We find our passion in random fields of interests. But what if our interest randomly found us?
Gerson Domingo is like any other photography enthusiast - started getting curious about photos, dreamed of having a camera, then finally experienced taking snaps. What sparked his passion, however, was when - after attending a photo exhibit - he was picked as the winner of a photography book in a contest. He took it as a sign and challenge to pursue photography with more determination. From then on, he had been trying to absorb as much as he could about photography and putting it into practice by shooting regularly. From being an outsider, he has made his way into Focus Bulacan and quickly developed rapport with members due to his polite demeanor. A Psychology major who now works as a parole review officer, he now takes on the big responsibility of being a Focus logistics officer. He's come a long way. And here's his story.
Q : How did your love affair with photography develop? Tell us the story about your first camera.
G : I was young then when my curiosity with cameras started. I was thinking what kind of thing is it, that even my parents kept on reminding me not to touch it! Well, that time it was still a film camera so you know what the reason behind their restrictions is. To make the story short, I kept on requesting if someday I could take even one snap! My father did allow me to take a family snap during Christmas eve. Finally! That was the first time I felt I was starting to become a big boy. Unfortunately, it happened to be our last Christmas with my father as he passed away the following month. The thought of capturing special moments or the power to freeze time made me fall in love with photography. It makes me feel that I was blessed to be in that exact place and time to witness, capture and let that moment live till eternity. My first camera, a family camera, was a Kodak Pro-Star 333 with a focal length of 35mm. My mom gave me a Canon digicam, but I forgot the model, as a birthday gift which I even considered as my oversoul.. hi, Shaman King kids! I hid it at school just to take pictures.
Q : How did you get started with Focus?
G : I heard a lot about Focus since my college days. I became a fan, even a stalker, of their mesmerizing works. I and my beloved girlfriend were invited by my friend Charles to vote for kuya Chi’s (Lopez) entry at Focus Bulacan's 2nd anniversary exhibit. His entry had won as the People’s Choice and luckily I was picked as raffle winner. SJ (Sir Jer Sandel) reached me so he could give me the book titled The Ultimate Photography Guide for Generation Now. It was kind of a wake-up call to pick up my camera and try shooting again. Sana may kasamang talent din yung pagkakaabot ni SJ, hahaha! Michelle gave me the guts to persevere while the rest is history as I joined the prestige photography club of Bulacan.
Q : What did you enjoy the most in joining Focus?
G : I simply enjoy the treatment and camaraderie of the group. Perhaps I must call it as a family of photographers. It is something that you can treasure, where you share the same desire and passion with these different kinds of people. You have different stories to tell but have the same results. Superb feeling! Before I forget, I enjoy eating with them. Eat photomeet!
Q : What was the biggest misconception – if there’s any – about Focus that you realized once you started joining their activities and becoming a member?
G : I thought they were stars who were impossible to reach and be with. I was wrong then. They were all pleasant and sociable. Promise mukha lang talaga silang nakakatakot. I also thought that my works had no place with them... yet another misconception. They will guide and support you no matter what. Cheesy!
Q : What is your ultimate favorite photo?
G : The photo of a child flicking its finger to a number one and his mother was trying to take care of him despite of being busy selling at the market. I entitle it as “Number One.” I decided to go with my mom to the market so I could take some snaps. It was the first time I tried shooting while she was behind me and I felt how proud she was of me. I am proud of that shot! (Photo is shown below.)
Q : What remains as your photography frustration?
G : Something from Google : “Frustration, although quite painful at times, is a very positive and essential part of success”. Honestly, I have a lot of frustrations, for I always aspire to do better. I feel that I do not know anything in everything so I have a reason to keep on learning.
Q : What or where would be your dream shoot?
G : I guess to take a long exposure shot of my own house. I also dream to document how my future children would grow up. As in lahat kung kakayanin.
Q : Who are photographers you look up to and why?
G : Steve McCurry and Ansel Adams. Their works and words about photography were my inspiration. Sir Rommel Bundalian for his street works and unique and cool way to shoot it. Sir Jeremy, Kuya Jay Salvador and Kuya Chi. They were the first members of Focus whom I joined in a photomeet. I also tend to stalk their works, hehe.
Q : Which skill or aspect regarding photography do you think you need to improve or work on most?
G : Portraiture. I treat it as a staged shot and I don’t have any feelings for it. Kaya nagagalit si Michelle kasi hindi daw siya 'yung subject ko hahaha.
Q : What would you say is your forte or genre? And how would you describe your style?
G : Street and landscape photography? 'Yun na kasi 'yung sinabi ko sa application ko dito sa Focus, haha! However, I just shoot whatever entices my feeling, mood and attention. Nararamdaman ko kasi parang may spark kasi kapag dapat pitikan.
Q : 10 years from now... what would you like to have accomplished in photography?
G : I am hoping to have a photo series wherein I could blend Psychology into Photography. I still do not have any idea how to do it.
Q : You are a new Focus officer. How do you feel about the position and challenges ahead? And what would you like Focus to be years from now?
