Tag Archives: photography

New finds and old favorites

14 Aug

Have any of your favorite eateries ever closed down?

A number of mine already have in recent years, and I realized how old I’m getting instrumental they have been to my dietary and social needs.

I remember many merienda sessions and night-outs with college friends inMaginhawa Street. Among our most frequented chow spots were Combi, which specializes in rice toppings, and the Persian diner Alfahkr’s (if your pronunciation sounds obscene, then congratulations, you’ve pronounced it right). Both of them closed in 2011.

Backtrack to an earlier period in my life. As a child and pre-teen, I loved spending afternoons after school at the Yum Yum Tree, what was once (huhu past tense) this cozy little café in Rustans Harrison Plaza, a stone’s throw away from where Mama used to work.

At YYT, my awkward, pimply prepubescent self developed a love for milkshakes and chicken cordon bleu. That was where I swapped stories with my parents in between bites of clubhouse sandwiches and the house burger. But all that was no more when Shopwise replaced Rustans inHarrisonPlaza.

Last Sunday, Mama and I grabbed a bite at Benny’s, a bistro with Filipino roots sprinkled with Italian sensibilities. It now stands where the Rustans Makati branch of YYT used to be. Most of their menu choices are local fare, but they do have a deli section for cold cuts and an open counter for customized pasta.

The attending waiter Arnel struck up a conversation with Mama and mentioned that he used to work for Yum Yum Tree. He had recognized her as one of the many employees who whiled their lunch breaks and merienda hours in the café.

While a sudden wave of nostalgia made me miss YYT, I happily indulged in Benny’s culinary offerings.

Clockwise from the empty plate and utensils: Bam-I, Benny’s Panini, Chico Shake

We had Bam-I (sautéed sotanghon and canton noodles with meat, seafood and vegetables) and Benny’s Panini (turkey ham, prosciutto, emmenthal, cheddar and garlic-herbed cheese drizzled with cranberry dressing on wholewheat bread). For my drink, I had theirChico(Sapodilla) Shake, a sweet, earthy fruit drink with a nutty aftertaste.

That day’s outfit had a touch of the sentimental in it. I paired a white straw hat from an elementary school costume with black shorts and a ribbony-printed chiffon blouse (P65) from an ukay-ukay. My favorite black closed wedges with golden stitched curlicues are by Gibi.

I am really loving hats right now, and I hope to collect more of them in the coming months. Look out for the next outfit post, where I’ll blog about the fun in donning a straw hat to school (schizo weather and curious stares notwithstanding).

Cheers!

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Cubao by night

10 Aug

Amid the onslaught of inclement weather this past week came a ray of good news. PinoyExchange had an online promo for Snow Patrol concert tickets, and I was among the winners.

So last August 9, Raine and I trooped to the Big Dome and sang-swayed-swooned along to songs that had been part of our lives for the past ten years.

Post-concert happy child.

Post-concert Energizer bunneh.

The afternoon before the show, I played Fallen Empires tracks on shuffle to incubate the concert mood. The sound of Snow Patrol has grown through the years, with their latest album as an epitome of a fresh musical frontier for the band. It was this spirit — a rockish vibe melding the edgy and the sentimental — I tried to channel for that night’s outfit.


Derpina fez.

The brown jacket (P200) is from a (now closed :’(( ukay in Makati. The grey tank top, khaki mini skirt and blue-brown ribbon are gifts. Almost three years ago, I bought the cassette tape necklace for P100 at the UP Fair.

I’m crazy about the footwear: a pair of Nike Lab G Series motocross booties (originally P1200, eventually sold for P600) snagged at the Sagada Ukay-Ukay in Quezon Avenue.

The concert wrapped up around 10 p.m. Raine and I spent the next hour shooting at a lamppost-lined lane a few blocks from the Araneta Coliseum. It was raining by then, so we had to shelve plans of exploring the Cubao X night scene — hopefully not for long though. Until then, I’ll be looking forward to the next Cubao detour…and maybe, just maybe, another shot at free tickets sometime somewhere.

Photos by Raine Calucag and me.

To Have, to Hold, to Record: The Aesthetics of Wedding Videography*

27 Mar

Weddings around the world are celebrated as milestones not only for the couple and their families, but also as veritable cultural, social and religious occasions that necessitate documentation. In the days before written communication came to be, people relied on word-of-mouth to hear accounts of such gatherings.

