making a small set where I could showcase the product. I used my own books, my own picture frames and vases, I dropped by the florist next door to buy a few flowers. I find joy in arranging and styling things - I guess it's the art director in me.

You are currently studying for a Master of Professional Photography. What led you to do so?
I was an art director and photo editor for more than 5 years. I had the pleasure and privilege to work alongside many talented photographers. There just came a point where instead of producing photo shoots and directing them, I wanted to be taking the photos myself. Since I decided I was ready to be a professional photographer, I knew I needed to educate myself more on the craft. When I was looking at potential schools, IED's program appealed to me the most because of how well-rounded it was. I am able to experiment and dabble with several specialisations - from Documentary, to Fashion and to Commercial.

Up to now, what would you highlight about your time at the IED Madrid?
The best part of the program is that I learn from professional photographers who are at the top of their game. Photographers like Cristina de Middel (Documentary), Jose Morraja (Fashion) and Fernando Maselli (Commercial) who have been generous with their time and knowledge. It's been an amazing opportunity to dedicate 9 months to learn and grow as a photographer.

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