Eight years ago, I held my first photo exhibit of Metro Manila in Makati. Though the exhibit ran for a month, it did not open new opportunities for me.
Still, I was grateful for the whole experience and decided to continue learning and practicing photography. While working on assignments for Tulay or other publications, I would sometimes take photos that were not part of my assignment to further hone my skills.
Aside from photojournalism, I also served as a volunteer photographer at the Every Nation Church in Bonifacio Global City. During my free time, I do street photography in various parts of the metro or outside the city.
All this practice paid off: my photos have since appeared in various websites and publications such as Mabuhay, Citiguide, coconuts.co, Appetite and Experience Travel and Living. I, however, limited the public display of my work to my Facebook and Instagram pages.
A friend then prompted me to do another exhibit, and referred me to Prism Gallery in Makati that accepted works from new artists. But I was unsure if I was ready for another exhibit and ended up referring another friend to apply instead.
My friend’s work was accepted by the gallery and I was invited to the opening. I showed the owner of the gallery, Joanna “Gold” Tantoco, some of my photos on my smartphone. Impressed, she offered me a solo photo exhibit.
Again, I was hesitant and asked for some time to think it over. After a few months of consulting with friends, I finally decided to do another photo exhibit.
Originally, the theme was going to be the “Disappearing Manila.” I felt that I had accumulated enough photos of landmarks and places in Manila that had been demolished. Tantoco advised me to be careful of pictures with people in it when selecting photos for the exhibit. There are reasons for such caution. One is that there might be a need to get the consent of the people in the photos. Another is that local buyers do not usually buy a photo if there are images of people they do not know.
As I searched through my computer drives, I decided to stick to exploring the beauty of Metro Manila. Yes, it would be the same theme as my first exhibit, but I felt I am now more capable of capturing those fleeting moments that give Manila its uniqueness as a city. I felt that my skill as a photographer had grown. Also, I now have better equipment. I hoped that after viewing my exhibit, people will take away a bit of the love that I feel for Metro Manila.
As for the photos selected for the exhibit, some of them feature landmarks and sites that are very familiar to most residents of Metro Manila such as Manila Bay, the Filipino Chinese Friendship Arch and the Welcome Rotunda.
What makes them different from photos by other photographers is the condition under which I took them such as during sunset or early evening. Other photos focus on random street scenes, such as lumpia wrapper makers in Paco market and sign makers on Rizal Avenue.
While planning my exhibit, I pondered how to make it different. A comment from a friend after my last exhibit led me to try experimenting with how a photo is printed.
Since my first exhibit eight years ago, I found photo labs that can print on surfaces other than paper. The technology now exists to print on canvas, ceramic tiles, metal plates, acrylic and even wood.
I discovered that the look and the mood of a photo would change depending on what type of material it was printed on. It was a thrill to discover how the look of the photos come alive when printed on the right material.
Another decision I made was not to have the photos framed. They would be simply stuck to the wall with a kind of putty called “Sticky Tack” and arranged in an artful manner.
But to make the display more interesting, some of them would be accented by a carved wooden frame, with no backing or glass front so they can simply be placed over the photos.
I went to a training school in Escuela Talyer in Intramuros to have the frames carved. The school is a joint project of the Spanish and Philippine governments, training out of school youths in traditional skills such as woodworking and stone carving that are in danger of disappearing.
For this project exhibit, I collaborated with their wood working department to create the carved wooden frames. By inviting the school to be part of his exhibit, I hope to help raise the public profile of the school.
I came up with the title of my second exhibit when I was trying to emphasize a point to my brother and he uttered the phrase “Exhibit A.” As cheesy as it sounded, it occurred to me that it made for an interesting title.
After sharing my idea with Tantoco, she thought it was a name that fit perfectly with the image of the gallery. Thus, “Exhibit A” became the title for the exhibit.
The biggest difference between my two exhibits is the amount of paperwork. Prism Gallery required all the photos to be properly cataloged. So, I had to list down all the details that related to the photos, such as the year they were taken and the type of material it was printed on. Not only that, we now have to issue certificates of authenticity. So there is a lot of work prior to the opening of the exhibit.
Even with two exhibits, I am not exactly sure where my journey in photography will take me. But as long as I can, I will continue to document my life’s journey through my pen and my camera.
“Exhibit A” will run from Nov. 10-24 at Prism Gallery Island Tower Condominium, 239 Salcedo cor. Benavidez Sts., Legaspi Village, Makati City. (Tel. 886-3947)