Was this an interview or a class, Cymer, huh?
A few days ago, we interviewed Paul, a Filipino photographer who lives in Manila, the capital of the country. Honestly, we never thought it would be such an experience... Enjoy the interview and Cymer's photographs. You'll want a new camera.
(Heptagrama asks in this colour)
Hello, Paul, how are you doing? I am not very sure if every Heptagrama reader knows you, so why don't you start the interview by introducing yourself?
OK, I'm Paul Rocymer Bucao but you may call me Paul or Cymer. Most people call me Paul but Cymer is really my nickname at home. I'm actually trying to have more people call me my real nickname —that's why I use that for my photos. I don't think it's working though!
I am from Manila, born and raised here. I'm 26 and I'm an IT consultant by profession. We're six in the family: I have 2 brothers and 3 sisters, I'm the youngest. And I have 13 nephews and nieces in all. It's a big family and I have lots of kids to photograph! Although some of them are really not kids any more.
Great, Cymer, nice to meet you. Tell me, how long have you been a photographer so far?
I just started becoming really serious about it around February last year.
And why did you choose to become one? How did all start?
I probably got it from my mom. My mom loves photos. All six of us in the family would have photos of every single special occasion in our lives. And of course, even the not so special ones like when my mom would dress everyone in matching outfits! Thankfully, I wasn't part of those! I wasn't born yet when they were doing that! Anyway, there's always been a camera in the house. My two brothers also got themselves SLRs around 10 years ago, I think. I think they wanted to get into Photography as well at some point but didn't really get around it. But I would still say the interest definitely started in the family and I just let it grow.
My first camera was a Canon Powershot S50 back in mid-2003 but I didn't really use its manual controls —I didn't even understand it at that time! But it got me through a lot of events in my life until it totally gave up on me late 2005 and I got myself a Powershot S2. It was during the World Pyro Olympics (a fireworks show) in Manila at the end of 2005 when I finally tried using manual controls. And it gave me one of my best sunset shots even until now. Quite ironic that my best shot for a fireworks show was a sunset shot and not a fireworks shot but I really loved that photo. And I would say that was a major turning point in my photography.
Then in February last year, I was actually going through some major drama in my life and I needed a distraction —an outlet or something— so I decided to take photography really seriously. I took a 4-day Basic Photography workshop with some close friends from the office and from then on, I've really just been trying to improve on my own. So I guess from being just a mere distraction, it is now a real passion.
Wow, that's a story. I must say you have a nice job now, Cymer, so I'm glad to hear you keep improving. The small insect, for example, was a great picture. How hard can it be to photograph nature? I'm curious. I guess that in some occasions you need to wait a lot just to get the exact shot.
It's really hard and most of the times, frustrating. First of all, it's not like you can pose your subject or you can tell them where to go. For example, I was really lucky about that spotted bug but I was really trying to get a dragonfly shot at that time. I also got one but even though I was really surrounded by greens and hundreds of dragonflies, the only real opportunity for me to shoot a dragonfly was when one landed on concrete. Definitely not the best way to shoot a dragonfly but I just had to make the most of it.
And yeah, you really need to be patient about it. And you can't plan it too well because you're just not in control of what's gonna happen. Going back to the spotted bug, I actually shot that after I just got tired of waiting for a dragonfly to land on a leaf. So aside from being lucky and being patient, you also need to have an eye for detail.
And what can you tell me about this purple picture... Honestly, I couldn't figure out what it is.
That photo is actually three wine glasses of different shapes and sizes lined up in a row. It was one of our final assignments for the Basic Photography workshop I mentioned earlier. You won't believe how crude that set-up really is! I shot that in our kitchen... The backdrop is actually just a white paper board, the glasses are on top of a folding table and the light was an bluish aquarium light covered with red cellophane. That's how I got the purple but it wasn't intentional, really. I'm very colour blind so I actually thought that was pink! ha, ha, ha!
Yeah, anyway, one of the shots I was taking at that time was of the three glasses lined up but the original one was actually one where you can really see the three glasses. But it wasn't working for me and when I was viewing it on my camera's LCD, I noticed an interesting pattern on the stem of the wine glass in front. So that's what I focused on in the next shot! Using my S2's Super Macro feature, I shot the pattern in the stem of the wine glass in front, keeping some parts of the glasses as well. That photo actually ranked first in the glassware category of our final assignments.
...and no surprise it ranked first in that category. Chaging topic now, Cymer, what can you tell me about nudity (or semi-nudity in your case)? I have always wondered if a model —either a man or a woman— doesn't feel uncomfortable during those photo sessions. How do you handle those situations?
Well, it's not just the model actually. I also get uncomfortable during the sessions because I'm constantly conscious if my model is still "game" with what we're doing! Also, even though I tend to always put some amount of sensuality in my photos, I really try to keep it artistic and classy so that requires a lot of focus, concentration and constant control as well.
For the female shot, it's actually the make-up artist who convinced the model. Our only agreement is that I won't be in the room when they prepare for the shot, I'll just walk in when the petals are in the right places already. For the male shot, he wasn't nude at all in reality! He was even wearing pants under that cloth!
I guess you really just need to get the model's confidence in you not only during the shoot but more so, before it. You have to make them understand what you want to do and you have to set the boundaries with your model. And of course, you have to respect those boundaries —that's the only way the model will be comfortable being shot even when they're showing body parts they don't usually show.
Oh, that's really something to be taken into account. Most people won't think about that. Talking about the rest of your pictures and photography as a whole, would you say it is worth being a photographer in the 21st century? How would you say photography changed your life?
If it's worth it, I would say it depends on your goal. Like for me, for example, I'm not in it to make a business out of it. This is a creative outlet for me more than anything else. And as such, I want to keep it as a hobby and stay away from the pressures of going professional as much as I can. And as a creative outlet, I would say it's really fulfilling. I'm fortunate enough to be trusted by professional make-up artists and models so that gives me the means to do what I'm doing. It also doesn't hurt that I have such conceited friends who are so willing to pose for me! ha, ha, ha!
On that note, the support from my family and friends is a big thing for me. And that's where most of my fulfilment comes from. Making my friends feel beautiful or handsome with their photos and seeing them happy for me for what I'm doing. So although I haven't made millions out of photography, that fulfilment is more than enough to make me happy and proud of what I'm doing. And in the end, I think that's the thing that should matter the most anyway.
Yeah, that's an artist's words. Now the last question, Paul... sorry, Cymer. What will be your next photographs about? Have you got something in mind?
I actually just got a macro lens as a birthday gift to myself back in May and I haven't really used it yet. I really want to do a lot more nature and wildlife photography but it doesn't help that I'm living at the heart of Metro Manila. I do have a lot of pets though —I have fish, birds, turtles and iguanas— so I may use them as subjects for now. I still dream of shooting a dragonfly's eyes though. I also want to shoot spiders.
As for my portraits, I'm really trying to fill in the gaps in my "folio"... That's precisely why I'm taking on male portraits right now. I've done too many female shots compared to male shots that my skills in shooting men are lagging behind. You'll probably see more whole body shots of men and women as well. I've focused on beauty shots before so I guess it's about time to really change it up and mix it up a bit. Probably not very soon though, I wanna take a quick break just to organize my thoughts more and have more solid concepts and ideas.
I'll be looking forward to see your next sets of pictures then. Thank you, for the interview and now let's leave Heptagrama readers admire your photography. Bye, Cymer.
Well, I hope they find them good enough to be admired! Bye.
Arts and expression + Photography