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.
Every month, we have a feature on our members, our photography idols, and other photography issues we feel deserve a heads-up.