Street photography exhibit puts Filipino talents in the limelight

Street photography exhibit puts Filipino talents in the limelight
Photographer Xyza Cruz Bacani and mentor Rick Rocamora.

Even Filipinos based overseas have taken to street photography, as shown by the exhibit, "Unpredictable… Unscripted," running at the Vargas Museum of University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.

The exhibit is a result of online exchanges between award-winning documentary photographer Rick Rocamora and Filipino photographers here and abroad.

Works featured are by Ateneo Sta. Ines, Jayvee Mataro, Joel Mataro, Rommel Bundalian, Little Wing Luna, Kimpoy del Prado, Ed de Guzman, Gian James Maagad, Elpidio "Loi Lee" Juan, Jojo Pensica, Leonard G. Reyes, David Mar Quinto, Jomel Bartolome, Ben Molina, Arthur Quejadas II, Xyza Cruz Bacani and Rick Rocamora.

Through social media, Rocamora, has been reaching out to promising Filipino photographers-some of them self-taught. He leaves comments on their work, suggests alternative treatments for their photos, and recommend good photographs they could study as models.

The result is a collection of photos of everyday life captured with witty juxtapositions that draw out stories from its otherwise silent subjects. The photos are of mundane moments of city life but are framed into visually striking compositions by very observant eyes.

Rocamora said Filipino street photographers need more venues to showcase their talent to fellow Filipinos and to an international audience. Since 2012, he has been working on setting up an exhibit, keeping tabs on promising photographers and discovering new talents.

More than a photography mentor, Rocamora is regarded by his students as a career coach. He teaches photographers the value of knowing how to interact with their subjects, and how to talk about their work. He imparts nuggets of wisdom as well as the skills and attitudes needed to succeed in photography.

One of the photographers in the show, Xyza Cruz Bacani, is one of Rocamora's most notable online pupils. Bacani is a domestic helper in Hong Kong whose photos have been featured in international news portals.

In hopes of landing her study grants, Rocamora encouraged Bacani to do a project on the Bethune House, a temporary shelter for displaced and distressed domestic helpers in Hong Kong. This work eventually got Bacani in to the Magnum Foundation Scholarship of 2015, an intensive human rights photography programme at the New York University.

"It's a cycle of kindness that we need to continue." Says Bacani. "He's not at all selfish about his knowledge. So when someone sends me a message asking how I do my photographs, I make time and effort to explain, because that's what Manong Rick taught me-that what ever I have, I must share as well."

Paying it forward

Once a student of photography himself, Rocamora started taking photographs during business trips when he was selling pharmaceuticals. In 1991, he decided to take up photography full-time.

He was mentored by the big names in the field: Kim Komenich, Ed Kashi and Eli Reed.

He even recalls showing his work to Gordon Parks just before quitting his corporate job and was assured that he was "on the right track." Parks told him to continue his craft with passion and he would succeed.

Since then, Rocamora's works have been published in major international publications and have been exhibited in galleries in the US and other countries. He has received awards from the California Arts Council, New California Media, Asian American Journalist Association, and SF Bay Area Press Photographers Association.

"So now, my goal is to be able to share. I want to give back-and I'm glad I'm able to do it here in the Philippines." said Rocamora.

Rocamora hopes the exhibit will have the same effect to our Filipino photographers. The exhibit is meant to recognise street photographers and inspire them to work harder. He said he wants to encourage them and provide the same support that he was given when he was starting out.

The exhibit is running at the third-floor galleries of the Vargas Museum and will be moved to the BenCab Museum in Baguio in April.

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