Life is complicated, no matter how quotes about life would like to paint it. Time is of the essence and setting priorities is a must. No matter what we do, we have to give up something in order to gain something. It doesn't mean, however, that we can't balance things that matter to us. Our featured Focus photographer of the month Bobby Jo is a prime example. Juggling roles as a Honda motorbike mechanic, a doting father to his kids, a beer-loving friend, and a passionate photographer, Bobby has learned the art of allocating his precious time to his priorities.
As a photographer, he has also found a niche : street portraiture. Shooting in the dynamic world of street photography, he observes the commotion but focuses his sight on interesting faces and subjects. It's the way he lives : understanding the chaos and living beyond it. His photography has naturally followed suit. Let's find out more about Bobby through a simple ask-and-answer session.
Q : You’re a mechanic by profession, fixing motorbikes. Aside from being a creative outlet, what made you decide to pursue photography?
B : We are a family of creatives. My grandfather's hobby was photography, as well as my uncle George Mesina who was my first mentor. At first hindi ko na-notice na may skills din pala ako taking picture. Using phone camera, pitik lang nang pitik hanggang may nagkakagusto na sa mga shots ko. Sabi nga ng uncle George ko, bumili na ako ng camera. My first DSLR camera nga pala was a Nikon D3100. Hahaha, actually dapat Canon, kaso kulang pera ko.. so nang babalikan ko na siya..wala na. Well, it's a different story na…at doon na ako na pursige sa photography nang makahawak na ako ng DSLR. Lalo na nang nakapasok ako sa ibang photography club, syempre lalo na sa Focus Bulacan.
Q : Which photography genre got you hooked? And what’s your favorite?
B : I like street photography very much and portraiture too! At first I thought that taking a picture of street scenes is just simple, without meaning, so I was like na.. pitikan mo na agad. Nagbago pananaw ko noong mag-talk about street photography si Sir Omeng (Rommel Bundalian, Fujifilm X-photographer) noong second anniversary exhibit ng Focus Bulacan. Doon ko siya mas naintindihan. Pero ngayon, mas gusto ko pang matutunan ang street portraiture. I really love taking photos of old people's faces.
Q : How do you feel when you get recognized for winning or making it as finalist in photo contests?
B : Feeling excited and very proud sa sarili. And very thankful sa mga taong tumutulong sa akin. To be the best is my goal. Pero minsan, nanghihinaan din ako ng loob, kasi sa totoo lang madaming magagaling na photographer. Kaya everytime na sasali ako sa mga photo contest I make it sure na I'll shoot it differently to be noticed.
Q : Do you have a specific photo that you are most proud of?
B : That was when I was in Porac, Pampanga. I took a picture of a wife and her husband na mabubulag na dahil sa complication sa liver. After I took that picture then I was told about their story and kung sino sila, I found out that 'yung lalake ay dating NPA and he was the chief of their community. For some reason naisip ko na what a coincidence na 'yung kinuhanan ko pala ng picture ay may nakaraan at may meaning kung bakit ko sila nahanap.
Q : What’s your photography style? Can you describe your signature look?
B : Gusto ko 'yung mga kuha ni Steve McCurry at ni Andrzej Dragan. Gustong-gusto ko 'yung Dragan effect. Kung makikilala man lang ako bilang photographer gusto ko 'yung sa mga portraiture na parang Dragan style.
Q : What has been the most challenging aspect of photography?
B : Since I love taking pictures sa streets, well it is very challenging na minsan ayaw magpa-picture 'yung mga tao na gusto ko kuhanan. Nagagalit sila and parang nagdududa na bakit ko sila pi-picture-an at bakit doon sa lugar pa nila. Not all of them though but still very challenging especially kapag nakita ko na this is very interesting to take pero sometimes ayaw nila.
Q : Personally, what do you still want to achieve with your photography?
B : Mastering light and the proper exposure that I want on my subject. Especially kapag portrait. Alam naman natin na 'pag mukha ng tao ang kukunan kailangan maganda ang details na 'yung parang there's a meaning behind that picture and behind that face. Parang may drama.
Q : Who are some photographers you look up to and why?
B : Aside from my uncle and grandfather, those will be Joey Ramos and Jeremy Sandel. Joey is known to be the best photographer by showing it, always na champion sa mga contests. And hindi madamot magbigay ng mga tips how to be a better photographer especially sa mga newbies na sumasali sa contest. Jeremy is very enthusiastic especially to his fellow member photographers to improve their skills and showcasing the works of other photographers to the public. They motivate me since they are the best photographers I know.
Q : How do you manage your time and still give effort to photography aside from your work and family life?
B : I know I'm spending my time at work but still if you want something you'll find a way na magawa pa rin 'yung mga bagay na gusto ko. Parang 'yung kasabihan na 'pag gusto may paraan at 'pag ayaw maraming dahilan. Pero I'll make it sure na everytime na magkaroon naman ako ng time na extra after work and family, nagfo-focus naman ako sa photography.
Q : What's your most unforgettable experience related to photography?
B : 'Yung kabibili lang ng Nikon D3100 ko, nang bigla akong sinama ng uncle George ko para maging second shooter sa birthday ng anak ni Ms. Dawn Zulueta, the actress. Sa Manila Polo Club. First time ko ma-experience 'yun at makita siya pati si Gabby Concepcion. Mahirap din pala tsaka nakakapagod. At syempre 'yung awarding ng Larawang Bulakenyo photo contest sa Robinsons Place Malolos.
Q : Do you have plans of someday being a full-time photographer?
B : For now I don’t think na I want to be a full-time photographer kasi I know na marami pa akong kailangan matutunan but if ever na makilala at mabigyan or makuha ako sa mga project then that’s the time na maybe I'll think about being a full-time photographer.
Q : What do you still want to learn in photography?
B : Post-processing I guess kasi marami akong nakikita na magagaling mag-take ng photo pero mas lalo pang gumaganda 'pag magaling din ang photo manipulation.
Q : What's your message to fellow Focus members?
B : We do have a lot of responsibilities in life but still hindi kailangan maging hadlang 'yung mga gusto nating gawin, especially sa mga bagong pasok sa Focus. 'Yung passion natin, like me I'm a mechanic, but still I have time to do what I love. And we know there's a lot of challenges we face in our lives but still without a doubt, we need to face those challenges. Think positive and love your passion. And thank you sa mga kaibigan ko sa Focus. Naging malaking tulong kayo kung ano man ang narating ko ngayon sa mundo ng photography. God bless us all!
Q : Advice to those who want to excel in photography.
B : Just do it. Meron tayong iba't-ibang panlasa pero ang importante we have our own style and originality. Be yourself.
Bobby's Favorite Portraits (click thumbnails to view photos in full)
Every month, we have a feature on our members, our photography idols, and other photography issues we feel deserve a heads-up.