Many of today’s famous photographers, like American Terry Richardson, started their photographic pilgrimage early in life. But others take longer to discover their penchant for photography, like Julia Margaret Cameron, a famous British portraitist in the 1800s who began taking sepia-toned Victorian portraits in her late 40s.
|During one of her group exhibits in 2012, Mise-en-Scene|
“Even when my mind was set on being a doctor, I still thought of becoming a photographer when I retire. It seems that I have been gearing myself to take this path at all costs,” she added.
She was studying a pre-medical course at the University of the Philippines (UP) Manila when she discovered her love for photography.
Having found her true passion for taking pictures, she transferred to De La Salle College of Saint Benilde, where she is taking up AB Photography.
Manuel discovered the world of digital photography in 2006 when she acquired her first camera. Then a teenager, she started teaching herself portraiture by taking photos of herself.
Not long after she began accepting photo shoot commissions in 2008, she found herself lecturing on fashion and photography at UP Diliman, UP Los Baños, and De La Salle University in Manila.
(Sometimes, she works in front of the camera, being the subject of the photo shoot. One instance was when she participated in the 2011 “A Walk in Tokyo: A Japanese Fashion Show” as one of its runway models.)
Last year, Manuel had her first two photo exhibitions. In the group show “One Day in the City: Pasay,” she documented the life in Pasay City for 24 hours, together with 14 other shutterbugs.
“Mise-en-Scene,” also a collective display, featured fashion interpretations of iconic Hollywood films. “I chose to recreate ‘The Ring’ and, surprisingly, I was able to generate an overwhelming positive feedback from the attendees,” Manuel recalled.
|Her fashion interpretation of The Ring|
The haunting yet lovely feel of her photographs reminds one of American photographer Francesca Woodman’s eerie trademark but with more meticulous details and blithesome colors that complement the beauty of her muses – and without the naked models.
“Before I learned about photography, I was just your average everyday school-going teenager who’s terribly addicted to anime, Japanese drama, and iced coffee,” Manuel admitted.
When not taking pictures, she scours online blogs for inspiration, plays computer games, and hangs out with her friends. She confessed, “I also have a creepy habit of watching people.”
She noted that the local photography scene is flourishing. The works of photographers Ryan Vergara and Garovs Garovillo of Everywhere We Shoot, Edric Chen, and China Mungcal have a special spot in her heart. “They all have their own unique eye for things and they shoot to their hearts’ beat,” Manuel explained.
“The Philippines has a diverse culture and we have an abundance of inspiration to create art,” Manuel observed. “However, I also think that it would be great if our photographers could get more help from the government, since it is currently difficult to shoot, even in public places.”
Career-wise, the year 2013 looks good for her. In Manuel’s upcoming solo show, “Face Your Demons: A Photographic Exhibit on Fears and Nightmares,” she sticks to her signature style of macabre and elegance as she depicts the experiences of facing one’s fears, nightmares, and phobias.
|Face Your Demons|
Asked about her inspirations for the series, she answered: “The styling [of ‘Face Your Demons’] was inspired by a bizarre mixture of Jean Paul Gaultier, John Galliano, and Takato Yamamoto. Theme development was also through the help of my fashion stylist, Kreame Isaac.”
The exhibit’s teaser photos reveal muses imbued with hints of Japanese gothic Lolita fashion.
“‘Face Your Demons’ is my most elaborate shoot to date. The works I would be putting up are all new, so no one has seen them yet,” she said.
Aside from having her own photo studio, Manuel also hopes to finish her photography course this year.