Her Name Is Chiqui

This project has been on idle for quite some time. It took me months to gather up enough courage and have these photos developed. They’re all of my grandmother, Chiqui, or to me known as Tata. She’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (man, does it sting to say that) a couple of years ago. Doctors’ best bet was that it derived from the depression she went through caused by my grandfather’s death in 2011. Regardless of its origin, the disease is here.. its eaten her up.. not completely but the change has been, well, drastic.

Everyone who knows Chiqui, knows that she adores her grandchildren. Adore is an understatement actually. She’s everyone’s number one fan. I cannot begin to describe to you how much we love her – how much I love her. Plus, she cooks hella good! Don’t get me started on her Mechado!

Yet no matter how much I love her, it pains me to talk about her as I see her deteriorating. One time, she almost didn’t recognize me. It happened a couple of weeks ago, I think. She had to take a second look at me before she greeted me good morning. It felt like a Samurai shoved his Katana through my chest and dragged it towards my stomach. My heart dropped at the sight of her blank gaze and empty stare. I froze as an uneasy numbness spread throughout my body. “How? Why me?” was all I could ask myself.

I love photographing her. Before I hold my camera up to take the shot, she always says, “Isabel! Stop it! I don’t have eyebrows on!” yet would proceed to pose, smile at the camera, then laugh at what just happened. One day I decided I wanted to document her, capture more portraits of her. Real ones with the idea to ask her this question after each and every portrait session, “Tata, is this the first time I took a photo of you?”. The answers have been inconsistent as expected. I’ve shot photos of her before especially when I just began film photography and so there would be times when she would remember those days or she just wouldn’t. “We did this before na, diba?”, “No, just today.” “You never had a photo shoot with me before!! Stop saying you did!”. Those were some of many answers.  And yes, Alzheimer’s comes with a whirlwind of emotions – Tata being angry is one of them because she never really was the type to act out of rage.

I miss how she used to be but I seem to love her more now. She continues to attain wholeness even with the loss of her memory. This is all part of her journey. All part of her life.

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Chiqui has been collecting crosses ever since I could remember. She now has a whole wall dedicated to it.
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This was her cat Rusty. She’s had pets all her life. She’s had rabbits, cats, dogs, goats, a pig, a turkey, a chicken…. did I miss anything?

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One of Chiqui’s I-don’t-want-to-pose-for-you-but-let-me-smile-for-you moments.

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Here, Chiqui sits on the couch in her late husband’s den. She has her breakfast here at 8AM everyday while watching the news and Kris Aquino’s morning show before heading out to have a short walk around the block.

I can’t lie, it’s been killing me seeing what the disease is doing to her. But what can you do except be there for her right? I wonder if she even remembers she has it. I doubt it.

Mamiya 645 | Neopan 100 + Protra 400 (turned BW)

 

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Project You | Ervin

A start of new beginnings this post is. Since I can remember, I’ve been dying to do some sort of project that would have the essence of the subject in my art. I think I’ve found the solution.

I decided to interview a few people I know (I’ll be starting off with this scheme) and ask very personal questions. Some of which tackle sensitive topics that may or may not get them very emotional. Each interview is accompanied by a photoshoot which aims to reflect on what the interviewee and I talked about. My first subject: Ervin. We talk about his weight problem and how it affects his views towards what he believes as an artist.

Iza: How does it feel when people tell you you’re too thin?
Ervin: My confidence vanishes. By them saying that, I feel like all the things I do on a daily basis are wrong – my lifestyle, my thoughts, my feelings, everything. You know there’s that saying “you are what you eat?” When people tell me I’m too skinny, I end up overthinking. It’s like unconsciously, the physical value you have for yourself slowly disintegrates! And by the time you notice, it’s too late. I grew up with this thought inculcated in my head when you’re too thin you aren’t attractive

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I: Does it make you feel broken?
E: Sometimes. there came a point in my life where one day I really noticed that my appearance was awful and that being thin was awful. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror, not even with clothes on. I just couldn’t bare to look at myself, i was ashamed. Right that next day, everyone around me – or at least everyone personally close to me – voiced out their opinions about my weight – or the lack there of – during breakfast. All I could hear was “You’re so thin, Ervin! You should really eat more!” And out of nowhere I just cried. I silently cried whilst eating breakfast. I knew they were somehow just trying to care for me and I knew it was coming from an honest and genuine place. I don’t blame them for saying those things.

