(Second of a Series)

By Naff Beltran

The pandemic continues to change the way we live and it is not going anytime soon.  Like everyone else, photographers have to adapt to the new normal.

We have spoken to four photographers and the common theme is resiliency. Slowly, businesses will open up again – there will be more weddings and we will take photographs once more.

They are encouraging those who have the zest in capturing life’s important moments through the lens to keep honing their photography skills. Keep on practicing and take photos even while in isolation.

Have you been taking photos of your loved ones? Your photos today will eventually become part of your family history. The visual narrative from our photos during the pandemic is everything that we will remember when this is all over.

The shared experience of a pandemic has made the world a more connected space. With your camera, you can see the pandemic from a different lens, what is left are captured moments bereft of noise and distortion.

We will continue the conversation with photographers, in the hope that by bringing their thoughts in their voice, it will give every photographer a reason to stay focused on the future and to stay in love with photography.

As a community, we can only be stronger if we are together.

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G-NIE ARAMBULO Advertising Photographer/Adphoto Photographer     

“The pandemic has changed our workflow. A ‘new normal’ has made it different from the way we used to execute things. We have to make our own and must follow the necessary health protocols set by the government for our protection. It also limits our working hours. When the pandemic will be over, the first thing that I wanted to do is travel and fly. I want to shoot Aerial photography. To young and would-be photographers, my advice is to hone your skills; practice and learn more. If not for this COVID-19, I could have shot the ‘old’ – what we used to do on our daily lives. Things have changed and anyone can be a photographer these days. But despite the challenges, you have to be different and unique.”

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Advertising shots by G-nie Arambulo

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Manny Librodo Travel/Fashion Photographer; Award-winning lensman; international photography workshop instructor

“The pandemic does have an impact in the sense that I couldn’t go out there and just shoot as much as I would like to.  My workshops were also canceled.  However, I look at this as an opportunity to retouch and/or re-retouch my photos.  Somehow, the good thing about this pandemic is that it allowed me to assess my photography journey – what have I done in the past and where I am heading to. When all this will be over, I want go back to the Philippines (I am stuck in Bangkok since February) and shoot in my home province, Iloilo.  I realize that I have been going around the world like crazy that I forgot shooting about my beautiful home province.  That includes the people of my ‘home,’ most especially Nanay. It’s always my plan to photograph her but was always hesitant because she can be a difficult subject.  There you go, I always come up with excuses. I ‘must’ do it whenever I get the chance after this pandemic and when I go back home to Iloilo. My advice to young photographers: In Thai, they have this word ingrained in their culture ‘sabai-sabai,’ which means ‘take it easy.’ Yes, just take it easy guys.  Sometimes when you are moving too fast, you stumble hard that you won’t be able to get up. At the end of the day, a photographer is judged by that one photo that people will always remember. It’s not on the quantity but the quality. What actually made me weary as a photographer is when I put too much on my plate.  Just put in enough that you can chew.  And enjoy the journey. Seeing beyond COVID-19 crisis, I think we have a bright future in photography ahead of us.  Everyone is getting better and better.  Competition is getting stiffer.  Whether we like it or not, we do ‘compare’ our works with others.  And by doing so, we try to improve our craft.  This pandemic has given us some time to look at other people’s work. And we got inspired.  We are to go out there bursting with new ideas.  There’s going be a world full of beautiful memories immortalized in beautiful pictures.”

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Travel and fashion photos by Manny Librodo

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EDWIN MARTINEZ Nature Photographer; Canon Crusader of Light; Photography Instructor, Wide Horizon Photo Adventure

“My industry which is photo tourism has been greatly affected by this pandemic. It has totally shut down the industry. I lost all 15 scheduled tours for 2021 but was able to do four tours prior to the lockdowns in Canada, Norway, and Iceland last January and February. After this pandemic, I will probably go to Bukidnon first and try to shoot landscapes and wildlife there. Doing this will ensure that local tourism is supported before I resume my international tours. I have always wanted to photograph the Philippine eagle and the mountains of Bukidnon. For young and budding photographers, this is the best time to enhance your skills on other genre and improve your current skill set. Try to look for new avenues of earning like designing, food and product photography which are in demand now for online selling. The pandemic is a breather and should be used productively. If not for this pandemic, I probably wished that our Patagonia tour last April pushed through. I always wanted to go back there and see the Mount Fitz Roy again. Photography will bounce back after COVID-19 crisis, the economy in general will grow steadily back to its previous state and photography is a needed service for any business for collaterals, media campaigns, etc. I am confident it will flourish again after this.”

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Images of Nature by Edwin Martinez

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VEEJAY VILLAFRANCA Documentary Photographer

“For us in the field of photojournalism and visual reporting, this is a time when we are called to perform our duty. But since this virus poses real and undetermined threats of being infected or infecting someone, our movement is very limited. There are still some assignments coming from foreign news agencies and publications but there are difficulties in access, logistics, and also exposure. So, even if there is work to be done, one would think twice if it is really worth the risk. I was also on the last phase of my long-term documentary project on religious and spiritual practices in the Philippines when the pandemic happened. I’m quite eager to push on and wrap up that body of work which hopefully will be my second book. I think the whole industry, young and old, is weary and is anxious on what is in store for everyone. I have been in touch with emerging photographers from around the world since the lockdown and one thing that I have consistently mentioned is that they should keep pursuing work and use the current situation as an anchor for their work. They can create a body of work that visualizes the pandemic, they can create fictional work, still life, among others. There are no boundaries, so keep producing work within their reach and capabilities. One shoot that I wish I could have done before the pandemic is my project about doctors from the barrio. I’ve always been interested in health workers and how they reach vulnerable communities. After this pandemic, I think we are heading to more introspective and self-produced work. Given that this crisis doesn’t go away totally, publications and agencies will rely on local talents to produce work for them. So local talents need to continuously innovate and be visually engaging.”

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Documentary photographs by Veejay Villafranca

(Naff Beltran is a humorist, photographer, and writer in The Writing Cooperative. Connect with him on @Medium and photoworldmanila.com.)

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