Most Influential Filipinos in the Gulf: Outstanding Filipino Photographers
Over the last 6 years, the rise of the Filipino photographer has been an unstoppable phenomenon in the UAE and the larger Gulf. What with the unprecedented popularity of photography as a hobby and the growth of photography groups, the community has spawned a new breed of lensmen that have promoted Filipino creativity in a new niche. Previously the hallowed ground of a few, these Filipinos have also stamped their claim in this once elusive arena of visual arts.
Mario Cardenas has a distinction that’s pretty hard to beat. As one of the most awarded photographers in the Middle East, this Pinoy has amassed no less than 200 wins – a lot of them from prestigious international bodies, in his very short photography career which started in 2010. Mario, who is an architect by profession shares, “I used to just admire and marvel at the amazing works of these international and world class artists. I even thought of their images as ‘unachievable’. Now I am competing with them in the same arena, and winning.”
Mario sums up his formula for success, “I always strive to innovate and take risks. For me, it does not matter if the image I’m trying to create is beyond the norm. I try to do something different always. I want to be expressive and artistic. Sometimes, some of my peers find my work unusual, even weird. But somehow, the images capture the imagination of certain people, who share the same desire to witness something out of the ordinary.”
Citing his very modest upbringing back home, Mario hope to inspire Filipinos and show them that “no matter where we come from, with utmost passion, dedication and faith, we can be at par with the rest of the world. “I would always like to be known as Mario Cardenas from the Philippines as I offer my achievements to my country and countrymen.”
“Dreaming plus positive actions result to success.” That is the motto of fellow multi-awarded photographer Donell Gumiran who specializes in portrait and documentary photography. A brand ambassador for Fujifilm Middle East, Donell has won quite a few of awards for his works – 17 in fact. The most notable of which include the Grand Prize at X’MO Photography Competition – MENA (2014-2015), 1st place – Al Dafra Photography Competition (2013), 1st place – Emirates Heritage – Abu Dhabi , 1st place – Sheikh Zayed Heritage and the 1st place at the Adihex (2013) photography competition. This Filipino photographer who works as a Senior Art Director in advertising has also facilitated workshops and participated in prestigious photography exhibitions. He says that he loves taking images of people, places, culture, love, pain, poverty and human drama. The fact that normal objects can be transformed into a masterpiece through his eyes is what keeps him driven in his chosen art.
Photography competitions aside, one Filipino photographer who is very prominent in the commercial category is Chris Calumberan. One of the earliest adopters to brave doing it on his own, Chris was originally involved in web designing. His early exposure to the fashion and the advertising industry, however, has given him a good foundation for his career today. Chris works with top fashion brands, industrial companies and advertising agencies, as well as major publishing companies as a contributing photographer and writer. He has also played the role of brand ambassador for several leading photography brands, facilitating workshops and giving speeches in prestigious photography events in the country.
Though primarily an artist, Chris takes pride in being a seasoned entrepreneurial professional and shares, “Adaptability is key when you want to pursue success both in life and in business. Win a person in less than 90 seconds, first impressions are important. You never know who might be your next big client. When the going gets tough, never sweat the small stuff.”
From commercial photography to the glamorous niche of fashion, where three other Filipinos have made headway. Their works can be seen, not only on the covers of glossies in the region and beyond, but also in the campaigns of prestigious fashion houses.
The Filipino Paolo Roversi who calls Illustrado Magazine his ‘home,’ photographer Eros Goze is known for his distinctively dramatic/edgy style and visual flair which plays up on the beauty of ‘chiaroscuro’. His works have graced countless Illustrado covers, Middle Eastern magazines, and have been used for the campaigns of regional homegrown brand Splash, as well as reputed regional and local haute couture and pret-a-porter houses. Moreover, Eros who has an uncanny gift for revealing in photos beauty that is typically unseen, has been the much-wanted photographer who has captured some of the country’s most prominent and interesting faces – from models, to fashion savants, socialites and personalities.
Drawing from his training as a theater actor, his love for poetry and art, rising fashion photographer Jef Anog says that all that has given him “a deep appreciation for dramatic editorial images.” Amazingly accomplished at such an early stage in his career, Jef has done covers for Eluxe Magazine – Paris, MUSE Arabia, Zara’t Al Khaleej, Arabian Woman, Chance for Traveler-Autumn 2014, TvojeSvatba, Czech Rep; shoots for Forbes Woman, Velvet, Lamasat, Illustrado Magazine and Illustrado Couture. He has also photographed campaigns for Michael Cinco, Ezra Santos, Amato Couture, and Mona Al Mansouri among others.
From the runway to being behind the lens, Alex Callueng has moved seamlessly from dabbling in ramp modelling, leaving the corporate world, to making a full time career out of photography in recent years. However recent that may be, his photography skills and winning attitude have allowed him to land choice commissions such as campaigns for luxury retailer By Symphony where he shot Alexander McQueen, YSL, Gucci, Emporio Armani and Balenciaga. His fashion editorials have also been featured in prestigious magazines such as Harper’s Bazaar Arabia, Grazia Middle East, Xander Magazine USA, as well as in WKND and Physique, among others. The artist shares, “I firmly believe that the greatest works come from one’s burning desire to create.”