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I: Have you ever gotten to a point where you were just like “fuck this, i don’t care what any of you say”?

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E: Inspiration drove me to think that way. Seeing works of artists and other photographer wherein they highlight the human body
regardless of the form, specifically, androgynous models. I’d think to myself, “if they can make a thin body work, why can’t I?”
It’s been the root of inspiration for me when it comes to weight issues. I ave also seen fashion as an advantage for me
because I get to wear anything I want and it looks good on.

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I: Would you say you’re in a comfortable state with yourself?

E: No.

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I: Why? what made you say that?
E: A friend of mine once told me a few months back, “Ervin, you should really try to gain some weight. Men don’t look good skinny. Only girls do.” I was hurt. Very hurt. I may be gay but it doesn’t change the fact that my appearance is of a male.

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I: What were the specific emotions you felt towards what your friend said?
E: Maybe on a universal standard in regards to weight, I wouldn’t even mind. It is what it is I guess?

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I: Hmm.. But don’t you think there shouldn’t be a standard?
E: In the concept of the majority, I would think it is correct: that there is a standard ‘look’ that is more fitting for women and not for men. But I am not one to say really. I must admit, I am not strong-willed. It’s is not all the time that i get to stick or follow the things I believe in. There are times when I feel I know better than what society makes us out to believe. At other times, I submit to what the majority tells me is supposed to be.

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I: Could you say that maybe you haven’t found yourself yet? Your essence as an individual?
E: No. No, not at all. the fact that i continue to have lapses due to the idea of my weight problem, just means I haven’t found myself yet. I’m not comfortable with myself, so to speak. I may not care about what other people say today but that doesn’t mean i won’t get hurt tomorrow. I have not found myself at a point where i have permanently turned my back on the weight comments.

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I: Let’s try to change things up a bit. As an artist, what are you trying to share with the world? How do you want to influence people? Are you trying to make a statement? Does your art have a specific purpose?
E: My mission is to show people that even if there may be a mistake in something, there is beauty in it. It’s own unique beauty. I don’t try to seek perfection in everything. I shoot what I wanna shoot, who I want to shoot. It doesn’t matter if they are model material or not there is beauty in all.

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I: Do you have a purpose as an individual, as just Ervin?
E: I just want to make things right. I want to do good and show good. I’m not saying that I’m perfect because we all have our flaws but I do want to be able to show people that there really is good in everything. I try to practice that mindset everyday.

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I: Ervin, what are you hopeful for?
E: I guess… I am hopeful for the truth. I am hopeful for my vision to be seen as others as not just art of a photo but something they can apply into their lives.

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I: Would you say that it’s hard for you to stand out among other artists?
E: Maybe in this day and age it’s a little harder since the field of art I’m in is easily accessible these days. But I know who I am, I know my art. I know I can stand out from what everybody else is doing. I’m very forgetful though. I know it’s out of context but i wish it was something that was different about me. Maybe I would be a better artist if remembered more. But then again, it might just be a challenge The Lord gave me to beat.

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I: What if your forgetfulness is your strength and you just don’t see it yet?
E: Possible. I’ve given that a lot of thought especially after I watched Finding Dory. I’d say to myself, “Hey, maybe being forgetful isn’t really a boundary. It’s my way of finding myself.” I see a lot of myself in her.

I: I can’t help but think that maybe your forgetfulness is a result of a lack of something in you. A lack of happiness perhaps? You mentioned earlier that you haven’t found yourself yet or your place in this world. Do you find yourself in a trance at times?
E: At times, yes. But I feel like I just really need to build myself up, you know? Maybe after then would I have a perfect memory. We don’t know. But I really feel like finding myself is the answer to it all.

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I hope you all enjoyed that post. A little lengthy, I know, but doing this project feels right and I hope you appreciate its content and the artists featured. Stay tuned to this project as I’ll be interviewing a new artist every month.

