The Photojournalist: Jilson Tiu

As a kid, I grew up with a disposable Kodak camera. I used to play around with it in our neighborhood near Divisoria. Once done with the roll, I would have the film develop in Agfa shops near our sari-sari store. Little did I know that exploring and documenting my roots would be a big part of my life today.

While preparing college applications, I decided to pursue digital photography. I studied Fine Arts at the University of Santo Tomas. I also worked in the school paper, the Varsitarian, as a staff artist and photographer.

Right after college, I went straight to the newspaper. I worked for the Philippine Daily Inquirer as a photojournalist. I was assigned to various coverages, such as breaking news, lifestyle, long forms and documentaries. There I started to discover how beautiful mundane life can be; how pain and happiness can co-exist in one scene.

Through photojournalism and street photography, I rendered life in the metro as it is. I tried to capture how everyday moments can define our purpose of living. How everyday scenes can show the inner workings of a city. How the people give life to a city.

I would walk around Manila with this goal in mind: to chase life, one moment at a time.

The magic of a photograph

As a freelance photographer and photojournalist, personal projects and assignments are everyday work for me. In between commutes from point A to point B, I shoot whatever catches my eye. I feel compelled to do this, even when I don’t have a clear use for it.

During mornings, I try to capture the first light that hits the faces of people. In the afternoon, I watch as everyone goes on separate paths. It’s the moment most of us want to skip: commuting in the dense city.

Through the camera, everything magically stops in a single frame, but somehow still moves as you see the picture. Making pictures, for a living and just for the joy of it, gives me purpose.

Manila is often perceived as a place full of poverty. It is evident. But there is more to it. There are stories of hope and struggle that intertwine. We can change someone’s perspective by giving light to the negative realities but also taking the time to show hope, kindness, and joy in living forms in our cities.

The idea of finding your purpose can easily lead to a crisis. Instead of worrying, just keep exploring things that spark your interest. Enjoy the process. Eventually, you’ll get good at it, and you’ll find others that are interested in what you’re interested in.

Whenever I feel burdened by work, I remind myself of this lesson from Stephen Hawking: “Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it.”


Story and photos by Jilson Tiu

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