Josh's Photo Blog

July 31, 2008

Arriving in San Pedro, Laguna

Filed under: Stories — joshuaps @ 12:12 pm


Spent today, and will be spending tomorrow, at San Pedro, a provincial town about an hour away from the Philippines’ capital. The town is home to the main garbage dumps for several districts of the capital region, and many, including children as young as 6, eke out a livelihood here salvaging scrap from garbage dumps and trash trucks. It’s definitely impoverished by any Western standard, but I would call conditions out here about average for most parts of the Philippines outside of the capital and the places tourists frequent.

It’s my second photo excursion here; the first, to get my bearings around the town, yielded some good portraits (to help illustrate a friend’s project) but nothing portfolio-grade as far as news or a photo story. This time around, I’m hoping to break ground on a real in-depth longer-term photo story on education here; I’m trying to figure out why so many people here seek their living salvaging garbage instead of getting an education.

As with last time, I’m out here with a friend, who’s currently interning with the local government here, and we’re using his resources to get around, meet people and find stories. If anything, the government may be a bit too eager to help us – my first time out here, we had a police escort with a car and 5 machinegun-toting officers, which made us far too conspicuous to get any kind of work done. This time around, we’re going for a subtler approach, with a plain car, plainclothes officer (the town insists, in light of both my friend and I being American, and in light of my equipment costing something like 50 times the average local’s annual income) and local liason from the Department of Social Welfare and Development. That’s the bare minimum we could get it down to, and frankly, when I’m walking around in slums, trying to understand complicated issues in a language I’m weak in and stick out like a sore thumb the way I do, I’m glad to have the backup.

Today was pretty disappointing photographically; the morning and early afternoon were wasted on getting around, getting logistics set up and on things you have to do when you don’t work alone, like driving out to eat (I can get away with not eating all day if getting the photos demands it, but I can’t impose that on my companions) or working around the schedules of everyone in the vehicle. The afternoon downpour scared off many of the children we would have spoken to, and made it difficult to get good photos. We do have one good lead, though: a family of 6 living in a scrapyard, where none of the children have completed even grade school, and a 13-year old with a third-grade education scavenges for a third of the family’s weekly income.

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July 30, 2008

People’s SONA, July 28, 2008

Filed under: news — joshuaps @ 3:08 pm

For those of you who aren’t too familiar with Philippine politics, our president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA), is apparently the most unpopular leader we’ve had in over 20 years, so unpopular that she makes President Bush look like Gandhi by comparison. Sensing the possibility that some people might, just maybe, come out to boo her during the annual State of the Nation Address (SONA), I headed out to Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City, where thousands were expected to come out and protest in what local media and the organizers themselves were dubbing the “People’s SONA”




Effigies were burnt, mobs confronted phalanxes of Metro Manila’s finest in riot gear and GMA was called all sorts of names (some unprintable), but no heads were bashed. This is either a very good thing or a very bad thing, depending on how much of your livelihood is based off of your event becoming newsworthy on the international wires, and on your expertise in surviving a warzone.

Being there, I got the feeling that the whole thing was just a big opposition show for the press, decent photos and some excitement, but nothing that would change history, or even change the situation in the country. You’d have things that were a little TOO staged, like the classic little kid being picked up by his dad and waving a big anti-establishment banner, or the fact that concert-quality sound systems had been set up along the side of the six-lane road prior to the protest. At the same time, the numbers mobilized, though significant, were nothing compared to the (literally) millions that turned out to singularly important rallies in 1986 and 2001, rallies that kicked presidents out of office. It was a challenge to come home with unique photos (I won’t say that I did), but at least i wasn’t a challenge to come home in one piece, heh.

More photos from this and other events at my website.

July 29, 2008

Starting Out

Filed under: updates — joshuaps @ 5:02 pm

I’ve been meaning to do a photo blog for a long time now, always putting it off because of one thing or another. But I figure that now’s as good a time to start one as any, even as things seem to be heating up in my life.

I’m going to assume that readers will either know who I am personally, or will refer to an “about me” section that should be prominently displayed somewhere on this blog. With that, I’m going to outline what this blog will be about, and my motivations for starting one. I’ve only been a photographer for two years now, but in that time I feel like I’ve picked up quite a bit in terms of technical knowledge and gear know-how. I’ll say from the onset that quite a bit of this blog will be dedicated to putting down hard answers to questions I get asked a lot by friends and family, like “what’s the best camera?” or “how’d you do that cool effect??”, and to being a gearhead like 90% of all male photographers end up being.

More important to me, though, are some of the questions and thoughts one gets as one of those photographers stuck in pre-discovery hell, who takes the hobby more seriously than most hobbyists, but isn’t quite up to professional standards yet in one way or another. I think a lot about the state of the industry, all the gloom and doom I hear from pretty much everyone who works as a photographer, and especially from photojournalists. Coincidentally and unhappily, photojournalism has been pretty much the thing that’s defined me since I started attending college two years ago, though I may not have known it at the time. I’m still at the point where I can choose money over an interesting (not necessarily happy or successful) career in photography, and I suppose I want to document whatever choice I do end up making.

And yeah, I’ll admit it, I think it’s a pretty neat thing to be able to post your photos online in blog form. This’ll be a little photo-journal to let everyone know what I’ve been shooting lately, and the little anecdotes that make the hobby so worthwhile.

Enough with the intro, let’s get with the blog-making!

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