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.