G : Pressured! I don’t have any clue why the club selected me to be one of its officers. I am glad and overwhelmed for the trust they showed me. I am also challenged to do the role and contribute to the success of the club. I hope that Focus could sustain its prowess and charm. I wish that I could see the club to have its own cafe so we could entertain a lot of aspirants and professionals at the same time.
Q : What has been the most unforgettable shoot or photography experience you’ve had?
G : 'Yung shoot para sa Eraserheads theme contest!!! Grabe kasi sinunod ko naman lahat ng tips para sa street. I took it at Cubao, doon sa kinakainan nila Popoy and barkada nila. Ayun pinitkan ko sila tsaka ako nagpaalam. Akala nila para sa mga nilalagay sa dyaryo. Hahaha!
Q : If you knew then what you know now, you would...?
G : I guess I would have taken a photography course or had a psychological thesis about it.
Q : What advice would you give those who just got their first cameras? And those who'd like to join Focus?
G : Simply love and be thankful for what you have. I like to share the attitude of Dory, the friend of Nemo, anyone know her? Well, she always keeps on blurting out to just keep swimming but for us we need to keep shooting. Para sa mga gusto sumali sa Focus, 'wag kayo mahiya just approach us kahit ano pa gamit ninyo. Basta mahal n'yo ang photography, welcome kayo.
Q : What's your message to Focus followers and fellow members?
G : To all our friends and followers, thank you for giving us inspiration to shoot better through the appreciation you are giving us. Just continue supporting our group to strive for Bulacan. To the Focus family, thank you for all the knowledge that you taught me. I do not have proper words to share how grateful am I to meet and be with you all. I hope we could still be together in the coming years. Thank you, my Focus family. Sana dumami pa lalo ang members para mas masaya! Keep shooting, everyone!
More of Gerson's favorite photos (Click thumbnails to view in full)
His interest became a passion after he won a photography book as prize. Imagine what more could people do if they considered blessings as challenges. Imagine if they had the support of their loved ones. Imagine if loved ones serve as their inspiration. Gerson Domingo knows too well : photography makes you imagine... and turn visions into reality.
The herculean task of planning Focus Bulacan's 2018 activities and making those plans reality falls on the shoulders of our 2018 officers. Being a Focus officer could be a stressful role at times due to the club's nonstop activities, and it takes a lot of commitment and sacrifice from our officers to lead and guide the group.
For 2018, our committees and officers are :
Officers : Erika Santos & Alih Viaje
The Membership Committee shall oversee the Club’s internal affairs regarding members and applicants. This shall include monitoring of members’ compliance with by-laws and membership requirements. Due to the steadily-increasing number of Focus members, starting this year there shall be two Membership Officers to better monitor and communicate with the members.
Officer : Kat Verzano
The Finance Committee shall safeguard and oversee the Club’s financial resources, with the power to collect membership dues and to execute purchases and payments deemed in accordance with the Club’s approved activities.
Officers : Amen Alcoriza / Awel Dionisio / Gerson Domingo / Chi Lopez / Elena Taeza / Pauline Villafuerte
The Logistics Committee shall oversee the Club’s programs and activities. This includes - but not limited to - planning, organizing, and supervising PhotoMeets, events, and other official activities.
Officer : Jer Sandel
PhotoWorld Cup Advisor : Joey Ramos
The Competition Committee shall oversee any and all contests or competition that the Club will undertake. This includes - but not limited to - establishing rules and guidelines for contests, organizing entries, recording results, and finding the best ways to determine winners.
Officer : Ejay Caluag
The Externals Committee shall be responsible for communication with other organizations and entities that the Club may have to work with for the Club’s interests.
Officers : Julius Calzo & Gilbert Fajardo
The Auxiliary Committee shall provide support for the Club's main events or projects, such as exhibits, annual parties, and other activities that are larger in scale compared to monthly PhotoMeets.
We have three new officers this year, all members of the Logistics Committee, namely : Awel Dionisio, Gerson Domingo, and Pauline Villafuerte. We thank them for accepting such big responsibilities in helping lead Focus Bulacan. Here's what they have to say about the task at hand :
I will do the best that I can as a new officer. Isang malaking karangalan po ang mapabilang at maglingkod bilang officer ng Focus Bulacan." - Awel Dionisio
It's my pleaure to serve this group of different individuals who have become my family. I will do my best to contribute to the success of our club. Together we eat, together we shoot!" - Gerson Domingo
I want to express my heartfelt gratitude as I accept the challenge as an officer for my family, Focus Bulacan. Being part of this family is more than a privilege, it is a responsibility that entails perseverance and hard work. This will always be one of the highlights of my life. Thank you, Focus Bulacan!" - Pauline Villafuerte
Thanks again to our new officers as well as our returning officers for taking on yet another year's challenge of steering Focus Bulacan to greater heights!
Welcome to the Focus fam, Batch January 2018...
Our 10th batch of official members show a lot of promise and variety in their style of photography. We are excited to have them in our growing family as we look forward to another year of projects and activities. May they all contribute positively - in their own ways - to Focus Bulacan and may Focus Bulacan provide them with opportunities to enhance their craft and further their profile.
Congratulations, Batch January 2018 :
We'll see you soon! Cheers! Here's a visual introduction to our new members :
Q : How did your photography journey start?
