Clients usually like a controlled environment, thus a studio setup is the go-to scenario.
I need not elaborate on what harsh conditions can be brought about by an outdoor shoot with unpredictable weather. But, it is in my vision as an artist to have cities as my backdrops.
KM43 is a slow fashion label focused on gaining appreciation for local weaves and textiles around the Philippines.
One of the things I love about working with home-grown brands is that there is great room for flexible creativity. Much things can be done with a small and efficient team. When I met Kana Manglapus of KM43, it was early in the morning in the streets of Poblacion, Makati. I quickly agreed to do the shoot because it was something no other fashion brand has approached me for before.
So when Kana approached me, I immediately said “Let’s do it!” I don’t think I even let her finish her explanation because I already sympathized with her vision.
I was beyond happy for her when this brand hit the circuits of The Hollywood Reporter and WWD. I’m sharing these photos because I find her style so sincere and I hope that her brand goes a long way up!
Makeup by: Sydney Helmsley
Photos by: RitzMarie Creative Studio
I am not one to choose for myself to be in crowded places. However, I thought Japan is a pretty safe place to be in a crowd. So, I expanded my comfort zone and attended the summer festival in Osaka called, the Tenjin Matsuri.
Tenjin Matsuri is the festival of the Tenmangu Shrine and honors its principle deity Sugawara Michizane, the deity of scholarship. The festival begins by ceremonially inviting the deity out of the shrine and parading him through the city, carrying out various exuberant festivities to entertain him, before taking him back to the shrine. For the people, the lively festivities manifest in a wonderful occasion to enjoy the hot summer day, filled with traditional costumes, spectacular processions and a celebratory atmosphere.
In my short two-week stay there, I have not seen the streets so crowded (but with utmost discipline). What drew me out, really were the yukatas! I just had to see more of them and with each turn, there was a new pattern that stared right back at me.
My non-lingual communication skills and photography was really put into test here because I know only a few Japanese words and most of them belonged in a restaurant’s menu. I love “uni” (sea urchin), “sushi” (duh!), “tamago” (egg), “mochi” (just search it, specially with the fresh frozen fruits inside!). I digress, anyway the Japanese and I used body language and pointing towards the camera and smiling and I got the shots I didn’t even know I would capture.
The funniest thing I got from my non-English shoot was that in one of the groups, I took a photo of the girls with their yukatas, then the boys they were with who were wearing regular shirts turned to me and said, “What about me?” I laughed and took their photo.
And so the story goes…
Photography by Ritz Marie
Captured in Osaka, Japan
It is a building filled with art and creators! Need I say more!?
Ok, fine,,, because there is an urge to do so. Let me preface this discussion in describing the experience akin to the journey Alice went through in a rabbit hole.
Each corner in the space was like entering a creative sanctuary.
As happenstance would have it, I found myself in this trip with Hannah Locsin who’s working her way through through the profession of modeling. We met at an event in Paris and hit it off. But, we may have really bonded when we shared the realities of our living conditions, that was a laughing matter.
Was refreshing to go through Wonderland with another wonderer while wandering.
There is much discomfort in a journey such as ours, but what I have come to learn is to enjoy the moment while respecting the process of growing pains.
Ang sakit eh – rumamdam at umusbong. Grabe.
To make the journey even more dynamic, we stepped into another artist’s corner who was inspired by her beauty.
He even drew her to life.
Then we continued to explore, with all eyes wide open – except for the two of our own.
It came to be an exercise in empathy, personally speaking.
So after shooting with a disposable camera around Osaka, I decided to bring out my grandfather’s antique Canon AE-1 camera. I actually saw one displayed in the Canon showroom there before I decided to use it, the unit is much older than I am. Thankfully, I got some help figuring out the necessary technicalities from staff Yodobashi Umeda, a store I frequented during my stay.
After using the disposable camera, I remembered why film is great. However, after using it in fully manual mode with my grandfather’s camera, I remembered why film is love.
In as much as I adore my digitally captured photographs, there is something inexplicable when shooting with film. This exercise taught me to savor moments more, to be still when it’s dark and to have patience.
Though I’ve had the camera for ages, it was the first time I ever used it. I could almost hear it shout, “Use me!” in Japan. I’m glad I did. I used quite a lot of film on the Osaka skyline.
Also practiced capturing defining moments in street photography. Must say, takes a lot of patience. I would just stand still in one spot until there is an urge to press that shutter.
