30-Year Milestone

Good Lord, just reading the title of this blog entry makes me feel old. There was a time in my life when the 30-year milestone referred to my age, and yes, I suppose I would love to turn back the clock and be 30 all over again, with the benefit of hindsight to change certain things along the way. Much to my horror though, here I am knee-deep into 2021 and embracing a very different 30-year milestone.

Let me indulge in a little time travel and go back ton 1991:
The year I earned my degree in Political Science
The year I began my journey in development work
The year I taught at the university
The year I discovered that I didn’t want a corporate career
The year Germany became a conscious part of my life, professionally and personally
The year I embraced creative and academic writing for publication
The year discovered documentary photography
The year FrogDiva Photography was conceived, under a different name and concept altogether, but it was definitely the precursor to the present day format.

It’s been a hell of a journey with numerous transformations, pitfalls, triumphs, losses, and lessons. There is so much that I could go on and write endlessly about, but for today I would like to focus on photography, specifically documentary photography.

My first job fresh out of uni was with a non-government organisation network based in Manila but with partners throughout Southeast Asia, and funded by the German Bishop’s Conference and Misereor. It was the perfect transition from the Ateneo de Manila University ideals of being men and women for others, the Lux in Domino. The life of service, eradication of poverty, transformation of the grassroots communities became a mantra as well as a lifetime commitment, and I could imagine no other career path. Amassing wealth was never the goal, but making a difference was, and still is.

It was during the field work that I became fascinated by the life stories of the people the partner NGOs served, their faces full of emotion and their struggles for survival real. I was trained to look beyond the files and statistics and find the human component to the work, and bring names to the table, not just anonymous beneficiaries. I learned to tell the story both visually and in the written form, putting everything into a proper social and political perspective, thereby striking a balance between individual and community, facilitating dialogue, be a catalyst for change. For example:

Left: veterans of the Philippine Army whose stories go undocumented, despite having witnessed some of the most horrific crimes during during the Marcos era.
Right: the outcast indigenous communities in India that cannot integrate into the mainstream after having earned their freedom from bonded labour.

Long story short, documentary photography became my photographic raison d’être, a personal mission statement that defines what FrogDiva Photography is all about. I was trained in coloured photography, and my transition to black and white was entirely intuitive, the the photojournalistic composition later on polished by Manny Goloyugo. Although I dabble in portraiture, food and landscape, it will always be documentary photography that lies at the heart of my lens.

It is uncanny that this is the year that I was accepted into the Centralverband Deutscher Berufsfotografen (CV) / Federation of German Professional Photographers, which to me closes a circle that began in 1991. I think I’ve earned the right to pat myself on the back for 30 years of incessant shutterbugging!

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