A chronicler of everyday life

Besides artistic portraits and street photography, there is another area that captures humans and its called documentary-style people photography. It is about photographing people in relation to issues, situations, places and the environment they are in. It involves documenting their stories as they go about their everyday lives, such as the girl and her little brother in the photo.


They live in a small coastal community in Guimaras Island in central Philippines. The main livelihood of families in the community are fishing but they get a bigger income by ferrying tourists to nearby small islands that boast of pristine beaches, undeveloped and undisturbed patches of nature. The primary means of transportation from one island to another is the banca, a local outrigger canoe that can carry two to three passengers. It is propelled by the sheer effort of paddling, by the girl in this case, with her little brother playing the role of lookout and assistant. The girl has just ferried me and my photo buddy to this small island and I took this picture as they were about to set off to transport more of my fellow photographers waiting in the main island some 300 meters away. I guess we are all chroniclers when we have our cameras and arrive at a new country, city or place. Knowingly or unknowingly, we capture images of people as they go through the daily grind and struggles in life. In the picture above, it is a poignant story of siblings helping their family to make ends meet; their parents are out at sea fishing. The camera is there not only to capture beautiful sceneries but also slices of life, no matter how humbling, as we encounter them.

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Put simply, if you really want to throw the background out of focus, get really close to your main subject.~Jim Richardson (Photo location: a shooting buddy during a trip to Guimaras island, Philippines)

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In a still photograph you basically have two variables, where you stand and when you press the shutter. That’s all you have.~Henry Wessel

Festival fever

JJWP355Tomorrow, the last Sunday of January, is the culmination of one of the biggest if not the biggest tourism event in the Philippines – the Dinagyang Festival of Iloilo City in the central part of the country. It has been voted for three consecutive years in the past by a national organization of tourist and travel operators as the No. 1 tourism event, rivaling the equally grandiose Sinulog Festival of Cebu City. I had the opportunity a couple of years back to cover the Dinagyang event together with my photo buddies from Metro Manila and I tell you, even for locals like us who watched it for the first time, it was an experience unlike any other. Now the Philippines is a “fiesta country.” Every town and city celebrate a fiesta of sorts in honor of a patron saint. There’s almost a fiesta everyday somewhere all year round. These usually consist of local beauty contests, drum and bugle competition, the community parade and a culmination night in the city gymnasium or town square where there are special numbers, live bands and fireworks show. Some places have kept the celebration small, others through the years have become a national showcase and tourism attraction – the likes of the Ati-Atihan in Kalibo City, the Sinulog in Cebu held last weekend and tomorrow’s Dinagyang in Iloilo. These premiere festivals that attract thousands of visitors from within the country and from all over the world are virtual explosions of colors, of tribal and local costumes, elaborate choreography, beats of drums and music. It is a flurry of synchronized movement from the performers garbed in their most eye-catching attire. It is the “Mardi Gras” of East Asia. I will run out of words to describe the magnificence and sheer pageantry of these events. But I will not run out of photos I took and the best of them will be presented in the next issue of Junsjazz Digital Magazine which will come out this February. It will be in direct contrast to Issue #5 which was all black and white. Issue #6 will be all about the colors of Fiesta!

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Pure thinking or pure seeing? In truth, neither alone is sufficient. We are creatures of both realms. One prepares us for the other. Together they somehow bring us to creativity.~Jim Richardson

Transform the ordinary into something remarkable

JJWP265The ordinary into extraordinary. The usual into unique. The common into exceptional. The familiar into fantastic. I could go on and on but I know you get the gist. Photography gives you the power of transforming ordinary images into something spectacular. Oh, we know how to do it. Say what? Yes, we just like right now forgot how to do it. That is why we need to be reminded and refreshed. And to continue learning. So how do we go about this process of transformation? How do we create extraordinary images from ordinary subjects or situations? Consider the situation I was in – riding on a 20-seater motorboat on a three-hour trip going to an island. The first hour was generally unexciting with almost nothing but the expanse of the deep blue sea. But I noticed movement – the splash of water in the boat’s outrigger, and the currents and ripples in the sea as the boat passed by. And of course the colors, deep and contrasting. I had to assess the elements and decide what to include and exclude in the frame, all in a matter of seconds, and the outcome is the picture above. Dawn Oosterhoff in her article Everyday Images: Making Ordinary Pictures into Extraordinary Photography provides some guides: be observant, become aware of what you are seeing and experiencing, physically and mentally assess your subject, change your perspective, consider what to include and what to exclude, emphasize your subject, choose your moment, and experiment. Seems like we’re familiar with all the aforementioned and even tackled them in previous posts. They are fundamentally still the basics: framing, zeroing in, choosing, emphasizing and experimenting. Read the article to get a better grasp of the writer’s explanations. They aren’t new, but they are things we sometimes miss and fail to consider. No magic formula here, just a return to the essential – the photographer’s vision and the art of “seeing.” (Photo location: Surigao del Norte)

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I love the journey as much as the destination. If I wasn’t a photographer, I’d still be a traveler. ~Michael Kenna (Photo location: Montemaria, Batangas)