Streets are usually very chaotic but as I walked down these streets, it was actually very peaceful. I could almost feel my mind reorganize itself with more structured thoughts than just rely on what I feel – thanks Japan! Balance is key.
In relation to my previous post, I mentioned that personally, to travel is to experience light in different destinations. While shooting fully manual, I was more sensitive to the light that presented itself in various instances.
Personally, I realized the magic in the medium of photography when I researched on the etymology of the word. It was in 1839 that the term was coined by Sir John Herschel.
“Photography” was created from the Greek roots φωτός (phōtos), genitive of φῶς (phōs), “light” and γραφή (graphé) “representation by means of lines” or “drawing”, together meaning “drawing with light”.
Putting the technicality of the medium into consideration, it’s pretty amazing how this form came to be. I mean, if you really think about it photography does the following:
It freezes a particular moment in time.
Time stands still with the light captured.
Those captured moments brings back memories.
Remembering distinct memories brings you back in time.
Essentially, it allows you to time travel!
I have no mathematical formula for this, but it sure would be interesting to converse with one who does.
Point being: photography may be the only activity that allows one to capture light and still time in a form sensible to actual reality.
I have had fond memories as a child in InterContinental Manila, it has been torn down since. However, those cherished memories seemed to have had a rebirth during my stay in Osaka. I honestly felt like a very independent five-year old human.
Without knowing the language, I was able to ask people to be part of my photographs. I surprised myself because the only Japanese term I know related to photography is “bokeh” and that does not come in very useful when asking someone for a photograph. I surprised myself, I guess it’s the courage of my inner child.
I really admire seeing them wear their traditional garments, with the contrast of the modern environment – it’s a refreshing sight.
I am very grateful to Japan for being the safe place where I was able to bring out the child in me once again.
People travel for many different reasons. Personally speaking, I travel to experience light in different destinations. I mean that literally and figuratively speaking. The former has more to do with how the earth moves while the latter is more focused on the brightness that comes from within each being.
The interplay between the sun and the light in our souls is a topic that has consumed my thoughts lately.
Doing what I do, being a photographer, capturing light is my livelihood. Though only when necessary do I use strobes, the studio, or other artificial sources of light.
The way light fell over Japan highly was highly interesting and shooting with a disposable camera, meaning there were no manual functions was an old experience I enjoyed remembering.
When I started taking photos at a very young age, I did it to remember – to still a memory. My very first tool was a green Canon Advantix (it was a short-lived kind of film) point and shoot camera. Being an automated camera, I gave little thought to the technicalities, all I would ask myself was, “flash or no flash?” But because a roll of film is limited to 36 shots (maximum), I would save those frames for when the moment presented itself.
Walking around Osaka with a fixed amount of shots (after shooting digital for so long) was a challenge. So before every press of the shutter, I would ask myself, “Is this moment worth keeping?”
Real talk now, I think the year was 2016, October: I highly contemplated about quitting being a photographer. Work came to a place of stagnation, in my mind. I started working as a photographer 2006 and thought to myself, I’ve given ten years to this craft and I was still not satisfied where I found myself. I thought about selling my equipment and everything I had related to my current profession. In the process, I debated with myself. Eventually, I arrived at the realization that I was doing what I was doing half-heartedly because I let the negative perception of others affect my craft.
Choosing to pursue an artistic path is like walking through quicksand. In a career where vulnerability is a commodity, many times, it felt like the earth has swallowed me whole. However, I lived.
It took me two months to process my thoughts and feelings about my situation. On December 2016, I came to the conclusion that I needed to pursue this purpose further and most importantly, wholeheartedly. I muted the naysayers in my head and just kept doing what I love and capitalized on my talent. Many whom I held with high regard questioned the path I chose and their opinions of me were the harshest and hardest to shut off. Though in the process, I saw that they were deflecting their many unsettled desires and unaccomplished dreams towards me and tried to convince me that what they wanted was what I wanted. It was a twisted process that was hard to untangle, but completely human.
While in Japan, I experienced zen. It’s a philosophy I studied in university, but to actually see it in action within their society was the real treat. Because it was no longer just a theory in my head, but a practical practice in life.
Finally, I felt guilt-free to live strongly and actually pursue the devotions in this life that brought me joy.
When I finally embraced who I am and accepted what I desired, I felt like a child with fresh eyes.
The love I have for music could bring me to my knees. So, when the chance revealed itself, I became highly interested in the opportunity. Unique and I are of a different generation, so before I met him, I was pretty unfamiliar.
