Josh's Photo Blog

March 23, 2010

On the (Philippine) campaign trail with Dick Gordon

Filed under: Stories, Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , — joshuaps @ 7:49 am

Over spring break, I had the opportunity to follow Philippine presidential candidate Richard “Dick” Gordon (guy on the truck) on one of his campaign trips to the province.

Philippine presidential campaigns are at once much more personal and fun than those in the United States. There’s much less physically standing between the candidate and the people – no Secret Service or bulletproof glass. The candidates are also much more playful, with pastel-colored campaign vehicles, pop-py jingles and lots of candy getting tossed around.

You see things that simply wouldn’t fly in the US, like pickup trucks loaded to the hilt with loudspeakers blasting campaign jingles at deafening volumes.

The Gordon-Bayani ticket is running with “The Transformers” as their slogan. As in, the cars that turn into robots. They even painted a bunch of trucks (“Optimus Prime” is in the photo above, and yes, that’s what they really call it) in hot-rod colors and loaded them up with lights and loudspeakers to drive around the countryside in.





All in all, a very interesting couple of days. Quite frankly, he’s a long shot to win, but I had a lot of fun tagging along with these guys regardless.

November 27, 2009

The Hotline

Filed under: news, Stories — Tags: , , — joshuaps @ 12:16 pm

My host university’s student council elections are pretty much the craziest thing ever. For one week, the two competing parties do anything and everything in their power to win your vote, with the process culminating in the Hotline, a night where everyone on campus can call their favorite party and ask for food or “fun” to be delivered to their dorm-step.  Manic partying ensues, enough to put an American frat house to shame

Since these are business students we’re dealing with, the delivery process is relatively well planned-out, at least at the start. Above, deliveries are sorted by building (C,D,E, etc)

At 10 PM the rush is on to deliver the goods to the voters, who will be taking to the polls the next day. Success at delivering a good time to the student body tonight is the best indicator of which candidates are right to run the BDE (student council), which handles administration-student relations and, more importantly, operates the largest on- and off-campus parties.

Mobs of candidates run through the halls, organizing everything from shopping-cart races to sumo-wrestling and food fights.

One of the crowd favorites is an order for one party’s mascot, complete with free salad, the better to start food fights with

Needless to say, studying does NOT take place this night.

Coming up: Photos from my trip to London, my new favorite European city

August 3, 2009

Long Beach Dragonboat Race, 8/1-8/2

Filed under: news, Stories, Uncategorized, updates — Tags: , , , , , , , — joshuaps @ 6:21 am

In addition to being a photographer and a college student, I also paddle regularly with USC’s Dragonboat team and, over the summer, with the Killer Guppies (KG) team based out of Long Beach.

“What the &$!@ is Dragonboat?!”, you ask?

Fortunately, many people did (and do), so I made a short video to explain the sport.

Both the USC and KG teams were in the Long Beach tournament last weekend, along with teams all over the place, from high schoolers to a team from China, where the sport originated. I got a lot of time on the water racing, but with so many teams racing, there’s plenty of downtime, which I used to shoot the sport and my team.

The sport’s very team-oriented – it’s a big boat and you can’t get it into the water by yourself, let alone get it across a finish line in any reasonable time. The emphasis is on precision and timing over strength and speed, though those count for a lot as well.

The teams that do this sport are all over the place age-wise – there are the younger high school and college teams that are light, high-octane and have massive amounts of energy, and the independent and corporate teams, which tend to skew older, but aren’t any weaker. With the Killer Guppies, I paddle alongside people a decade or two older than me – and struggle to keep up!

The nice thing about Long Beach (aside from being home turf) is that you can get closer to the boats than you can in some other tournaments – the water is very shallow and, if you’re careful, you can wade in off the beach and be maybe 15-20 yards away from a boat.

A standard race set is 500 meters, and most teams finish in 2:30 or less. That can seem like an eternity, though, especially if the current is strong and teams struggle to keep the boats aligned at the start line and during the race.

After the finish, of course, comes the celebration. Competition is very friendly, and at the end of the day everyone passes the fives around. Most people are friends with people on some other team, so it’s a pretty tightly-knit community.

Because I’m studying abroad in France in the coming semester, I’m going to have to take a hiatus from paddling (no Dragonboat in Paris, and I’d like to take the time to travel and shoot some more, in any case). It was good to be able to go out with a bang this weekend and get some paddling time in.

August 5, 2008

San Pedro, Laguna

Filed under: Stories — joshuaps @ 2:12 pm

I returned from San Pedro on Friday night, but I haven’t had a chance to post about it till now.

Long story short, I got nothing. At least, I didn’t get what I’d come for – a decent photo story, or a lead into one. I’d like to say it wasn’t for lack of trying, and I’m sure my companions feel the same way, but I know myself better than that.

I decided to focus on Elma (second photo), a 13-year old scavenger with a third-grade education who came from a family of six that lives on something like $2 a day. This sounds almost stereotypically tragic (it is) and like something that would be easy to make a story out of, but somehow things ended up not working out. A photo story is essentially a collection of interesting moments, but between logistical and time issues (I ended up being able to only spend a half-day following her around), weather (overexposed skies, woohoo!) and my sticking out like a sore thumb (Chinese people like me don’t often – or ever – hang around garbage dumps in this country), I wasn’t able to get enough of those interesting moments for a story.

I was, however, able to make my cameras and pretty much every article of clothing I was wearing stink to high heavens, to see more flies in one place than I’d ever imagined possible, and to see where Manila’s fast-food refuse ends up (Quick answer: in their bellies.) It was, as the saying goes, a learning experience. Photo story photos don’t come easy, by any means.

This is something I might come back to when I’m more patient and more talented, but for now I’m going to cut my losses and move on to my other story with my remaining time in the country. And I’ll keep the time commitment needed for something like this in mind when I return to LA, where I spend most of my time these days.

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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