This son of Hagonoy got smitten with photography after trying a friend's camera. It was, in his words, "love at first few clicks". He made the commitment shortly after and since then, he and photography have been inseparable. He's a professional shooter on weekends, covering events and doing corporate work, while responsibly sustaining his long tenure at the Bureau of Immigration on weekdays. He has also been a photography instructor for 8 years, instilling in his students (aptly known as RASters) the mantra "Read, Aim, Shoot".
Gilbert Macapagal, the Master RASter and the artist behind GSM Photographs, is our featured photographer of the month. Welcome to his story.
How did you fall in love with photography?
G : During college days, tanda ko mayroon akong Kodak Digicam that time at mahilig na ako mag-take ng pictures of anything around me. But it was 2009 when I first held a DSLR, a Nikon D3000. Pinahiram ng isang friend para may magamit ako sa isang out-of-the-country travel. Doon bumalik 'yung enthusiasm ko sa photography. I was surprised of the features ng isang DSLR that time and I can’t get my hand off of it. The day after I returned to Manila, I bought my own D3100. It feels like I can do something good with it. It was love at first few clicks!
In a way, your Focus story is different. Many join Focus during their newbie days in photography, or when they’re looking for that first camera club. In your case, you were already a so-called “veteran” and also had previous experience in leading a photographer’s group. What made you decide to join Focus Bulacan?
G : When I was still starting, I will go anywhere, anytime, may kasama man o wala, basta may subject na gusto kong i-shoot. But masarap din 'yung may mga kasama with the same passion, along the way may mga matututunan talaga. I was attracted to the liveliness of the Focus Bulacan group which I believe is the most important factor to consider in choosing a photo club. 'Yun kasi ang napakahirap i-maintain and how are you going to encourage the members to regularly participate. Indeed, Focus Bulacan is always and very active.
How do you balance your work as government employee and professional photographer?
G : Most of the time, I am a government employee during weekdays while I can use weekends for photography activities. But when I was assigned as the official photographer of our office, I enjoyed the best of both worlds.
You’re also a photography instructor. What is the most rewarding aspect in teaching the craft?
G : The moment I compare the photos of a participant before joining the workshop and the photos after joining and realizing how much improvement they have done. Shoutout sa mga RASters!
What’s the most memorable photography experience you’ve had?
G : During a wedding coverage, I was aiming for a composition, in a very awkward body posture, while sitting in a chair near the aisle to cover the emotions of the couple. Then the chair broke and suddenly all attention was on me. Another one is when I wanted to take a photo of a very large group from a bird’s eye view perspective. During that time, madalang at mahal pa masyado ang pa-cover ng drone. What I did was I asked the organizer to park the service bus strategically and maglagay ng foldable aluminum ladder on top of it then doon ako nag-shoot sa taas ng ladder. I was quite nervous, lalo na kapag I'm telling the driver to move the bus for different angles.
Do you have an ultimate favourite photo? What’s the story behind it?
G : No particular one, but I have many favorite photos because of the story and experience behind the photos. In every event or place na mapupuntahan ko, mayroon akong one to two favorite photos.
What field do you still want to improve on?
G : Fashion, kasi I think this is the last genre on my list. Hindi ko alam, feel ko lang maybe.
What remains in your photography bucket list?
G: Travel shoots in Italy and Holy Land. Then to cover the famous festivals of our country. And to become the official photographer of a Philippine President.
What tip could you give those who are starting out in photography? And also a tip for those who are planning to make it a profession.
G : Take the opportunity while you are still young at wala pa masyadong responsibilities. Kapag nandyan na kasi 'yung family and work duties, possible makaapekto talaga sa photography journey ninyo. And for those na gustong gawin itong profession, either part-time or full-time, just go for it! Iba 'yung enjoyment kapag nagagawa mo na 'yung passion mo at the same time nakaka-support pa ito sa financial needs. But invest in developing your skills first before the gear to build a strong foundation. One more thing, quality over quantity. I’d rather have one shoot in one month pero with quality compared to one shoot per day na for the sake of shooting it lang.
In your own words, how would you define photography?
G : There are already many definitions out there but for me photography is sharing what is within you and your experiences, to others by means of visual artistry.
What's your message to Focus followers and fellow members?
G : Thank you for this opportunity. How I wish lagi akong nakakasama at nakaka-participate sa mga activities. Keep on shooting, keep that fire in you burning. Kudos to the officers and founders. You are doing great!
Gilbert's Other Favorites (Click thumbnails to view photos in full)
On his Focus application form, Gilbert wrote down that he aspires to "provide soul to every photo he takes" and "give new meaning to the ordinary." Judging from his photos and the passion that he has shown his students, clients, and colleague, we couldn't agree more.
Here's wishing he gets the Presidential gig someday and lends us his time for another interview when it happens.
Every month, we have a feature on our members, our photography idols, and other photography issues we feel deserve a heads-up.