 

P.S.

To Ervin… There is nothing more satisfying as an artist than being able to share your thoughts with one another. Thank you for opening up your soul to me. I know it was very hard to do but thank you for trusting me still. You are an amazing artist. May your creative mind live on to create wonderful photos to be shared with the world and beyond. Your ideas astound me. I believe so much in you.

 

 

My Drive. My Inspiration.

Don’t be fooled. It’s not as easy as it looks.

I’ve posted enough photos on the internet to provide answers (or even just to jot down my learnings and observations) for readers who probably wonder what drives me to shoot. So I figured I’d write something up for ya’ll.

Nature – For long time readers, there is no doubt that most of my photos are almost always nature-centered (is that even a word?). It’s the smallest details that make the biggest impression on me: the different shades of green in the trees, the 5PM sunlight hitting the high grass atop a hill, the gentle motion the waves make. You know where I’m getting at.

Light – Yes, light. As a photographer, my best friend is the sun (also, sunscreen). I need to know its every move. I like to observe how it shines down on things uniquely each day. The contrast light creates with shadows can give you so many ideas.

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Walking – I’ve always liked the feeling of just walking from one destination to another whether intentional or not. It gives me this sense of freedom. It also allows me to practice my creative vision and observe the streets, people, and light (photography is all about light and I can’t stress this enough). It’s a good practice to evaluate your eyes and its creativity to mentally capture shots you think are worth photographing.

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The Goal – You can’t want to excel in something and not have an end goal in mind. No matter how long it takes, as long as you’re moving means you are closer to your goal. Don’t let that dream fade away, people!

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Photos taken with my Olympus OM-1 and a YKL 100. Processed  by Sunny16 Lab.

 

My Boyfriend – Okay, I know what you’re thinking, what a mushy post *closes tab*. Hear me out though. He’s been the one person who never doubted my ability to photograph. The one person who pushed me when even I decided to give up on my dream to become a photographer and there really are no words to thank him for what he’s done for me. Besides that, he’s got this exquisite mind. He hopes to be a director one day and his inspirations inspire me as well! His creativity bleeds onto me, the way mine bleeds onto him. I guess we complement each other that way.

There are so many more things that inspire me and my photography, but these are the five main ones that really push me to create and experiment with my art everyday even when I’m in hopeless rut!

What drives you to shoot?

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Think Green

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I always find myself holding photo sessions amidst the woods or some place taken over by nature. In a previous post, I mentioned how nature has this calming effect over me – as if an affinity for it is present in me and I don’t find this hard to believe. The greens give a “I’ve got my shit together, thank you very much” sense to my photos and, yes, I take it as a compliment. I’ll stop babbling here. Toodles.

A Shot In The Dark

Photography never came to me as a calling. It simply was a hobby done due to its availability at the time I gave it a go. Never in a million years did I imagine it to turn out the way it has in my life today. Of course, after giving it much thought, practice, and time, today is a far cry from where I truly want to be.

It was a big risk what I did and I don’t believe regret has ever fallen upon me because of the decision I made. I do wish I could’ve realized it sooner.

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To all those who ever believed, to all those who ever trusted, to all those who still remember, thank you. It wasn’t an easy decision, it still isn’t, but you help me get by.

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You give me hope. You give me a reason to live. You give me guidance. I thank you all.

Photos taken with my Olympus OM-1 with a Kodak Portra 400

Accept To Progress

This egocentric world has taken over our outlook in life. We only consider our individual thoughts and actions correct; what everything else thinks, says, or does is wrong, unless we approve of it. And how fucked up have we become?

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Why can’t we just accept each other for who we are and what we continue to become? Why are we all so afraid to understand? To fall in love with new things? What is stopping us from loving each other? Where is all the hate coming from?

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How can we allow this fire continue to slowly burn this urge to break free from the shackles this society has kept us in? How do we break free? Am I doing this alone? Is there anyone else with me? If and when we do get out, are we all free for the right purpose?

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Photos taken with my Olympus OM-1 and developed by Sunny16 Lab.