Tibaldo: The lure of photography yesterday and today

I HAVE always been fascinated with illustrated books or those with printed images and photographs. The framed pictures of family members and those mounted on our family albums reflects interesting memoirs of our past. Though mostly printed in black and whites with stains and molds, I consider these not as a memento or keepsake but a treasure to behold. It may not be valued by others but I know that these are what makes a person’s past reminisced and remembered. My engagement with photography started around my high school days with what we called instamatic cameras with flash cubes that bursts a bulb to illuminate a subject. You are not supposed to touch the bulb right after the exposure because its plastic casing is hot. A graduation ceremony is not complete without that device that snaps and freezes an important facet of our lives.

I acquired my first 35mm camera when I was in college studying in Manila. It was a used Electro 35 Yashica rangefinder camera with a fixed lens which I used for several photography subjects. By around 1989, I finally had my first single-lens-reflect camera, a Canon AV-1 SLR with a standard 50mm lens with a 1.8 maximum aperture. The AV-1 is actually a beginner or amateur’s camera that helped me start my engagement with photography and photojournalism. My first roll was technically a disaster and resulted to no image at all because the film inside did not advance as I snapped all its 36 exposures on my siblings at the Manila Zoo.

I processed my B&W films at night and improvised a darkroom with available curtains that I can get. I bought my chemicals and photo papers at Hidalgo Street in Quiapo and learned to adopt to less expensive non-Kodak brands that are made in China. I truly learned from my mistakes and it was an expensive engagement that I don’t want to call a hobby. As the usual procedure, we contact-print our negatives into an 8x10 print to determine the contrast quality of our thumb sized shots and I managed to build my portfolio composed of several human interest subjects in 8x10 prints.

With my Canon SLR as my only shooting gear, I was able to be hired in 1983 as a News-Photographer at the now-defunct Weekly Highlander News Magazine that had an editorial office at the old Casa Amapola in Baguio City’s bustling Session Road. The news-magazine came out as an alternative to Manila based national papers by anti-Marcos publishers who helped drum-up opposition to the dictatorship and ventilate the national outcry for the death of Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. of that year.

I then became active as a rookie reporter and joined the Baguio Correspondents and Broadcasters Club as an associate member. That started my un-pre-determined career as a journalist and information officer as I was then bent to be a visual artist in the field of painting and sculpture.

Knowing that I am also capable of producing moving images, I attended a several workshops and short courses on filmmaking starting with Cinema-as-Art at the UP Film Center in Diliman, QC, a Cinematography Workshop with MOWELFUND in San Juan, Metro Manila, producing Children’s Film and Short Documentary with the French Embassy and Goethe Institut of the German Cultural Center.

Having covered and photographed Pope John Paul II, the Tarlac-to-Tarmac protest rally on the murder of Sen. "Ninoy" Aquino, Indonesia's literary icon Mochtar Lubis when he was in Baguio in the early 80s and all the seven presidents from Marcos to Duterte, I can can already self-publish an online pictorial portfolio. Now that anyone can access the internet and create a website using free online sites, we now see thousands of uploaded images that time is not enough for one to view them. We see hundreds of quality images everyday taken by non-professional photographers and these are shared in social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Shutterfly, Photobucket and even Google's G+. There are however photo enhancing softwares and applications such as those that corrects the red-eye effect and others like Photoshop that can be used to eliminate unwanted elements in a picture like freckles or wrinkles.
Photography and videography has become an employment generating industry and in order to be competitive especially in the field of fashion and glamour pictorial and even in wedding or event coverages, the photographers must be acquainted with the latest in photo and video editing programs such as Adobe's Lightroom and Premiere.

Whatever technology today has added to camera features, I still maintain what I believe that nothing beats hard work in all the things that we do. I may no longer be carrying tripods and electronic flash as before and now consider my smart-phone as my new tool in photography, I am still on the lookout for that decisive moment when to shoot, where to shoot and what angle to shoot from.
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