Google Dennis Rito | Blog: January 2009

20 January 2009

Conversation with DPP

I, including other participating photographers from the Philippines in the Mapping Invisible Cities Project was interviewed last month for a magazine feature. Hereunder is our conversation:

Digital Photographer Philippines: Tell us about your chosen subject for the workshop. Why did you pick it? Why did you think it was important to include in the Mapping Invisible Cities Project?

Dennis Rito: I chose one of the ubiquitous pink overpass along Epifanio delos Santos Avenue (EDSA) as my subject. Because I think, along with the throng of commuters walking on it and the rush hour traffic below, this serves as a visual representation of one's experience and ironies of living in a city particularly in Urban Manila. How I approached this project was a departure from my 'traditional' way of looking at things as I turned my subject into a visual metaphor. Thus, I consider 'Organized Chaos' as my first conceptual work.

Honestly, I don't know what to expect during the first stage of the workshop and neither am I expecting that Goethe-Institut have plans for the output. It was made apparent towards the end of the workshop when Peter announced about Goethe's plan of having our work included among the works of other participating photographers from Bangkok, Hanoi, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore. With that, I am grateful to Goethe Institut, Peter Bialobrzeski and all the people behind the Mapping Invisible Cities Project.

It is important to be included in the Project since I see my work as my own contribution to photographic investigation 'of the unseen and unnoticed ordinariness hidden in our cities'.

DPP: What was your approach, how did you go from concept to the final images?

DSR: As my usual approach in doing a project, I did a little research and explored several ideas based on the given theme (but mindful not to replicate what my co-participant in the workshop does). As I go along, it became more evident what 'story' I want to pursue.

I also made it a point to be aware of the end result I wanted to achieve - what I want to communicate, and tried to work towards that end. Initially, I thought of showing the effects of urbanization and began photographing informal settlers living under a bridge near the old Paco railway station. I have befriended some of the settlers in the area and photographed the place at least on two separate occasions. But limited time and access (from my workplace) to the area proved to be a challenge. So I decided to drop the idea and think of another subject which is more accessible.

I realized there are another bridge/ walkway near my place of work that is more accessible almost any time of the day. Thus my original subject was replaced by another - one of the pink walkway along EDSA. I love the contrast between commuters, vendors selling various wares and the vehicular traffic underneath. I was drawn to this contrasting elements and tried to capture it in a way that would best communicate my own experience of living in a city particularly Urban Manila - where you strive to find order amidst the chaos of city life. The blurring of some elements (people & cars) moving across the space was my deliberate intent to suggest motion, and add a feeling of being dizzy.

DPP: Tell us about the process of refining your vision/your work with Peter's guidance.

DSR: Every time we meet for the workshop, Peter asked how our work progresses and encouraged everyone to talk about his/ her work. Discussions revolved around the images presented. It is also during these sessions where he helps refine our vision through peer to peer critiquing and cross-referenced to other known photographer's work of the past.

As the workshop came to an end, then came final editing. It is during the editing process where each of us are asked to present the tight edit of our work. Based on our story, Peter would give advice which images to dispose and retain, which comes first as the opening and ending, then work on the in-betweens to complete the visual narrative. Thereby refining what I/we want to say.

DPP: Did you feel you had freedom to pursue your own vision in the workshop?

DSR: Absolutely! Peter gave me the freedom to pursue my own vision through his constructive criticism. I particularly like Peters' style of teaching since it's not so much of a teacher-student mode. Rather, Peter acts as a facilitator and clarifies what we want to 'say' by being critical of our work.

As the workshop and the project progresses, each is given time to express their thoughts on the visual language of a particular photo thereby creating a leveling off among the participants and allow us to learn from each other.

DPP: What was the most valuable lesson you learned in the workshop?

DSR: I learned a lot from Peter in terms of the thought process that goes into doing a project. It was, by far, the most information-packed photo workshop I've ever attended to date which is why I always look forward to attending the workshop then. But most of all, the most valuable lesson I learned from Peter was that it's important to be critical of your own work and always make a point in the project you pursue. Most importantly (if I may borrow Peter's words), 'do not attempt to only show what it looks like, but try to communicate what it might feel like. You have to really 'smell' the images.'.

Excerpts of the interview appear on Digital Photographer Philippines Issue No. 23 'Urban Expression: The Ultimate guide for shooting the Metro.' Thanks to Dariel & Cathy Quiogue, Senior Writers at Digital Photographer Philippines.

13 January 2009

Are you willing to shoot for us for free?

A staff (no, I won't name names) of a local magazine publisher sent me an sms yesterday:

Hi Dennis. This is xxxx from 100 Magazine. We got your message at Multiply (a social networking site where I sent privately my expression of interest to contribute photographs). We have a feature on F&B of xxxxx Hotel and we'd like to get you as our photographer for this. Are you willing to shoot for us for free? :) Thanks!

No, this wasn't the first time I got a similar offer. Prior to this, a regional (Asian) travel magazine contacted and asked me the same. And I wonder why they want the work done for FREE? Aren't they making profit from their publishing venture? What about the writers and editors, are they also not being paid?

Instead of feeling repulsive, I inquired further and asked a couple of questions. I wanted to know what do I gain in working for free. I was told that they provide bylines (along with the writer) and that they also provide a complimentary copy. Lastly, I inquired if I'll have the copyright to my work, both published and unpublished (assuming that I've done the work for free). I was informed that copyright of published photos belong to the magazine publishers and that copyright of unpublished photos will be mine. What?!

Obviously, it's unfair and I can see a double jeopardy - they want the job done without spending any centavo and wanted to have the copyright of published photos?! I said that I am willing to negotiate on the usage rights but not the copyright. I am aware that when I give them my copyright, it's the end of the road for me. I cannot even sell them as stock images later thus no profit shall be made whatsoever.

A day have passed and I got a reply via SMS the following day. The staff said that the publication understands my concern and that maybe they may get me for a different assignment. Now, I don't think that solves the problem.

Edwin Tuyay, a veteran photojournalist and Reggie Fernando were also kind enough to offer some insights too (thank you very much!). Edwin said this practice has kept him from shooting for local magazines. Now, I wonder how many magazine publishers in the Philippines are doing this kind of unfair practice? Is this the 'standard practice' in shooting for the local glossies?

Do you have any similar experience with (local) magazine publishers?

01 January 2009

Happy New Year!

I haven't posted any since my last post. Sorry for that. Spent my holidays with my family back home in Albay (Bicol) and got back to Manila in time for the New Year. Here's a photograph I snapped last night at the rooftop of the neighborhood where I live. New Year celebration in the Philippines won't be complete without firecrackers and blasted fingers.