My childhood was wrapped in the pages of atlases, encyclopedias, and National Geographic issues. This experience led me to develop a curious mind with a strong penchant for all things visual. My early elementary teacher, in the name of Carina Navarro, exposed me to the intricacies of art, history, classical music, and encouraged me to dive deep into all of my interests.
From the comforts of books, I was thrown into very different living landscapes when my family started moving places. I found home in Manila, Baguio, Samar, and the United States. These transitions allowed me to learn how to respect, embrace, and celebrate diversity.
It was during my university years when I started to realize my immense love for the art of photography. When an opportunity to go back home to Samar presented itself, I took the chance to practice my new found craft and participate in the local photography contest, armed with the equipment of my friends.
I failed to take the top prize but I was able to cop 2nd and 3rd best with a combined pot even bigger than I expected. But the most pivotal moment for me was the experience of being back home and seeing it in a new light through the lens.
It was at this moment when I made my lifelong commitment to photograph the island of Samar and share its story with the rest of the world.
There is a prevalent thought among Samarenos that our island is rife with poverty and hopelessness. While there is much truth to the former, I’m doing my fair share in shattering the latter through my photographs.
For several years, Samar has been shown in a negative light by Mainstream media. Part of my quest is to show its rarely seen beautiful side, while also acknowledging the harsh realities that form part of my fellow men's daily lives.
With a strong commitment to protecting and preserving the raw beauty of our home, I refrain from sharing the specific locations of the wild places I photograph simply because they are not yet ready to accommodate the stream of tourists, many of whom exhibit irresponsible behavior towards the environment. With many other beautiful spots in the country being disrespected and trampled on, I dare not put our island at risk. But as our local surfers would often say, you are welcome, provided you do your research and understand your role as a visitor in our home.
The pursuit of my craft has been filled with many roadblocks from the start. But I would not have chosen another route for all the hardships I have gone through have not only made me a better photographer, but also a better person.
I grew up with limited access to creative tools. While I was encouraged to learn the arts, the pursuit of it as a career was frowned upon by several members of my family. This led me to deal with it by focusing on what little art I could do with the tools I was given, such as playing with my cheap camera phone and hanging out with the photographers I met in university.
There were a couple of unexpected highs in my journey. A year after my stint in Samar, I was shortlisted as a finalist in the Hamdan International Photography Award (HIPA) of Dubai, which was eventually followed by more awards.
The purpose of sharing this bit of my story is not to hark heralds to myself but to stress the fact that when you fully and truly commit to the craft, all the accolades will simply come as bonuses. I highly suggest avoiding predicating your source of validation on such things because they are all but temporary.
Focus on creating great and lasting work instead.
I offer three P’s for people who are starting out: Process, Patience, and Position.
The search for one’s purpose can be taxing. It can lead to slippery slopes, but if you recognise that these things are by default part of the process, it can be liberating. It allows you to embrace your failures, and opens the window to develop something many of us lack these days - patience.
In this evolving world that we live in, there is a pressure to immediately attain a certain status - even at the cost of giving up our dreams, only to impress people we do not truly care about. Try not to give in to this temptation and choose to live life on your own terms.
One way to do this is by taking action and putting in the work. This way you are positioning yourself to learn and secure victories irrespective of your feelings at any moment. Showing up everyday with a growth mindset and aligning your actions with your ambitions can be the best gifts you can give yourself.
Lastly, in all this hustle talk, there is one thing I will not compromise in the pursuit of passion and that is health - financial, physical and mental. Living with intention entails that you also take care of yourself.
Story by RJ Lorico