By Virginia Jasmin Pasalo
A GOOD photograph almost always tells its own story, almost, but not quite. There will always be the true story that can only be told partially, by the one who took the photograph and its subject, together or separately. The realities of one photograph can be many and textured depending on the context of those who interpret it, or can only offer glimpses, or traces of an experience.
I realized this, as I was sharing my childhood photos with a good friend, Luz María López, who asked me, “Is that you?”, unsure of what to make of the photos, in the context of how I evolved into the present “me”. Her question prompted me to look at the photos again, and I concluded that from the expression of my face in those photos, I was not so pleased, in fact, angry even. In one of them, I remembered, I was angry at myself, for having forgotten the lines of Poinsettia, the poem I was taught to recite, and that it had to be dictated by my coach from behind the curtains, till I recovered from the distraction of a young boy’s gaze listening in front of me. In the other photo, where my socks were not evenly fixed, I looked contemptuous, and do not remember why. My late father takes delight in taking photos of people in their unguarded moments, and I was not exempted from his predilection as a photographer.
It is true that photographs offer us only glimpses of the reality and the intensity of the experience it is able to capture at a given moment. In the article, “The best photographs of 2021” written by Alex Mistlin, Emine Saner and Sarah Gilbert for The Guardian, photographer Santi Palacios comments:
“The most difficult thing about working at sea is having to work around the rescue operation. The sea route connecting Libya to Italy is one of the deadliest migrant routes in the world. You are in the middle of nowhere, which can be very challenging, especially at night. But when you are lucky and have enough light, or a full moon, you really get the chance to show how lonely the crossings are.
I worry that it is not always apparent how extreme these situations are. People have already seen pictures of refugees drowning in the Mediterranean; everyone knows that it is going on. So, the goal is to take pictures that better convey the intensity of their experiences.”
A good photograph is a work of art, a composition achieved between the temperament and the skill of the photographer, the confluence of events, and the elements coming together to form an image.
Some photos could become rallying points for advocacies, such as the photo I asked permission to upload on my FB Timeline, a perfect image of Lingayen Gulf taken by Olen Co, from the vantage point at Ampucao, Itogon, Benguet on 07 November 2021. This photo is precious as it conveys the beauty of the gulf at night, with the light of the crescent moon illuminating the waters in a backdrop of a mountain range dotted with beads of light that appeared as a river running on the cleavage of the mountains hosting human habitation, eventually becoming one with the sea. Juxtaposed with this image is the caption for the advocacy:
Lingayen Gulf Under the Crescent Moon: Look at this magical image of the Lingayen Gulf taken from a high elevation in Ambucao, Itogon, Benguet. Tell me, do you have the heart to mine it? No to iron ore mining in Lingayen Gulf!
The photo had 140 likes and 230 shares, more than any written write-up could have ever achieved.
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