M : I started taking photos using my late brother-in-law's Yashicaflex medium format camera way back in 1980. The following year, I bought my first camera, a Minolta XG1 SLR camera. Barely two months after buying it, the price of film skyrocketed. I was just a student then. I simply cannot afford the exorbitant price, so I abruptly stopped. In 2013, after more than 30 years, I finally rekindled my passion for photography.
Q : In what ways would you say that the film era is better? And in what ways would you say that the digital era we’re in now is better?
M : The film era is probably better because since the margin of error is small, photographers then, in my opinion, composed their shots better. Hindi puwedeng magkamali, even sa settings, because film was expensive. Unlike in digital photography, you can shoot as many as you can. I also believe, lenses then were better, in terms of durability. With regards to digital photography, I believe cameras today are much better. The features are more advanced, making photography much easier for newbies. The same is true with lenses. As for sharpness, I really cannot tell which one is sharper, lenses then or lenses now.
Q : How did you make the shift to digital? Were there initial hesitations?
M : I had no choice, hahaha. Wala nang film camera in 2013. So, no hesitations at all.
Q : What’s the most beautiful place you’ve been to?
M : It's got to be Yosemite National Park. The place simply overwhelmed me when I went there in 2008. Many people left their hearts in San Francisco, I left mine in Yosemite. Here in the Philippines, it's Camiguin. Many times better than Boracay, in my opinion.
Q : What remains in your photography bucket list?
M : A lot! To mention a few, Batanes, Tawi-Tawi, and Bicol - believe it or not, I haven't been there. Overseas, Brazil, New Zealand, French Polynesia, and Vietnam, to name a few.
Q : It’s obvious in your photos that you love sunrise and sunsets. If you have to choose between the two : sunrise or sunset?
M : I prefer sunset. Colors are more dramatic. But I have more sunrise photos because I shoot early in the morning, from 5 to 7 AM, almost everyday. I brisk-walk at that time for health reasons, sinasabay ko na ang photography.
Q : In all years shooting, what’s the one experience that’s most unforgettable for you?
M : The trip to Yosemite. I just wish I had a better camera. I had a Canon IXUS 6-megapixel point-and-shoot with me at that time.
Q : What’s your proudest moment in photography?
M : Proudest moment was when a photo of mine won photo of the day, photo of the week and photo of the month in Fotoreportage.it. It's an Italian photography group on Facebook. Also, when Inday Espina-Varona (award-winning journalist) offered to buy one of my sunset photos. She saw my photo on Twitter and fell in love with it. Ilalagay daw n'ya sa condo n'ya. I was so naive, I said "Ibibigay ko na lang po. Next time po, may bayad na." In hindsight, I should have asked for something, maybe a cheap tripod.
Q : If any, could you share a trick that you usually do that most photographers don’t?
M : A trick? None at all. There are so many things in photography most of you know that I probably don't. I'm old. Tamad nang magbasa.
Q : What’s your ultimate favorite photo?
M : The photo of Mt. Hibok-Hibok and Mt. Vulcan with White Island sandbar as foreground in Camiguin. Not the most beautiful but I just like it. One day, I'll go back and reshoot it. (Photo is shown below)
Q : Let’s answer this very important question : Why do you use "Mali John" as your name on Facebook? Hahaha.
M : Long story. I can't say it here. Too embarrassing. I hope Bobby Jo (fellow Focus member) doesn't remember, hahaha.
Q : What genre of photography would you like to eventually try and master?
M : Still life. Kasi I don't go out much. Not that I don't want to. Istorbo ang trabaho sa photography.
Q : If you knew then what you know now, you would...?
M : If I knew then that I have a talent in photography, I wouldn't stop. But I really had no choice. 30 years was a lot. Baka sikat na ako. Baka icon na, hahaha. Who knows?
Mon's other memorable photos (Click thumbnails to view in full)
Q : What tips would you like to give to those starting out in photography?
M : If you really want to be a good photographer, you should be patient. Practice, as they say, makes perfect. Attend workshops if you can. If not, watch video tutorials on Youtube. Read books. Join a photo club. Join photo contests. Even daily and weekly photo contests on Facebook. Lastly, huwag magkaka-hydrocephalus kapag sumikat na.
Q : Your message to Focus followers and fellow Focus members?
M : Salamat sa Focus Bulacan for featuring me as the Photographer Of The Month. To my fellow Focus Bulacan members, more power to us. Let's be more active next year. Sorry, I haven't been.
Thirty-two years, to be exact. From the time he quit till he decided to come back to his long-lost love. In between, life had to go on but documenting it and his amazing experiences were never the same. Some people keep the stories in their memories, some write it down on journals. For Mon Juan and the rest of us in Focus Bulacan, our cameras are the preferred option. A lot of what-might-have-beens in hindsight, but for now he's focused on the present and future.
Thirty-two years is a long time. The fire was never lost. He was just saving the best for last.
Q : How did your love story with photography start?