My friends brought us together for the purpose of exploring our creativity. Then, something sparked.
The creative spark was insane.
When we work together, there is a trinity. A trinity of respect, trust and creativity to begin with.
We respected each others’ talents and gained trust in each other to soar creatively.
Most of you who are likely to read this probably know more about the drama that happened around Unique in social media. But let me share with you an insight: Tita Coco (his “Ma”) can so easily be painted as a villain because of her strong ways. One time, I pointed this out to them after Tita Coco said something I would not usually hear. It was really funny! I hope this society of “DRAMANILA” eventually subsides. Tao lang po lahat tayo. I can go on a rampage about all the drama that happens in Manila, but let’s not go there.
Back to Unique. Where was I?
It is my composing belief that life is made out of trinities.
Witnessing the forces that work around, through and over me leaves me in a stupefied state sometimes. Everything that I have witnessed in my life lead me to undeniably believe that THERE IS A GOD. We all have our own processes and connect the dots differently. So, once again – respect nalang.
There is just some force, that orchestrates some things that no matter what obstacle is set your way, the destination is inevitable.
In the middle of a highly energized narration of my life during a conversation, a respected cardiologist (Dr. A), once told me,
“What you are doing is creating.”
I thought, “Yeah! Exactly!”
Then as I listened, he continued to say,,, “And creation is the activity of the gods.”
I was super M I N D B L O W N , you hear me!?
Grabe eh, as I write this listening to Unique, this line suddenly comes out of my speaker: “Sa labas man, o simbahan, kayang-kaya pag silbihan,,,” SO META!!! I just learned that term now, “meta.”
I can gush over his talent, but give his album a listen and create your own judgement. GRANDMA (link opens to Spotify) is his first album. He is talented differently and I admire how he has embraced what he can do at such an early age – but with an old soul.
Kwento ko lang, dahil sa kanya, I discovered the magic in the music of The Beatles. Fan boy rin kasi yan! Haha… Lahat tayo may tinitingalang mga tao, but remember to look beyond the person and deeper into the inspiration of the matter.
This series is about the recovering heart of a mother. Someone who has been through more pain than you care to imagine.
People would always describe her as someone who had a “big heart.” Little did we know that her heart was really enlarged – literally speaking. Consequently, she suffered a massive stroke.
Witnessing her example, I believe that matters of the heart can weigh so heavily on the body. It can either lift us or kill us.
They say that when you close your fist, it represents your heart. Maybe because it is our heart that fights for the person we are and the people we love.
One of the many lessons I learned is that we need to be careful of whose hearts we align ourselves with during battle.
The allies of our heart greatly define the person we are.
Choose allies who have been through the darkest nights but greet each day with a smile.
Allies who will light your light when your sparkle is weak.
Befriend the sun and the moon. Make peace with darkness and light.
1:33 a.m., as I write this in the dark, I contemplate the light that brought me through a pitch black time in my life.
I remember, writing a letter – I’ll share with you later.
It’s about the beauty of a heartache and how it can withstand storms the world has not seen.
1:39 a.m., listening to the song Litrato by Callalily.
Dearest Glorious Heartaches,
To expect a perfect and unbroken heart is absurd. Everyone has already been broken. The difference lies with how one handles the painful experience – either with grace or madness. But be mindful, because seeming grace may be catastrophic while outright madness could be logical.
No matter how many storms a heart has weathered, trust that there will be more. However, no storm is alike. Just as the way raindrops fall so uniquely every time it pours, every tear you shed is different from the tears you have shed and will shed. But know that the clouds that once carried an outpour of love will not come again in the same way, shape and form. Love sometimes comes as light drizzles, rain showers and typhoons with thunderstorms. It can be crazy electric and cause a flooding of emotions. However, love that guises themselves in clouds will always leave with the wind.
Aim for a love that does not disguise itself as anything other than what it truly is, because even if there may be no perfect and unbroken heart in this world, one must keep themselves hopeful that there is a real love which is pure and steadfast. After cloudy love leaves, do not be angry. Instead, be thankful for it allows you to see again the brilliance of the sun and the growth of yourself.
Every heartache gloriously serves its purpose, just as the gift of rain helps plants grow towards the sky. Wear your broken pieces as badges of honor, for you risked to love even if you know it could break you.
Subjects: Mama, Marie, Pepito & Hannah
Photography: Ritz Marie
With special thanks to music.