Giovanni Arnolfini and His Bride (The Arnolfini Marriage) by Jan Van Eyck

As centuries wore on and human civilizations advanced, art styles like portraiture were employed to commemorate the union of two individuals. Such commissions, however, had a long production time, taking anywhere from three months to two years before completion (Weiss 1-2).

With the advent of photography, studio portraits became the rage for newlyweds. Advancements in technology, however, have made it possible to photograph couples not only in a studio, but right during the ceremony itself. Recent years have seen an upgrade of wedding coverage from on-site photography to on-site videography.

In the early days of wedding videography, the bride and groom were fortunate if either of them had a relative with a video camera or camcorder. The latter was then given the task of documenting the wedding, from the preparations to the ceremony proper and the reception. As might be expected from someone with little or no training in videography, however, the quality of such footage was erratic.

When events planning firms started offering videography into their wedding packages, the final outputs were mere footages of the whole event. There was little non-linear editing, and only sound effects and text labels broke the monotony. At this point in the history of the medium, wedding videos could only be obtained from the videographer days or weeks after the event.

The advent of modern wedding videography revolutionized events coverage the world over. Besides the standard whole-event footage, couples now have the option to avail of their own prenuptial (commonly referred to as “prenup”) and/or same-day edit video. Each video takes anywhere from five to ten minutes, as agreed upon by the videographer and his clients.

Hong Kong, China --- Couple have wedding photos taken in Starbucks on Duddell Street, Central, Hong Kong. Image by © Catherine Karnow/Corbis.

The prenup video is shot weeks or months before the wedding, and may feature only the couple or members of their immediate family. Same-day edits, meanwhile, refer to audio-visual presentations of the wedding (including the preparations and the early part of the reception) which the videographer will edit on-the-spot and present before the reception draws to a close.

For Bill Gaff (Merfeld n.p.) of Human Story Films, recent revamps in the practice of wedding videography have the best of both worlds, with “the intimacy of documentary style plus the poetry of the cinematic style”.

Chris Watson of Watson Videography considers these developments “more revolution than evolution” (Merfeld n.p.), likening their effect on the classic documentary style of videography to the effect of photojournalism on “straight” photography.

Despite these new formats in videography, practitioners still swear by certain motifs to complete the wedding video. Filipino videographer Jason Magbanua shared in an interview: “The conventions I really watch out for would be the priceless, unrepeatable moments – the groom’s reaction as the bride approaches, enters the church and approaches the aisle. Of course, the entrance of the bride herself, the reaction of the parents, of the people around her – these are the unrepeatable things that I want to be caught on film.”

WEDDING VIDEOGRAPHY AS ART

For the first level of analysis, let us explore the concepts, constructs and components that abound in the perceptions and practices of wedding videography to determine whether or not it may be construed as art. To do this, we will first review – and subsequently juxtapose wedding videography with – three broad definitions or facets of art as summated by Barry Hartley Slater (n.p.): art as representation, expression and form.

 

Representation

This view of art, promoted by Plato and adapted onto the late 18th century, emphasized the mimetic relationship between art and nature. This connoted that artistic outputs – be it poetry, song, movement, or visual art – were “artificial” and contrived, worthy to be deemed aesthetic only if they draw attention away from their contrivedness by effectively mimicking what exists “naturally” in nature.

Wedding videos, be they prenuptial or ceremony coverage, are at most only five to ten minutes long. To extend the total running time of the output would be to go against the premise of modern wedding videography, which is to zero in on minute details to show and not tell the bigger picture of the ceremony.

Close up of elegant high heeled shoes. Image by © Kyle Monk/Blend Images/Corbis.

Thus, the videos rely heavily on figurative shots. These include the couple sharing a laugh while holding hands, close-ups of the wedding rings, the groom’s shoes and intricate features of the bride’s gown, tightly edited montages of guests, situationers of the church and the reception venue.

By focusing only on fragments of the pre-wedding and actual wedding footage for the final cut, videographers showcase important elements of the couple’s relationship and marriage rites through deliberate visual synecdoche.

 Expression

Not all of Plato’s contemporaries, however, agreed with the representation theory of art. The Aristotelian viewpoint supposes a cathartic aspect to the production of art. With his imagination and tools at hand, the artisan is able to stretch his artistic wingspan as a means to self-expression and, to some extent, self-actualization.

In the case of wedding videography, however, it is not so much the videographer who undergoes catharsis, but his subjects – the couple who commissioned the coverage. For prenup wedding videos, the bride and the groom “perform” as lovers before the camera – looking lovingly into each other’s eyes, locking one another in a tight embrace, sharing a tender kiss, etc.

