A civil servant for more than two decades before venturing into a variety of businesses, he pursued photography back in 2014 to allow him a better work-life balance, not to mention the chance to unlock another field of creative excellence. Picture this : just a month after getting his first camera, he joined a top-level national photography competition and cracked the Top 10 of the contest. Months later he was adjudged as the Rookie of the Year in the said photo tilt, the PhotoWorld Cup, an annual competition among camera clubs organized by the Federation of Philippine Photographers Foundation (FPPF). The next year, he won the much-coveted Photographer Of The Year honor. Along the way and over the years, he has amassed plaques, prizes, and acclaim for his contest-winning photos, foremost of which is the "Ani ng Dangal" award from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) of the Philippines, a recognition given by the government to Filipinos who reaped top honors in international events. The awards keep piling up, but he's not stopping anytime soon. Photography has given him fame, friends, and even fortune. Yet his mantra is not just about winning, but also of giving back. He's very active in outreach projects of clubs and groups he's affiliated with. He also seeks out opportunities for other talented photographers to shine and make their marks. Fellow shooters often come to him for tips and he's always eager to share. All because of a positive mindset and a winning attitude.
Jose "Joey" Ramos II is the featured Focus photographer of the month.
You seem to be a man of many talents and pursuits. How and when exactly did photography enter your aspirations?
J : I have been in government service for almost two decades and it was so stressful in my field of work. So I decided to find something to neutralize the toxic world of politics so as to enjoy the other side of my life, and along came photography.
Before the camera, what was your creative outlet?
J : I loved to draw and paint, mostly charcoal and watercolor. I also did creative writing. I have two unpublished books of poetry, “Fragments of my Reflections” and “Untitled”. Many of my poems were published in national magazines before. Lost the steam and decided to stop composing by writing my final obra, “The Day My Pen Died”.
In what ways is photography similar to other passions you enjoy? On the other hand, what’s unique about it?
J : I would say the common denominator of my passions were the compositions. In creative writing, you grab the words floating in your imagination to finally create a moving sentence or stanza. The same is true with photography, you arrange the subjects and compose them in such a way that it would be pleasant to the eyes and at the same time tickle your viewer’s imagination. However, photography is more challenging because your playground is the world itself, life itself. Literally, in creative writing, you can easily create scenarios out of mere imagination without leaving the comfort of your home. Ironic to photography, because you are dealing with live subjects and outside environment. Passion is fulfilled mostly through adventurous travels and escapades.
Tell us about your first winning moment in photography.
J : I bought my first entry-level DSLR in January 2014. Entered the Photo World Cup 2014 contest the next month and my entry made it to the Top 10 beating out veteran photographers!
Who did you look up to for inspiration?
J : It was when I saw Chow Yun-Fat, the actor and director, holding his photography exhibit that inspired me that even at my age, it is possible for me to learn new crafts.
What do you think are traits that a successful photographer should possess?
J : You should have the 4 P’s. Passion. You should have the passion to shoot and create great photos, without it, you will shoot just because you want to be called a photographer. If you have passion, you will experience joy in every shot you make because you love what you are doing. Next is patience. There are no shortcuts in creating great photos. You must plan your every shot, compose it and “picture” it in your mind. You don’t shoot a sunset and just arrive at the scene 15 minutes before the sun sets. Third, playfulness. Creativity starts with a playful mind. You should be able to produce photos that would make viewers say, “Naisip niya 'yun?". Lastly, perfectionism. Do not settle for “pwede na”. If you want to capture amazing photos, you should check every single detail. The composition, the colors, sharpness, the use of light, distracting backgrounds, and other technical necessities. And don’t forget to shoot a “security shot”.
Okay, we will understand if you’ve lost count, but let’s try. How many trophies and plaques have you won?
J : In my six years in photography, I have won more than seventy awards here and abroad; thirty of which are plaques and trophies; others were certificates and small prizes and tokens.
Do you have a top favorite? And why that one?
