I am a Boston, MA portrait and event photographer who hardly gets his own photo taken by others.
Wanna know more? Continue reading below.
My photography story
I suppose I could go rambling on and on about how I fell in love with photography when I was a kid and it became my life’s passion, blah, blah, blah, but why would anyone want to read that? It’s such a boring origin-story cliche among photographers.
Sure, my mom had a boyfriend who collected cameras and showed them to me as a child and, sure, I found them interesting but they never really grabbed my attention. F-stops, film chemistry, darkrooms? Yeahhhh, that was all just too much.
It didn’t matter. Nerdy shit or not, I still ended up with a camera of some kind in my hand more often than I expected.
More on that later.
The early years.
Remember disposable film cameras? Or the really cheap $20 point and shoot cameras that you could get at CVS? In high-school, I was always walking around with one of them in my pocket somewhere because, and I understand it better now, I felt the need to find ways to hold on to people in my life.
Abandonment issues, long before I knew what the concept actually was.
And so it was that, from high-school, college, and my time in the Army, I photographed the things that I found interesting, the events and places I wanted to remember, and the people whom I felt a need, no matter how quietly, to be close with.
The digital years.
Enter CompUSA, my first “real” job out of the Army. I began as a full timer sometime in 1999 while trying to complete a degree that I put on hold during my enlistment. Made some lifelong friends there. On a whim, I ended up moving out of state for about a year before coming back and getting placed in the digital imaging department as a “welcome back,” and that became something I poured myself into. I devoured every book on cameras (for Dummies, of course), trade magazines, and random camera manuals I could get my hands on and played with every setting on each display camera, manual in hand, to see what effect changing each setting caused because it made no sense to try and sell something I had no clue about.
I quickly became a digital camera fanatic because I quickly realized that taking a digital photo cost me nothing in film, processing, and print costs and because of the instant-review enabled by the LCD screen, I was actually learning the fundamentals far more quickly than I ever could have with film.
It all clicked, pun absolutely intended.
Fast forward a few years of adventures and travels, and after a complete mental collapse, I inevitably found myself back at college again to try finish my stupid degree — again! During that time, it had grown more and more obvious to me that I really was “into” photography. My hard drive was full of photos that I had been taking of places, events, and people that mattered to me all organized by day, month, and year, fully and unconsciously reflecting all my mental ups and downs along with my adventures during all that time.
I figured that I should really pour myself into photography and learn to do something with it other than take photos of my friends and cats, so I found my way into Dennis Vandal’s Photojournalism 102 (?) class and volunteered for every extra-curricular assignment he had for publication and then connected with a local newspaper after graduation, with Dennis’ recommendation.
I was hooked.
The festival years.
During my time at the Gazette, I learned how to breathe fire for a story that I had pitched to the editor — that’s for another story — and began hanging around rave-and-festival folk who really appreciated having a photographer present. I mean, who doesn’t love free photos of themselves doing cool shit?
After my time at the paper ended, I again found myself on an adventure for a year and a half that ended with me back at home, suffering from a deep depression and PTSD while still clinging to photography as a life-preserver (literally, it saved my life).
I attended my first summer festival because, as Artemis (external link) had gently suggested, I should go to take photos because I would be “surrounded by weird shit for three days” so I went, intentionally knowing nothing about the festival scene, music, or attendees so that I could take photos with the freshest set of eyes possible.
After that, and with Artemis’ help, I attended every event, festival, rave, party, and performance around Boston, MA that I could while working my hardest to hone my workflow down to where it became second nature to me while combining the speed, accuracy, and honesty that was expected as a newspaper photographer with the artistic freedom I was enjoying in order to show “the Scene” through my eyes, with the same awe-struck wonder I had felt during my first festival experience.
Again, I was hooked.
At least until events happened that started causing me to question my involvement within the festival scene. Because I had deliberately chosen to keep a little bit of a distance, it helped me to stay uninvolved enough to see the bigger picture over time. I’m talking about things like police raids, overdoses, sexual assaults, collective irresponsibility, and a willful effort to overlook all manner of awful things, all in the name of “vibes” and “homies.”
Yeah, beneath the Scene’s #LoveAndLight veneer, its toxic rot had become impossible for me to unsee.
The pandemic years.