JK : It was in 2010 when my brother bought an entry-level DSLR camera. I had a chance to use it for some time. I started capturing anything inside our house, flowers, then animals at the backyard, people, et cetera. Later on I also would bring the camera to work and started shooting street and cityscapes at night. I'm really interested to capture long exposure shots mostly in the streets of Manila. My love for photography also flourished when I got a chance to join a photography club in Bulacan back then, and now in Focus Bulacan. Joining this group which shares the same passion as I have inspired me to be a better photographer and motivated me to practice and improve.
Q : Does your profession heavily influence your style or dictate what you mostly shoot?
JK : Yes, I can apply various architectural design principles, like the balance, proportion, perspective, emphasis, movement, pattern, repetition, rhythm, variety, harmony, and unity, which actually are alike to photography principles. My composition in shooting is sometimes influenced by my attention to details like when I am designing a building or a house. My choice in subjects is also sometimes dictated by my architecture profession like shooting notable structures, cityscapes, and historical buildings and sites.
Q : How would you describe your photography style?
JK : I have no specific style in photography, I just always capture what interests me. I really like doing long exposure photography because it includes effort comparable to when I am designing or building a house. It includes a process, patience, and attention to details.
Q : What camera gear do you shoot with most of the time?
JK : I used my brother’s Canon 1000D with kit lens for around five years. Then on 2015, I finally bought my own entry-level Fujifilm X-series mirrorless camera.
Q : Any particular photo that’s your ultimate favorite or one that you’re most proud of?
JK : It was my entry for Halamanan Festival back in January 2014 where I got first place in Focus Bulacan’s photo contest. (Photo is included in gallery below)
Q : Are there photographers you look up to?
JK : Sir Jay Salvador of Focus Bulacan. I’ve got a chance to work with him on our Focus Portrait Project. I admired his creativity and dedication in photography. He is very passionate in his photography.
Q : In terms of architectural design, what do you think is the most photogenic structure or landmark in the Philippines?
JK : Maybe the Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bataan, which features different heritage structures. These houses come from different sites in the Philippines.
Q : What would be your dream destination to shoot?
JK : The Fallingwater or the Kaufmann Residence, an iconic house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in Pennsylvania, USA. But as of now I am thinking of shooting different historic buildings and sites around the Philippines, then around the world.
Q : What‘s the most unforgettable photography experience you’ve had?
JK : The first time I shot fireworks at the Philippine International Pyromusical Competition in MOA. I was not really prepared that time and I didn’t know how to shoot fireworks. And I was so pressured because I don’t really know if I will focus on watching the fireworks or capture it with my camera.
Q : What do you still want to improve or achieve in your photography?
JK : I want to improve in long exposure and architectural photography. Those two are my main interests.
Q : Do you think photography plays a vital role in architecture?
JK : Yes! In terms of architecture, it allows everyone to see architecture from everywhere through photographs. It also opens doors for us to see how structures looked like in the past. I am also thinking of taking photos of my projects and make a compilation so that I can look back on it when I become old even show my grandchildren.
Q : Would you say your background in architecture gives you an edge in shooting photos?
JK : Yes, since architecture has various common principles which I can apply to photography.
Jan Kevin's other favorites (Click thumbnails to view in full)
Q : What tip could you give newbies?
JK : Know what you want. Maximize what you have. Just keep on shooting. As much as possible, always bring your camera with you.
Q : What’s your message to Focus followers and fellow members?
JK : I am very grateful to all the members of this group because they served as my inspiration in photography. And I admire each and every one of them. Let us all continue striving to be better and let other people see the world differently using our cameras!Long live Focus Bulacan!
Artists find inspiration even in mundane circumstances. Where some people otherwise would not see anything worth noting, some photographers have a keen eye for details and visualization, enough to create something out of seemingly nothing. Traveling to work and back home are routine activity for almost everyone. But it's not routine to find interesting images from the daily commute, and what we're featuring this month is a series of photos that many folks don't pay much attention to. For our featured photographer, the world of commuters is a source of candid scenes and interactions. It's also a good opportunity to shoot and keep her creative juices flowing. Not to mention a resourceful way of alleviating traffic-related stress.
Francesca Bengco, who commutes daily from Balagtas, Bulacan to Pasig and back because of her work as a multimedia artist, is our featured Focus photographer of the month.
Q : How and when did your love affair with photography start?
F : Photography is about capturing moments of your life. An image that can make a moment last forever. I was in high school when I literally couldn't go out without a camera with me. I was always taking pictures of my classmates, together with Marlo (Bien, a fellow Focus member). However, my love for photography fully bloomed when I became a mom. The need for me to capture my daughter's precious firsts came in so strong. Her first smile, first crawl, first steps, first walk. From day one until now, I've never stopped capturing all her precious moments. And I really don't mind if I take one scene with 50 shots for as long as I take the right picture, the right emotion at the right time. Ganoon yata talaga 'pag minamahal mo na ang photography. Marunong at matiyaga ka nang maghintay. Maghintay sa tamang emosyon, sa tamang pagkakataon, para sa tamang imaheng inaasam mo.
Q : Were there frustrations at the beginning?