Bride & Groom. Image by © Fiona Conrad/Corbis.

Such performances may be either or a combination of the following: their natural gestures of affection towards one another, or the result of a conscious effort to mimic (here we see representation at work once more) what two people in love should  look like, as suggested or dictated by what they have seen from books, movies and daily interaction with other people.

It is perhaps the emotional fulfillment and anticipation of immersing themselves into the reel and real role of being each other’s lifetime partner that provide catharsis for the bride and groom.

The second aspect of wedding videography as an expressive art is the role of audience response. Magbanua, who has been in the events coverage business for twelve years, is a firm believer in the emotional pull of wedding videos.

He says, “A decade ago, [wedding videography] was all cheese – a throw-away kind of thing that people get just because everybody else got it. It’s different when you’re affected and when you’re part of it – as a friend, a family member, or, you know, the couple itself. And that’s kind of obvious.

“But when people who have nothing to do with the wedding, people who are complete strangers to the couple, people like students in college or high school, get moved by this – you’ve made something special. So I think that defines the thing that I do as art. I make no assumptions, but if art is something that has the capability to touch something inside of a person on a different level, I suppose that is what we’re doing.”

Form

Events coverage, particularly modern wedding videography, borrows many conventions and techniques from filmmaking; this is true not only for its documentary aspect but also for its more creative facets.

Magbanua stressed that besides the poignant footages of the subjects, excellent cinematography is key to a good wedding video.  But while anyone with a gadget capable of video recording can shoot footage of a wedding, not everyone can effectively videograph it.

In his memoir Notes from a Retired Wedding Videographer, CFA Weiss stresses the distinction between an amateur and a professional videographer. He characterized amateurs as non-artists “without the passion and eye for creation”, whose works are “often lame and impotent – thereby more so providing a video record of their own professional inadequacies or mistaken choice of spend-thrift wedding planners than a media-worthy video record of a special event” (3).

Bride and bridegroom smiling cheek to cheek. Image by © Aid/amanaimages/Corbis.

Weiss added that a professional does not just rely on his experience, equipment or knowledge of the craft. Rather, he challenges himself every time by adjusting to the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of each event coverage.

“The actual professional documentary style moves in sync with the happy couple throughout their day, capturing the little details as well as the big picture, and is unafraid of using a little artistic motion (not all shoulder shots) – for in the end, that’s what life is all about: motion,” he said.

 

 AESTHETIC VALUE

Having established wedding videography as art vis-à-vis the three broad definitions of representation, expression and form, let us now look into its aesthetic value for the second level of analysis.

When deciding whether or not to buy into the marketed necessity of wedding videography, soon-to-be-wed couples practice what Monroe Beardsley dubs the “point of view” terminology (121).

This selective association entails breaking free from external considerations (such as budget constraints versus the recommendations of the wedding planner) with the purpose of drawing attention to the set of considerations they wish to prioritize and underline (such as the importance of sticking to the budget versus the compulsion to document the wedding for posterity).

Beardsley (122) expounds thus: “I ask myself what I am doing in adopting a particular point of view, and acting toward an object in a way that is appropriate to that point of view; and, so far as I can see, it consists in searching out a corresponding value in the object, to discover whether any of it is present. Sometimes it is to go farther: to cash in on that value, to realize it, to avail myself of it.”

Portrait of newly wed couple holding balloons at wedding reception. Image by © Matthias Ritzmann/Corbis.

More than presenting additional financial concerns, deciding whether or not to commission a wedding video requires the couple to weigh in on the importance of the latter’s aesthetic and functional gratification.

There is a school of thought in aesthetics that espouses functionalism as the root of aesthetic gratification. This variant is known as the “reduction thesis”, and was made popular in 1941 when Herbert Read posed this philosophical question: “We have produced a chair which is strong and comfortable, but is it a work of art?”

To this, he replied, yes – the chair’s perfect fulfillment of its function as something firm and easy to rest on made it art. “Fitness for function,” Read added, “is the modern definition of the eternal quality we call beauty, and this fitness for function is the inevitable result of an economy directed to use and not to profit (qtd. in Hansson).”

From a functionalist perspective, wedding videos appeal not only to the couple’s fancy, but also serves two particular purposes for two distinct audiences: to preserve the participants’ memories of the event and to acquaint those who were absent with what went on in the ceremony (Cubitt 5).