Then COVID-19 hit. While events — my bread and butter — dried up, and interacting face-to-face became riskier for someone with asthma like me, I watched people grow more and more willing to risk other peoples’ health in the name of their own sense of “freedom” while a good number of other people within the “Scene” indulged in conspiracy theories while drifting ever deeper down the alt-right, Q, and MAGAt sewer pipeline. At least two of the more racist promoters I’m familiar with attended the Jan 6th insurrection, proudly. To this day, one of them still continues to spout his MAGAtty “globalist” bullshit.
I was so done.
But not really. About a year after COVID hit, and several months after getting my second vaccine, me and some trusted friends decided to get together for some camera therapy in the middle of a swamp.
Since the shift away from Boston’s nightlife events, I began focusing more and more on portrait photography which, for me, covers a large range from formal portraits, to head shots, lifestyle imagery, and boudoir photography.
My photography adventures still keep me afloat emotionally and mentally, if not always financially. I’m still able to photograph events that matter to me, spend time with the people I love, and hold on to them as they allow. I’ve been fed amazing steak dinners cooked over a fire in a swamp after a portrait session, seen beauty in urban graffiti, met the most amazing people, nurtured the closest friendships, and experienced mundane things from a perspective that only a camera can allow, and learned a few things.
Yeah, yeah, so here’s my #LoveAndLight ending paragraph to this self-indulgent attempt at SEO.
There’s a certain magick that happens when you’re able to do the things that you love while sharing experiences with the people you love and getting to record it all as part of your existence. My best photos — the very best photos that anyone can take, really — happen when they come from a place of love: being present in the now and interacting with people and slices of time with whom I’ve fallen deeply in love, no matter how temporary and fleeting that connection may be.
It is my hope that we can spend some time together creating some truly wonderful magick soon.
50 Random Facts
- My family is from the Philippines and I am a first generation American.
- I grew up in a racist small town north of Boston, MA.
- My brother was born in the Philippines. We’re close(ish) although we had some brutal fights while growing up. Looking back, I was an absolute bastard to him, and it’s something I still regret.
- I never knew my biological father, he and my mom divorced when I was maybe three, so any memories of him are incredibly vague.
- The high-school I attended was one of those without walls. One could sit in “Earth Science,” and learn about “Algebra II” on the other side of a chalkboard.
- I love horror movies. The gory, the cheesy, the classics. All of them.
- The first horror movie I remember watching was in the Philippines: “The Howling,” on Betamax. I was 8 years old.
- I especially love the cheesiest of 80s b-movies in a more enhanced state of mind. It’s the only way to really enjoy them in all their god-awful glory.
- I once traumatized a room full of people under intense enhancement by making them watch “The Good Dinosaur.” It was accidental, I never thought that Pixar would’ve put out a movie with a scene that dark.
- Science has always been a favorite subject of mine.
- As a kid, I one told my mom I wanted to be a scientist when I grew up.
- I cannot, however, math my way through science.
- When I was in the 1st or 2nd grade, my mom was dating someone working on a degree in seismology. Ralph (external link) had a book called “Conceptual Physics,” by Paul G. Hewitt. I read that book, cover to cover, multiple times over the course of several years. Thankfully, the book was heavy on the concepts and very light on the math.
- Professor Jim al-Khalili (external link) is one of my favorite science presenters. I fall asleep, frequently, to some of his specials, like “Everything and Nothing.” It covers general relativity and quantum mechanics in a very easy to digest manner and his presentation style is calm yet enthusiastic.
- Obviously, I love photography.
- I also love computers.
- I have fond memories of Ralph. Camping trips, some sports, and just his kindness. If anyone was a good father-figure in my life, it was he.
- Speaking of father-figures, I absolutely despise the man who eventually took Ralph’s place in my life and have since day one. He’s everything opposite of Ralph and everything opposed to what I believe in. TEA Party Republican before the TEA Party ever existed and Trumpian MAGAt long before Trump ever gave voice to that disgusting anti-American cult of morons.
- My mom once asked how I felt about the idea of the two of them getting married. I often wonder how different things would have been had she actually heard me when I told her that I did not want her to marry him. I was glad when my mom and he finally divorced but sad at the same time because the damage had long been done. To this day, I still wish she had never married him.
- There have been several occasions where he was lucky I never bothered to follow through with anything I was thinking, at the time. I knew where he slept, after all.
- I did like Adam, though. Adam was his son and my eventual step-brother. We got along, but were never close. His dad wouldn’t allow it since my friends were all “degenerates” and “long haired hippy freaks.”