F : Frustrations... believe it or not, none! The first time I got a grip of a DSLR, I automatically became a hobbyist. That was just it. A hobby, pang-selfie at pang-pamilya lang talaga! However, my former school (STI Balagtas) made me realize that I can make a career out of photography. In my first month's stint as a photo hobbyist, my professor asked me to compete in STI's Shutters Best on-the-spot photography contest and viola! I won 3rd place! That served as a springboard to other projects and events. I made a niche by word of mouth and many trusted my work and what I offer. Thank you, King Art's Photobooth, for the solid trust that you have given me! That paved the way for me to become an event photographer.
Q : Now that you’ve been shooting for years, what genre or niche do you really want to specialize in?
F : I've been shooting for 3 years na! Ang bilis! Events, babies, food, and fashion interest me, but the genre that I really want to pursue is street photography while traveling.
Q : Is there an aspect about photography that you feel you have to address and improve?
F : Every aspect about photography should be continuously improving.
Q : Any photographer you look up to?
F : Gerald Gloton. There's a story behind every photograph. Galing lang ni beshie!
Q : Okay, so let's get to these photos we're featuring. What made you do a commuter photo series?
F : Basically my 3-hour travel time from home to work and vice versa, and the painful truth of traffic jam everyday! So para maiwasan ko ang mai-stress, I started taking pictures of my fellow commuters na alam kong parehas kami ng mga nararamdaman, hahaha! You will be amazed of the stories one can do on the streets. As for me, it shows on my pictures. It is indeed interesting!
Q : What is most challenging in shooting the commuter series?
F : Being a commuter is a challenge in itself. Once you are on the road, your safety is always on the line or at risk. Lalo na sa EDSA! Hahaha! Hindi mo pwedeng ilabas nang ilabas 'yung mga expensive gadgets mo while commuting as they pose temptation to thieves and snatchers! And I don't want to gamble my life on that! I only use my mobile phone to take the pictures, and I only take 3 to 5 pictures per scene. I can't stay long in one place as I might get too much attention. If I can't get a good shot on my subject, then I won't push it too much. I'll just have to try other subjects. Then my travel continues.
Q : Any similar idea for a future project or series?
F : I'm interested in doing a series on people who works the nightshift...like those in the market, fastfood, call centers, construction, and the likes. I want to know how they make it through the night. How they make the night their day. I want to capture all that through my lens. It will be fascinating indeed.
Q : Regarding photography.. if you knew then what you know now, you would…..?
F : Maybe I would have started making a series about my daughter since her 1st adorable week up to now.
Q : Which subject brings the most joy for you?
F : I actually love taking photos of toddlers where I can hear people at my back trying hard cheering, making funny faces, telling jokes or kahit ano gagawin nila para lang mapangiti si baby. I really love that scene, that bonding with my clients! Hahahaha!
Q : What photo are you most proud of?
F : Picture of Bangui Windmills in Ilocos (photo included in thumbnail gallery below) where you can see people enjoying their vacation na parang chini-cheer sila ng mga giant windmills na "kalimutan n'yo muna ang problema, i-enjoy n'yo lang 'yan!" People are just as wonderful as sunsets if you let them be themselves.
Q : Who is your dream model?
F : Dream couples, maybe. Same-sex couples, proud couples! Syempre number 1 na d'yan 'yung dalawang bestfriend kong gays! Ramdam na ramdam kasi 'yung love eh, 'yung gaano sila katapang ipagmalaki sa lahat na mahal na mahal nila ang isa't-isa. Awwwww. Ang sweeet 'di ba?
Q : Where is your dream photography destination?
F : Brazil!!! Street, murals, festivals, football, and how they simply live like us Filipinos. They all make Brazil my dream photography destination.
Q : 10 years from now, what would you like to achieve as a photographer?
F : Teach my daughter to also be a photographer, time to take photos of me naman! Hahaha. Just kidding. Gusto kong ma-achieve as a photographer ay sana makapag-picture ako ng isang pangyayari na puwedeng makapagpabago o makatulong sa buhay ng ibang tao.
Q : What advice would you give photography newbies?
F : As they say, the only way to do great work is to love what you do.
Other photos from Francesca's Commuters series (Click thumbnails to view in full)
Q : Message you'd like to share to Focus followers and fellow Focus members?
F : Thank you for inspiring, teaching and proving to me that photography is not just about taking photos. You made me realize that this is such a colorful, fun spectrum and such a broad avenue to journey on! Maraming salamat po!
Q : Last question before we let you go. We know you're also creative with words, especially with so-called "hugot". What's your photography hugot?
F : Sa photography, hindi pala sapat 'yung na-develop na, kailangan pala alagaan at bantayan din kasi kapag hindi, nagfe-fade at nasisira din pala yung rela... 'yung picture.
Francesca's Further Favorites (Click thumbnails to view photos in full)
Photography is a creative process involving decisions, all based on individual preferences. It could start from choosing which brand and model of camera to buy and use. Which lens to attach to your camera. Where to point your camera in a 360-degree view of possibilities. Where to shoot : do you explore new locations, or shoot in familiar surroundings? Would you avoid people in your photos, or include them in your frame?
Our photography comes down to what we choose. In Francesca Bengco's case, she decides to document her daily experiences, and bring out the interesting in what most people would find as boring. Her photos are proof that a different perspective could make our view of life more colorful... even if her Commuters series is all black-and-white.