Couples too will someday be able to share their wedding videos with their children. Furthermore, it will help them remember loved ones who are no longer with them. Matt Pines of Life Video, an Ohio-based events coverage company, recalled the story of a bride whose grandmother passed on shortly after the ceremony.

According to Pines, she was initially hesitant to pay the price of the videography services. After her grandmother’s death, however, she told him “the quality has gone on and the price has been forgotten (“Lasting Memories” 169).”

In the case of wedding videography, we see aesthetic dualism at work as its artful form serves to complement its purpose of encapsulating memories. The function of documenting a milestone in the lives of a couple and the optimal use of film elements like mise-en-scene, editing and cinematography combine to make modern videography more engaging – and, to some extent, more effective in its function – than the simpler, chronologically linear videography style of yesteryears.

Sometime after the ceremony, most videographers upload their works in video sharing sites like Youtube or Vimeo. This online presence also serves different purposes for the different parties involved.

For the videographer, keeping an online repository of finished outputs is an effective marketing tool: it provides potential customers access to his body of work, and is an immediate and accessible feedback platform for what he does, what he has done, and what he still can do.

Wedding party. Image by © Matthias Ritzmann/Corbis.

For the wedded couple, web uploads make for easy sharing with loved ones and friends the world over, especially those who were not present during the actual ceremony.

For the broader online audience, the internet becomes a venue for them to view the intimate moments of strangers, share in their joy, or simply widen their appreciation for and perception of what wedding videography could be.

To conclude, modern wedding videography is both documentary and artistic. This newly invigorated branch of art is unique in that it zeroes in on both the universality and uniqueness of a particular couple’s wedding experience. This marriage of the personal and of the universal bridges instead of divides form and function, combining the best of both worlds to emerge on its own as a distinct and dynamic art form.

Works cited

 Beardsley, Monroe. “The Aesthetic Point of View.” Contextualizing Aesthetics: From Plato to Lyotard. Eds. Gene Blocker and Jennifer Jeffers. Canada: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1999.

Cubitt, Sean. “Videography: The Helical Scan.” Videography: Video Media as Art and Culture. Hong Kong: Macmillan, 1993. Print.

Hansson, Sven Ove. “Aesthetic Functionalism.” Contemporary Aesthetics 3: n. pag. 17 Oct. 2005. Ann Arbor: MPublishing, University of Michigan Library. Print.

“Lasting Memories.” Cincinatti Wedding. Winter 2003: 168-169. Print.

Magbanua, Jason. Personal interview. 23 Mar. 2012.

Merfeld, Elizabeth Avery. “Meet the New Doc.” EventDV: the authority for event videographers 21.1-12 (2008): n.p. Print.

Slater, Barry Hartley. “Aesthetics.” Internet Encylopedia of Philosophy (2003): n. pag. Web. 20 Mar. 2012.

Weiss, C.F.A. Notes of a Retired Wedding Videographer: From Proposal to Reception. Bloomington: Author House, 2006. Print.

###

Disclaimer: T’was submitted as a final requirement for Philosophy 181 (Aesthetics) under Prof. Perseville Mendoza.

A Different Kind of Lens

26 Mar

Last Saturday morning, our J 123 class met in the Inquirer room for the last time. Sir Sabangan was his usual pilyo, amusingly deprecating self  — he was feeling extra generous that day, because he treated us to four boxes of pizza — and spirits were high all around (except, of course, when we watched a horridly graphic video clip). Each of us presented our final requirement, a photo essay on a subject of our choice. Mine was about a day in the life of litseneros in La Loma.

If college were an amusement park, photojournalism class would be a roller coaster. The themes of our required assignments throughout the sem included nudity, Payatas, fraternities, the Oblation Run, sports and the procession of the Nazarene.  Thus far, no other subject has compelled me this much to go places I’d never be, meet people of varied sensibilities, and observe beyond what lay before me.

I came to know the difference between looking and seeing, of taking things as they are and learning how to deal when the output is wanting. I discovered how challenging it was to capture so much in so limited a frame, and how to do without the unnecessary. I got to work on my own accord and in tandem with others. Timidness took a backseat as I learned to assert myself when situations called for it.

I persisted on diskarte and pakikisama, and found out just how effectively a well-timed sob fest can make the impossible happen. I learned to adjust not only camera and image settings, but especially to less than desirable circumstances and personalities.

I’ll miss J 123. But just because I’m not required to cover off-beat assignments anymore, doesn’t mean I’ll miss out on other opportunities to take Sheldon (my camera, lelz) out for exercise.