- Adam died young, unfortunately, and shortly afterwards, I changed my mind about wishing my former step-dad dead. Seriously, I no longer do and I actually wish for him to live a long life. A very long life. The longer without Adam, the better.
- If it isn’t obvious, I am capable of very deep feelings. Love and hate. There’s a time and a place for all emotions since they’re very much a part of being human.
- Yes, I have very left-leaning tendencies while still holding some classically conservative views. I don’t see “both sides,” politically. I only care about doing the Right Thing™ and no less.
- In college, I had a buddy who was a huge “Beavis and Butthead” fanatic. He once said that if you learned to see the world through their eyes, life becomes that much funnier. One day, I was walking past the Tower Library when I saw a girl holding a bottle a certain way. Immediately, I got their moronic chuckling running in my head, and I lost it laughing right there in the middle of a crowd of students heading to class.
- Everything is still an innuendo with the right perspective and I still get that moronic “Uhhh huh huh huh…” chuckling in my head.
- Speaking of sense of humor, mine was ruined long ago because I watched absurd comedies and satires like “Blazing Saddles”, “Airplane!”, and “Monty Python and The Holy Grail” as a kid.
- Oh yeah, “Three’s Company,” too. If you know the show, that melody is now stuck in your head.
- I also watched a lot of raunchy comedies like “Porkies”, “Revenge of the Nerds”, and “Loose Screws” when I was a kid. Nerds and boobs. Yeah, sounds about right.
- I’ve had three major broken-hearts. One, I am still healing from; although, I guess you could say that they’re all related in a way.
- I have cPTSD, a non-specific dissociative disorder, and bipolar-II. My brain is a fun place.
- Speaking of mental illness, I joined the Army on what feels like a whim during my senior year of college. Knowing what I know now, maybe it was because I was in a hypo-manic state.
- The first computer I ever used was an Apple II, in the 4th grade.
- The first computer I ever had was a Commodore 64.
- The first computer I ever bought was a 75Mhz Packard Bell, while I was stationed in Georgia, on a payday loan that was way too predatory for a lowly Private First-Class to understand at the time.
- I fucking despised that Packard Bell.
- My favorite modern video game is “Command and Conquer: Generals” as well as the original “Command and Conquer.” There’s also “Star Glider” on an Atari 1040ST, “Sid Meyer’s Pirates” on a Commodore Amiga, and “The Adventure Construction Set” on a Commodore 64.
- While in Korea, I also learned about Linux as an operating system from another sergeant who build his own PC from scratch. I decided I wanted to build my own computer, buying every component from the Korean economy while the Packard Bell gathered dust. That dollar-to-won exchange rate was wonderful.
- My first heavy-metal concert was at Sneakers, in Salisbury, MA. Ugly Kid Joe opening for Scatterbrain. This is not, at all, an answer to any existing security-question.
- I do not drink alcohol. Well, not much, anyway. It’s incredibly rare.
- In 2006, everything in my life fell into place. Girlfriend talking about marriage, a car payment on a Toyota Tacoma, a mortgage on a condo, and a good corporate job. My grandmother cried tears of joy when I showed up in a suit and tie after work to visit with her. She died a couple of months later. I miss her. RIP.
- In 2009, it all fell apart and I had a total mental breakdown by the end of the year. I’m still recovering from it all. Somehow, I still manage to hold on to the hope that it will all make sense someday.
- I miss my time in the Army. It made so much more sense to me than the civilian world ever will.
- I used to describe myself as poly-amorous. I no longer do. These days I describe myself as “situational,” because making a blanket statement on a binary choice makes no sense to me anymore. Everything always depends on the people involved a situation as it exists NOW, not some hypothetical situation five years down the road that may not even happen.
- I fall in love very quickly.
- I once decided to cut out everyone out of my life with the exception of two people, and start over, by leaving Massachusetts and moving to Georgia. That eventually led me to an apartment with Krysti and Tally, and the most amazing chemistry among the three of us. In time, we went our various separate ways.
- Of the three of us, I’m the only one left alive. Tally was killed by police in Georgia and Krysti died during the COVID-19 pandemic of unrelated (?) causes. I miss them both.
- I run another website all because an Australian friend of mine introduced me to a new word (external links).
- Even though I consider myself highly misanthropic, my favorite subject to photograph is people.
- My best non-human friend was Calliope. She was a Norwegian Forest Cat who died of cancer in 2015. I miss her every day.