Celine Villafuerte is one of the youngest Focus Bulacan members, but in terms of exposure to the arts, her experience is immense. Taking it one step further by pursuing Fine Arts in college, she is now on her path to becoming a full-time media artist, and along the way she added photography to her body of work. With dreams of someday being an inspiration to other people through her creations, she is constantly exploring fields she could learn. Don't let the carefree demeanor fool you : she is determined to make it to the top.
Celine Villafuerte is the featured Focus photographer of the month.
Q : You’re a visual artist. How did your love for the arts develop?
C : When I was in high school I really didn’t know what course would suit me but then I had this friend who had a digital camera always with her and she loved taking stolen pictures of random people. Seeing her everyday taking pictures gave me an idea to become a photographer. I hesitated before because taking fine arts wasn’t in my plans at all, but I took it anyways to learn further about art and photography. Through the years in fine arts I've learned to love different kinds of art, from traditional painting to media art like photography.
Q : So how did you start branching out to photography? What for you is the main difference in creating art with your brush and creating it with a camera?
C : I started shooting with Focus Bulacan. Joining this group gave me more knowledge about the differences of traditional art and media art. Traditional and media art are mostly the same but different in execution. A traditional art like painting requires a long amount of time and effort to produce an image, unlike in photography, where producing an image is just one click away, which is why I prefer photography. For me they are both art but with different process of expressing moods and stuff.
Q : Tell us the start of your Focus story.
C : My elder sister met members of Focus Bulacan, then she introduced me to the group since she saw potential in me in the field of photography. She urged me to join the group, hoping for me to develop and learn more. The Macro PhotoMeet in March 2015, that was the first activity I attended.
Q : Which is more difficult, interpreting a concept into a painting, or into a photo? Why?
C : For me interpreting a concept is very difficult because it should be unique, attractive, and original. I tried interpreting concepts in both painting and photography, I can't really say which is more difficult because they're both really challenging.
Q : What’s your proudest moment as a photographer? And what photo are you most proud of?
C : Winning or simply joining competitions and exhibits are proud moments for me. I know I'm not yet professional-caliber, but my photographs have the potential to be part of exhibits or win competitions. Among my photographs, my favorites are mostly related to manipulation or post-processing because I have the chance to use both of my skills in taking pictures and editing.
Q : What’s the next step for you as a visual artist? What do you want to learn or explore?
C : The next step for me as a visual artist is to develop my skills regarding editing and to widen my knowledge in interpreting my concepts for me to further achieve greater heights, and to inspire other people with my photographs.
Q : What’s your most unforgettable shoot?
C : It was our group's photowalk in Binondo back in August 21, 2015. That was my first time to join an actual photowalk in Manila, together with so many random people. A lot of things happened that day, I learned a lot, got to know other photographers, and I also developed creating ideas for my shots.
Q : How do you see yourself as a visual artist ten years from now?
C : Ten years from now, I could be one of those famous photographers with multiple solo exhibits. I'm also hoping that someday I will inspire other people with my skills, experience, and especially with my photographs.
Celine's Favorite Photos (Click thumbnails to view in full)
Q : What's your message to those who would like to pursue photography as their field of art?
C : To those who love taking pictures, I ask you to keep doing what you love, try and try until you succeed in it. It would be a great help if you join workshops or join a legitimate group regarding photography so you can learn ideas that are very useful.
Q : What would you like to say to your fellow Focus photographers?
C : To my fellow Focus Bulacan members, staying strong is a must. Thanks to all of you because if it wasn’t for you guys, my journey being a photographer would be less fun.
Her journey is far from complete. Who knows if she's even halfway or even a quarter? What Celine is sure of is that as long as she's alive, she'll live and breathe art and photography. The brush, the camera, and the colors of life will always be her preferred tools of expression. The coming years will be her canvas, which she would love to fill with magnificent artwork for all of us to see.
There's always something new to look forward to. And in our case, twice a year, we welcome new members to our family. Glad you're now on board, Batch July 2017!
Batch July 2017 is the smallest in terms of number but certainly not in terms of talent and experience. One is a passionate newbie who's eager to expand her knowledge and skills in photography. The other is a seasoned photography professional with 9 years and counting of industry experience.
Cheers and congratulations, Batch July 2017 :
Welcome to Focus Bulacan! Enjoy your stay and let's do our part in helping each other grow both as photographers and individuals. We're excited to have you with us. See you soon!
He was a rock band member before he got sucked into the world of photography. He used to always hold guitars, not cameras. His love for adventure led him to taking pictures and from there, things started to fall into place. His profession (he's a licensed architect) then paved the way for him to seriously pursue the hobby, and photography is a big part of his life now more than he could have imagined. A design supervisor at a Bulacan-based architectural firm, he uses photography to aid his analysis of designs and as a way to relax from the stress of work. The past year has been life-changing for him : getting married and starting a family. Through it all, photography played a part, and we shall find out exactly what it was.
Mark Anthony de Leon is our featured Focus photographer of the month.
Q : How did you get hooked to photography?