J : Of course, my first award would be my top favorite considering I was just a month old in the world of photography. It was the Photo World Cup 2014, theme was "Emotion" which landed 10th Place overall. That shot started it all! (Photo shown above)
What has been your most memorable shoot so far?
J : My most memorable shoot was when I happened to pass by Tumana Bridge in Marikina where I saw a group of carabaos bathing in the river. I decided to shoot the scene so I came back the following day and waited till the farmer came with his carabaos. I did some top shots with kids playing and those shots made it to Top 1 in Photo World Cup 2015 "Rural Life" theme and First Place in 4383 Days of Childhood International Photo Contest in Russia where I received my dream NCCA Ani ng Dangal Award last February 2019. (Photo shown below)
What remains to be your dream photography destination?
J : Maybe Arya Stark has gotten into my nerves so my dream destination is to to go to Croatia and shoot those great structures of history and jaw-dropping sceneries!
One sure-fire tip to do better in photo contests?
J : Be different. Photography is like business, the greater the risk, the better the profit. Shoot like no one has ever dared to try. Think like no one dares to think. Risky, as others may consider it unorthodox, but sometimes being different is an edge. Why? Because in photo contests, there are always judges, and those judges choose the winners, and everyone, including those judges must see your pictures different making them utter, “Naisip niya 'yun?”. Remember, other photographers are great too in terms of technical excellence but the only difference the judge might look into is the concept being different!
Related to your success, how do you handle or deal with skeptics or haters?
J : Ignore. Haters often see you as a threat or they want to be like you but they couldn’t so they become jealous. Haters fuel me up to strive more and excel more so that they hate me more. Hating me more causes stress and may result to heart problems; which eventually may lead to death in the near future. Hehe.
Is there a photography genre you’d like to explore or shoot more?
J : I am not good in landscape photography, probably because I don’t have the proper equipment needed. But in order for me to shoot the Seven Kingdoms, learning this genre is definitely a must!
Ten years from now, how do you see Joey Ramos?
J : I would be in my late-fifties then. I am sure like other senior citizens, I would spend my time traveling with my family other than having my monthly laboratory check-up, maintenance and church services!
Advice for those starting out in photography.
J : Do not lose your passion to shoot. Always bring your camera with you. I never left home without my camera on the trunk or back seat. Make your camera a necessity, not just a want. Sooner than you think, it will be part of your system. You will know when to pull the trigger or not without even thinking about it!
Joey's other winners (Click thumbnails to view photos in full)
Message to Focus followers and fellow members.
J : To my Focus family, you have adopted me when I was just starting in photography way back 2015. Your enthusiasm and camaraderie brought me closer to the land full of history. Focus Bulacan is full of talented photographers; unsung talented photographers. So that was the main reason why I invited Focus to join the Federation of Philippine Photographers Foundation, Inc. Bulacan is full of history; so it is but proper that Bulacan’s premiere camera club also makes its own mark in history of Philippine photography. That is why I am happy that I became an instrument to achieve Focus Bulacan's status in the national level. That the best of Bulacan photographers can compete and also excel with the Philippines' best! Again, as I am always saying, do not lose your passion to shoot great photos. Always be an empty cup. Even if you already know something, do not argue, just listen, and nurture the ideas whether old or new. You will never learn new things if your cup is already full. You have conquered Bulacan with your great talents, now is the time to conquer the Philippines, then the world! That way, you will become an inspiration to new photographers, that if Bulacan has created many heroes in our national history, Focus Bulacan can also create heroes in the world of photography!
In photography, Joey found a new way of experiencing life. Of witnessing and appreciating the world. Of looking at the bright spots and the beautiful side. Of seeing the positives instead of the negatives, then highlighting them onto wonderful images for others to see. Maybe the gods and the powers that be favor those with good intentions... or maybe Joey is riding on an unbelievable lucky streak. Whatever the case, the awards don't lie : he is a winner. And there is wisdom in his words that we can surely use in our ways.
Every month, we have a feature on our members, our photography idols, and other photography issues we feel deserve a heads-up.