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Of Prayers and Devotion: A Prelude to the Feast of the Black Nazarene

8 Jan

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The Feast of the Black Nazarene every January 9 is among the most celebrated liturgical feasts for Filipino Catholics. At least one million people from all over the country come together to commemorate the translacion, or the relocation of the original image of the Nazarene from Luneta to the Parish of Saint John the Baptist, more popularly known as the Basilica of the Black Nazarene or Quiapo Church.

Devotees of all ages flock to the image of the suffering Christ to seek the fulfillment of their personal intentions or to express their gratitude for answered prayers.

In an interview with CBCP News, Quiapo Church rector Msgr. Clemente Ignacio views the devotion to the Black Nazarene as a testament to the empathy of Filipinos: “The Filipinos see themselves in the image of the suffering and struggling Black Nazarene.”

“If you will notice the Black Nazarene is a snapshot of Jesus rising again after the fall… we will see there the resilience of the Filipinos, they never lose hope,” he added.

**

Our photojourn prof assigned us to cover the Feast of the Black Nazarene, but a morning class and prior commitments would keep me from joining the throng on Monday. To make up for it, I headed to the Basilica yesterday with my friend Raine, hoping to squeeze in a few shots before sunset.

Because I arrived two days before the main event, I expected to find only a handful of churchgoers, the image of the Christ, and if I were lucky, a photogenic candle or two. But from the time we saw a row of sidewalk vendors flaunting their Poon memorabilia and a parade of about a dozen replicas of the Black Nazarene, it was clear that there was more to be beheld at the premature coverage. It surprised me to see so many young devotees — teenagers, gradeschoolers and even toddlers. There was even a pregnant lady and a cripple in the crowd.

I haven’t joined a religious procession since high school, so yesterday’s foray was a refreshing experience for me. Among the people we met was Ka Ed. He had been boarding the andas or the base of the statue’s carriage since he was 7.

Now 49, he carries on his devotion by pioneering and leading the Anak ng Poon ng Nazareno (ANPON), an organization of volunteer-devotees who provide manpower — think of them as bouncers, if you will — and maintain the peace in the Black Nazarene procession.

Ka Ed

He and an ANPON comrade, Ka Jojo, helped Raine and I find the best angles with the least amount of risk. They advised us to ask the Poon‘s permission as we took photographs of His image. Even under unfavorable conditions, they said, the Nazarene grants the prayers and desires of devotees with the resolve to sacrifice and unwavering faith in Him.

We left Quiapo a little past dusk with muddy shoes, maxed out memory cards and new-found appreciation for the seminal spiritual experience that is the Feast of the Black Nazarene.

Things we look at but don’t always see

8 Dec

 

   

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  Two classmates and I went to Tondo yesterday for our third J 123 (Photojournalism) assignment: covering informal settlers. We’ve had a similar requirement for our first coverage, where we scoured dumpsites in the metro for sights and snapshots.  “Papa-bahuin ko muna kayo sa una niyong shoot,” so said our professor, Dennis Sabangan.

En route back to school after the Tondo shoot, my batch mate Princess observed how the slums where our photos’ subjects live, play and work could be so reminiscent of other similar locations, while always, always having different elements.

Children are my favorite subjects because they make for highly enthusiastic models. The ones we met along the railroad tracks yesterday followed us around, asked for their pictures to be taken, and squealed in unison as they watched the images played back in the camera LCD. It gets a little more complicated with adult subjects; it’s either they turn away when they see the lens, or we get hesitant because we feel like intruders to their person and space.

Our prof would usually stress the importance of eye contact in a photograph. An image becomes all the more powerful when the viewer feels as though the subject were looking directly at them. Which is why I was on the verge of deleting this from my photo set last night:

Why this boy as a subject? I was drawn by his small hands grasping the handlebars, and the way his feet barely touched the pedal. But, oh, his eyes! Quite a waste that he wasn’t looking at the lens then. My finger brushed against the keypad — but before I pressed the delete button, I squinted to see the boy’s background.

A group of uniformed students were crossing the intersection at the same time my subject was mounted on the bike. It was then that I remembered our shoot was on a Tuesday, a school day. My subject was not old enough to fit into his father’s bike, but given a few years, he should and would have  fit into the same crowd of schoolchildren that was quickly making their way past him.

It’s through the eyes that we perceive reality. But it’s scary-amazing how much we could miss even with our eyes wide open.