Mark : I wasn't much of a photography enthusiast. I only had my action camera back then. Since I love to travel and do most of outdoor adventures, I find my action cam handy and useful on my travels. It all started there, then my friends and colleagues saw photos from my travels and since then I was appointed to do photo documentation of our events in UAP (United Architects of the Philippines) which I'm a member of. The need of a DSLR was there in front of me. At first I was hesitant to buy one, that’s why I planned to just borrow from a friend but it was too bothersome to do so I bought one instead, a day before the event. Having done that, I started learning how to use the DSLR and started to love photography. Never regretted the day I bought my own gear. I am happy with my decision to have my own DSLR because if you have your own, you will be more motivated to learn new things because you have ample time to practice and play with your gear.
Q : What was the most challenging aspect of photography when you were just starting out? Did you have frustrations?
M : The most challenging aspect for me were the basics, especially knowing all the functions of my DSLR. As I mentioned earlier, I had no knowledge or background in photography that’s why it was the most challenging part for me. To know how to explore more with the basics of photography. At first I was only shooting in full auto mode, haha. It was the easiest way to take decent photos, hahaha, at least sharp, at hindi blurred.
Q : Your photos consist mostly of concerts and travel. Which of the two you like better and why?
M : Concert and travel are on equal scale for me. If you won’t mind me sharing, I was a member of a band during my high school and college days that’s why I love taking photos of gigs and bands. It rekindles memories of me when I was on stage playing back then. Rakista kasi ako dati, hahaha. On the other hand, I also love travel photography because I want to capture sceneries and landscapes, places that catch my interest like unusual structures and great architectural designs. And of course who doesn’t want to capture great memories and experiences with your friends and loved ones, things that you can treasure thru photography?
(For this feature we are only featuring Mark's travel photos - Ed.)
Q : What genre would you still like to try?
M : I would love to try capturing the Milky Way. I do research and watch videos on how to do it and yet I still haven’t tried it. Aww.
Q : You’re an architect. Has photography been useful in your profession? Do you plan to specialize in architectural photography in the future?
M : Yes indeed, photography has been useful in my work. When I see very innovative and inspirational architectural designs, I capture it, from there I can constructively criticize it, think what is good or bad and which aspects need improvements. From there I can come up with new ideas. I already do architectural photography when I travel. I don’t have any specialization in photography, I just shoot whatever catches and strikes my interest. So I shoot whichever genre, as long as I am enjoying it.
Q : You’re a new dad. Have you done a photoshoot with your daughter?
M : Yes, almost every day with my phone camera. I love to see her cute little smile.
Q : Which places do you dream to go to and shoot?
M : Since my wife also loves to travel, we are planning go out of town or out of country especially now we are three, but for now we are focused on our little girl. Anywhere with them.
Q : You met your wife thru photography. Was it love at first sight?
M : I don’t believe in love at first sight. I believe in love at second sight. So I look at her again and again..hehe. We met in Focus Bulacan's activities then began to know each other, like each other and fall in love with each other.
Q : In photography terms, na-develop?
M : A bit na-develop din siguro. Pero I think we were meant to be kaya di ko na siya pinakawalan, haha. We have the same interests like photography, travel, et cetera. Nakita ko rin sa kanya 'yung mga tipo ko sa isang girl, and when I met her nasabi ko sa sarili ko, "bakit ngayon ko lang siya nakilala?" Hehe, cheesy.
Q : Who is the better photographer, you or your wife?
M : I think I am better but she is more better, haha. Sometimes I ask for her comments on my photos.
Q : What advice would you give to photography newbies?
M : All professional photographers begin as newbies. You never know some day you can also be a professional. Just continue what you are doing, as long as you love and enjoy it. Keep on shooting.
Q : What's your message to fellow Focus members and Focus followers.
M : To Focus members, thank you for all the tips and guidance every time we have photomeets or activities. I always learn techniques and tips on shooting. Keep sharing your skills to other members and Focus followers.
Much as he would have liked to masterplan it like what he does for a living, Mark has learned that some of the most beautiful things in life happen not in the way we plan them or expect them to. When things are meant to be, they have a way of making designs on their own. Life has a blueprint of its own.
And yes, there's more fun (and love) in Focus Bulacan.
It is said that photography is a universal language. A picture paints a thousand words and could communicate to all people who see it. The viewer could either instantly comprehend or take a few moments before the photo's meaning sinks in. Then there are images that would baffle the mind and instead tap into the viewer's feelings. Their mood. The vibe. Their imagination. Such is the approach taken by Shauang Bote whenever she's using her camera.
She's an avid fan of art and works well with numbers (at a government office's auditing department), but her focus on photography is truly intriguing : the eerie, the surreal, the moody, and sometimes downright dark or depressing. Not intentional, she says, but just a product of her creative process. Let's find out more about the story behind the photos of our featured Focus photographer of the month, Sherwin "Shauang" Bote.
Q : You seem to be the type of person who is into different kinds of art. Why the camera, among all things?
S : Fan ako ng mga kung anu-anong art, whether painting, sculpture, poetry, and music. As for me kung bakit camera... kasi, real-time. Nahuhuli agad 'yung moment. 'Di gaya ng painting na would take you hours to finish, sa camera lalo ngayon, instant na. Kita agad.
Q : So how did you start your photography journey?
