…And playwright, composer, filmmaker, and broker in the highly competitive Manhattan real estate market.
Did we mention he’s also a Juilliard-trained concert pianist who was once praised by The Washington Post for his ability to “make the piano sing?”
Meet Jed Bolipata, the oldest of the talented Bolipata siblings.
If you haven’t heard as much about him as visual artist Plet, violinist Coke and cellist Chino, it’s because he’s made New York City his home for the past 42 years. In the Big Apple, he works as a real estate broker while juggling numerous other creative pursuits.
Bolipata is in town to open “Cellphies 2” at the Boston Gallery on March 23, an exhibit of photographs taken with a cellphone camera on the streets of New York.
“My interests have always been very diverse, and music is just a small part,” says Bolipata, 59.
Groomed since childhood for the life of a serious classical musician, Bolipata was a piano major at Juilliard and was well on his way to building a reputation as a concert pianist in the US when he realized that such a life required total commitment, leaving no room for other creative pursuits.
“Playing classical music is playing someone else’s music, and most of the composers are dead. I’ve always wanted to be more creative than re-creative, and that’s what I like about photography—you’re making your own art, on the spot.”
The ability to capture the telling slice of life is what appeals to Bolipata.
“Henri Cartier-Bresson has always been my model for capturing the moment on the street,” he says, referring to the father of “decisive moment” photography.
The New Yorker in Bolipata has also been influenced by Arthur Fellig aka. Weegee, the press photographer who exposed the grittier side of life in the big city in the ’40s and ’50s.
Too much work
“I can appreciate studio photography, fancy lighting and posed portraiture, but for myself that’s way too much work. I let the action come to me. I sit right there and wait for something to happen. Sometimes it never happens.”
But when it does, Bolipata is ready to capture the moment with his camera.
“Music is so abstract,” he says. “To be a performer requires skill and training. Whereas in photography your eye and your instinct are what guide you. The camera is just a machine that records what you see. Working it is just like working a piano. Photographs are pervasive in our culture. People relate to pictures. I’ve always related to pictures.”
In “Cellphies 2,” Bolipata captures indelible images of Manhattan, such as an Audrey Hepburn impersonator outside Tiffany’s, a performance artist outside the MoMA, the decadent Times Square scene.
Since he lives not far from the Trump Tower, he was also able to catch glimpses of the lead-up to the 2016 elections that he calls “The Divided States of America.”
Now that he’s pushing 60, Bolipata says he’s been working on his bucket list, of which the photo exhibit is only one item.
“Sometimes, life just takes over,” he says.
“Unfortunately, I got sidetracked into music, but theater is really what I wanted to do,” he adds. “I wish I’d bypassed music and gone straight to theater. I started writing kiddie plays when I was five. I was born to direct, and because of my five siblings I had an instant ensemble cast. At the Ateneo I was with Onofre Pagsanghan’s Dulaang Sibol.”
When he gets back to New York, he intends to finish the musical he’s been working on for the last 15 years. Set in New York during the Great Depression, Bolipata wrote the libretto, the music and the lyrics. Hopefully, he says, he’ll see it staged on Broadway before he turns 70.
Then there’s also the film, “a very small, intimate chamber drama” that he hopes to produce with his own funds so he won’t have to be answerable to anyone. Much of the action takes place on the internet and the narrative unfolds mostly through dialogue, sort of like “My Dinner With Andre” for the 21st century. The screenplay is almost done, he says, except for a few finishing touches.
“It does get confusing having to divide my life timewise into different sections,” he says. “Real estate is a constant because I have to pay the rent, but I’m able to divide my life according to what I need.”
“Cellphies 2” runs March 23-April 3 at the Boston Gallery, 72-A Boston corner Lantana Streets, Cubao, QC, tel. 7229205.