Globetrotter, cinematographer, videographer, photographer, and social media influencer. A person so multifaceted that one cannot but ask the question: “Who ‘are’ Jonas Togo?”. Today, he is at our campus in Brussels and we get the chance to sound him out about his versatile self.
Displaying striking confidence, Jonas Togo from Denmark is very laid-back. The practice of Janteloven, a code of conduct in many Nordic countries that roughly translates into “don’t think you’re anyone special or that you’re better than us”, certainly adds up to his coolness.
Though his attitude may appear nonchalant, it could not be more the opposite. Remaining grateful for the things he has and never forgetting where he comes from, his humanitarian side comes forth when talking about his travels to South America where he came face to face with the living conditions of parts of the population.
The trip turned out to be incredibly eye-opening and left him with a “lot of gratitude” towards both the local people and his parents for the chance to work and do the things he has a passion for. At the age of 26, not many people can claim to have been to several continents all around the world. His parents play a crucial role in his love to travel, as they traveled a lot when he was just a child.
A trip to the unknown
Jonas Togo has a burning passion for photography, as can be told from his natural enthusiasm whenever the topic or even the notion of photography is mentioned. He first became acquainted with photography when he took a year off from his studies and went to earn money to support his trip to the unknown.
Jonas’s initial trip was to South America. When asked why this particular continent, he explains that he wanted to explore something out of the ordinary and “not to meet up with other Danes and talk about a football match”.
This trip, and especially the last 12-day stop in Bolivia together with a film crew, as he says, really “pushed my limits”. The things he experienced, ranging from piranha fishing to visiting Che Guevara’s place of death and walking in mines with exploding dynamites next to him, gradually changed him and added up to the person he is today.
Jonas pinpoints one specific moment as the focal game-changer of that trip: him walking up a 6000m high mountain. Despite his father’s warning not to walk and climb up that mountain, “nobody could stop me”. Even though the sunrise wasn’t as rewarding as promised, he did it for himself and it made him realize that photography is what he wanted to do.
Photography: from passion to job
For Jonas, time and practice are key in mastering the art of photography. As far as concerns people, Jonas finds it crucial to capture them “in the spur of the moment”. When people notice that they get their picture taken “people want to be more present, in the photo, which is really fun to watch since they appear to be more aware of being photographed”.
Taking pictures is clearly more than just a hobby for Jonas. He uses online platforms such as Instagram as a kind of e-portfolio to engage with organisations that promote regions, such as VisitFlanders, which is exactly the reason why he is in Belgium right now. His Instagram account helps him to showcase his work so that “people can see what I do out there”. He finds it crucial to be able to portray his feelings and memories in his Instagram posts.
For him, social media undoubtedly play a vital role in ‘being seen’. Jonas is convinced that popular social media users should better consider what they send out into the world, since a good presence on these platforms can attract attention of enterprises, which could in turn make you earn a lot. As he claims, “social media is marketing” and, thus, something that needs to be taught to people so that they can become aware of how social media work. Jonas sees the ability to differentiate oneself as key to succes on social media.
Drive and dedication are key!
For that to happen, he believes that “you need to figure out what success means to you“. People often portray success as having a lot of money, being famous or having a lot of fans. “But”, says Jonas, “you need to break it down into segments: what is my personal success in family life, work, mindset, etc.?”. You need to have a drive because even when your business can generate a great deal of money, in the end it is still up to you to decide on where and what to use it for: “you can create for instance a network and give back to people who need it more.”
Jonas also sees the downsides of social media, as some so-called ‘influencers’ can be very dishonest in selling quite useless gadgets. Part of that problem is that ‘influencers’ tend to be labelled into one and the same category: “the category ‘influencers’ incorporates an extensive collection of people and now everyone wants to be an influencer.”
The most difficult part for Jonas is being compared to these dishonest people who are only in it for the money. But, as he continues, everyone has this need to compare oneself to others: “and suddenly you find yourself comparing yourself to others in terms of success, but that doesn’t make them more valuable.”
On the other hand, it is thanks to Instagram that Jonas had the chance to visit places all over the world: “it was door opening”. In combination with his dedication to work and perfectionism, Instagram has given him the chance to experience luxury hotels in Dubai and a photoshoot with elephants in Bali, the latter being also his most memorable travel experience.
“With this I am promoting something that I like doing and through which I got the chance to do something that I am passionate about. Not many people get that opportunity. But it is not something that I want to do forever.”
Jonas also sees the importance of surrounding oneself with “people who don’t do this for a living, which makes it easier to make trips”. Jonas can particularly count on three good friends that do not care as much about photos and social media as himself and thus experience their joint vacation from a different mindset. They together form the self-proclaimed group “Bird Squad”, which derives from the Danish slang meaning “let’s go party”. They will soon be visiting Mount Olympus in Greece to reach the “Top of the Gods”. As with his other trips, Jonas will surely report on this one as well, but less excessively than would he have been surrounded with other ‘influencers’.
From time to time, Jonas engages in extensive – what he calls – “collab-travels” on behalf of travel agencies and tourism boards. “These trips vary a lot”, he says, “but mainly they come to you because they like your style”. The process of reporting on these trips mostly depends on the agencies or organisations that approach him. Although some of them give him room to play in the hope that he posts a story or photo with profile tags, most press trips come with a strict program. This program mostly involves the assignment of taking several pictures that need to be posted and accompanied with proper tags and fond expressions so that positive stories can be created about the respective press trip.
As a payment, he can go on these trips, but mostly he asks for a budget since destinations are getting value out of him posting pictures: “it usually works like this”. While traveling for press trips, he specifically regrets not getting the chance to stay longer in one place. Jonas notices that his pictures generally become better the longer he spends time in a particular place and the more chance he gets to become more acquainted with the surroundings and culture: “Due to a longer stay, the story you want to tell can become more authentic, as to uphold a certain standard of image quality.”
When all of this is over and you have money and fame, it is not going to last forever.
One of Jonas’s future goals is to slowly expand and attain a bigger voice across and outside of Europe, but for now he wants to take one step at a time and approach his five-year goal in stages, the next step being friends and family.
Find out everything about Jonas’s insights during his stay in Brussels and Flanders in his vlog!
|Kornélia Negro |
Kornélia is a Tourism and Leisure Management student at the Erasmus Brussels University of Applied Sciences and Arts (EhB).