In between the innumerable compelling images he has produced is a solid list of accolades : representing Fotomasino and finishing as runner-up in the Junior PhotoWorld Cup, endorser and reviewer of various photography brands, facilitator of Creative Vision Clinic workshops, content writer for Fstoppers, and current ambassador for Asus and Meco Filters. All these while successfully pursuing a medical career : he's a full-fledged doctor.
His credentials are extensive, but if you ask most of the people who have crossed paths with him, they'll likely tell the moments when he gave a helping hand. Whether it was about photography, health problems, personal matters, or social issues and advocacy, "Doc" has always been willing to listen and do his best to help. His impact is not just about the wonderful photos he captured or the expertise he has gained and shared through the years, but also about how the photography industry is more collaborative because of his support and initiatives.
Recently, due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has adversely affected everyone including the photography community, he organized a series of online photography-related tutorials for anyone who wants to learn amidst the community quarantine. A month and over 3,000 group members later, "Workshops From Home" has provided valuable lessons and invaluable inspiration and stress relief for viewers... exactly the reason why he started the campaign.
We're proud to feature Dr. Nicco Valenzuela as Focus photographer of the month.
How did you get started on your photography path?
N : As early as the age of six, I was encouraged to learn music. I joined a boys’ choir at that age and still hold the record for being the youngest to ever join. For over 15 years of my life, I sang with that choir, competed abroad, and also dove into other forms of music as an instrumentalist. Throughout that path, I always followed my brother. In my teen years, I yearned for my own identity and that’s where I found photography.
How would you describe your photographic style?
N : I wouldn’t call it my own personal style. I’ve made it a point to learn the works of many photographers I look up to and adapt to what a certain shot or a certain vision requires. If there’s anything consistent among all my photos, it’s that I put a bit of myself, my personality, my mood, my emotions into the photograph.
What do you think makes a good photo stand out from the average?
N : A good photo simply provokes. It provokes emotions may they be good or not. It conveys either a story or a mood. That is simply what makes a viewer stay a bit longer when they come across a good photograph.
What inspires you?
N : Self-expression. Most of my photos, especially those I put online, are chosen whenever there is something I want to say or express. Of course, not counting the commissioned work. As previously mentioned, photography has become my voice and I use it to say things that most people won’t normally listen to in a plain conversation or text.
Whose work has influenced you most?
N : For most of my life in photography, I haven’t really been looking at a lot of international photographers until recently but for landscape photography, Elia Locardi is probably one I often refer to. For architecture and urban abstracts, there is Dirk Bakker, and Daniel Cheong for Cityscapes. Though I particularly pay more homage to personal mentors Jay Jallorina for Landscape Photography, and John Chua for the use of photography for social change.
You've produced an amazing collection of work. Which photo is your ultimate favorite?
N : Not trying to be a buzzkill but I have none. My love for my photos come and go as inspiration strikes.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
N : At this current situation, I hope to see myself alive first and foremost. And hopefully I would have built a family. As for photography, I only really hope to make my voice louder.
What’s your most memorable photography experience?
N : It would definitely have to be a trip to Banaue I went on in 2015. We were there for an advocacy project with Photography With a Difference founder, the late advertising photography legend, John K. Chua. I had only started on my path in landscape photography then and though we had quite a load of work to do, John made sure that we had a few minutes to see the wonderful terraces of the Ifugao. None of those times were planned golden hour shoots but every single location gave me divine light. It was an affirmation that I should pursue this path.
Where is your dream photo destination? What’s your dream project?
N : I would always say that I want to go back to Banaue and the neighboring towns. I dream to create a series that totally captures the beauty of the region. The landscapes, the people, and the beautiful culture of the Ifugao.
If you knew then what you know now, you would…?
N : I would have definitely taken more time to learn before going on so many trips. Most of the regrets of my life are stored in a hard drive. They are all f**ked up shots that could have been so much better if only I didn’t rush my learning.
You could only choose one. Between being a doctor and a photographer, which motivates you more?
N : A photographer. Easily. Even when I shoot for clients, I never feel that it is work because I fully enjoy my creative process. Photography feeds my soul so much better. Especially considering the situation of COVID-19 and our faulty healthcare system, it’s really difficult to love our job as doctors. But I won’t give up this profession either. Because people need doctors and I still love people.
You’ve been involved in a lot of advocacy groups and made photography as an instrument to inspire and help others. How does it feel to make a difference through the craft that you love?
N : Hungry. It makes me hungry to do more. I believe that every social issue and every social conflict can be driven into resolution by a powerful photograph. There is definitely more we can do and so much more to be done.
People are pulling together and supporting others during this COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve seen it in the photography industry. You organized the Workshops From Home series and obviously it’s been a tremendous help for a lot of fellow creatives. Tell us how it got started.
N : It struck me hard when I found out how many photographers have lost so many projects due to this crisis. I knew for a fact that a lot of them are bound to be hit by anxiety and depression. The two mental health issues are no strangers to me and I felt that I needed to help prevent that by simply pulling people together.
What has been the biggest joy for you in seeing how Workshops From Home has worked out so far?
N : When people tell me how much relief the sessions give them. Them learning from all the speakers are an absolute given since the generous speakers are masters of thier craft. But when they tell me that Workshops From Home has lessened the amount of time they’ve spent worrying, panicking, being sad or feeling alone, I know that the effort has been worth it.
We wonder what’s next, after the community quarantine, do you have plans of extending Workshops From Home?
N : It’s still a decision we’re closely studying. But we are leaning towards maintaining the group as a welcoming community wherein people can join, learn, and be inspired by notable photographers, regardless of brand, location, or social class.
More of Nicco's photos (click thumbnails to view photos in full)
What’s your message to your fellow Focus Bulacan members and Focus followers, including those who would love to get on track in photography?
N : You’re never gonna be the best because that state doesn’t exist in this. What you should aim for is to be better than yourself the previous day. Never stop learning, never stop shooting, but also keep your feet on the ground.
What advice would you like to shoutout to the public in general, in terms of battling this pandemic?
N : The real frontline is the one where your door is. We can never truly defeat this virus if we are always selfish and disobey the quarantine rules. Frontliners are risking their lives to heal the sick, and your most vital role is to stay healthy and not be the one that spreads the virus. Stay the f*** home.
What gives you hope for the future?
N : Little victories. Look for one everyday. It may be the increase in the number of COVID recoveries, it could be a win on your mobile phone game, or a fulfilling productive endeavor like editing old photos or reading a book. Find and do something meaningful everyday.
Photographs remain a universal language and one of the most effective ways to communicate. May the stories they tell lead us to better understanding of other people and of life in general. It is in this light that we can affirm that photography is a powerful tool for social change. Photographers wield influence and have the ability to impact the world. Nicco is prime example that in good hands and with sincere intentions, that power could translate into positive gains and help those in need.
It is especially in these times that we need to support each other and, even when apart, heal together. In our own ways, we could contribute to making the situation more manageable. One day at a time. One step at a time. One victory at a time. Toward a collective effort that would make us better humans.
Just what the good doctor prescribed.
Every month, we have a feature on our members, our photography idols, and other photography issues we feel deserve a heads-up.