S : Highschool pa lang, gusto ko na ang photography, kaso wala akong gear. Nanghihiram lang ako ng camera na de-film pa. Noong nagka-work na ako, nakabili ako ng mumurahing digicam. That was 2010, I think. Doon lalo nabuo 'yung kagustuhan ko na maging photographer. Then later on nagkaroon na ako ng maayos na camera, ayun! Full-blast addiction na ang nangyari, hehe!
Q : How would you describe your style?
S : Hindi ko alam kung ano ang style ko sa photography, hindi ko rin sure kung saang genre siya naka-classify. I just shoot what interests me.
Q : Your photos strongly convey mood. Is that intentional on your part or does it just show because of your preferences?
S : I guess it just shows, kasi minsan pag tina-try ko na ayusin 'yung scene to make it moody or eerie, hindi siya nagiging ganun ka-compelling. Kaya I base my photos on how I feel about the place or how I would react kung ako 'yung nasa lugar na 'yun. It has to have that emotional connection between me and the scene.
Q : Kindly name one icon you look up to in each branch of art you’re hooked to.
S : Uy, icons! Sa music that would be Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, aggressive yet emotional. Sa cinema naman it would be Tim Burton, eccentric and complex. In photography, I'm a fan of Alex Webb, how he takes street photos using color, lights, and may mood din.
Q : How do you usually compose your shots? Do you have something specific you find in a scene?
S : Usually 'pag may nakita akong dark alley or kalsada na may isang poste lang na bukas, 'yun 'yung gustong-gusto ko. Mas gumagana imagination ko sa mga ganoong eksena, hehe.
Q : What has been the most unforgettable shoot you’ve had?
S : That would be the Holy Week photomeet of Focus Bulacan back in 2016, sa Kapitangan. 'Yung element ng mga tao, 'yung scenario, 'yung hirap ng theme na film-style, no preview sa LCD at 24 shots lang ang pwede gamitin, plus ang weather that day na sobrang init. Napakahirap. Pero binalikan ulit namin this year, hahaha! Never again?!
Q : And what’s the photo you’re most proud of?
S : I'm most proud of the Masked Girl photo that I took last year. Kasi na-include siya sa isang photo exhibit this year which is really unexpected. I'm so overwhelmed na makasama sa lineup next to de-kalibreng street photographers. 'Di ko akalain 'yun. (Photo is shown above.)
Q : Frustrations or difficulties so far in photography?
S: Difficulty siguro is 'yung time. Minsan kasi nawawalan talaga ng oras na mag-shoot, kahit gusto mo lumabas at mag-photowalk, hindi magawa kasi you have something to attend to, like work, before anything else.
Q : What’s your dream shoot?
S : Dream shoot, hmmm... 'yung tipong eksena sa movie na Silent Hill, haha! Eerie 'yung feeling ng paligid tapos creepy 'yung mga tao, haha! That would be nice.
Q : If you can compare your photography to a rock band, which rock band is it?
S : I think Nirvana. Kinda heavy na a bit grim na medyo fiery na mellow at the same time, hehe.
Q : Okay, this is easier : which song would best sum up your photography story so far?
S : Siguro "Drive" by Incubus. Unang line pa lang, "sometimes I feel the feel of the uncertainty, stinging clear". Takot ako na mag-shoot at ipakita sa iba 'yung photos ko kasi hindi siya kagaya ng sa karamihan. Pero ngayon unti-unti I'm learning to embrace that fear na parang kahit hindi n'yo ma-gets ang photo ko, okay lang basta gusto ko 'to gawin, and thus the line, "lately I'm beginning to find that when I drive myself, my light is found."
Q : What has been the most fun part of being a Focus Bulacan member?
S : Sa akin, 'yung exhibit is the most fun. Kasi we get to showcase our photos for the people to see.. 'yun 'yung venue na nakikita 'yung actual photos, hindi lang sa monitor. Plus doon din nagkakasama-sama ang mga members nang halos buong araw kaya riot sa saya!
Q : A message to Focus Bulacan followers or those who would like to join the group or start in photography.
S : Sa mga photography enthusiasts, keep on shooting and sali kayo sa mga groups such as Focus Bulacan, it can help you a lot, hindi lang madadagdagan ang knowledge n'yo about photography in general but you'll also gain friends in the long run.
Q : Message to fellow Focus members.
S : Sa mga ka-Focus... shoot lang tayo nang shoot. Bigyan natin ng oras 'yung passion natin for photography, after all eto 'yung dahilan bakit nabuo ang group. Sipagan natin para lahat tayo mag-grow bilang photographers and as individuals as well. Salamat, Focus Bulacan! And sa family ko sa support. Shout-out sa mga photowalk buddies.. Jelens, Jing and kuya Awel... and kay Jay Salvador sa mga teachings sa mood and street photography. Salamat.
Shauang's Moody Favorites (click thumbnails to view photos in full)
Shauang won't find it strange if some people don't understand, much less appreciate, her art. It's not her motivation. The most important thing to her - as every artist would innately feel - is that she gets to express her feelings about the scene. And that, in a sense, is art in its purest form.
Every month, we have a feature on our members, our photography idols, and other photography issues we feel deserve a heads-up.