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Commute to Life

One particular photo that made Larry Monserate Piojo grab a camera was the Afghan Girl by that of veteran photojournalist Steve McCurry.

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By Jojie Alcantara

‘A photographer has the ability to see the extraordinary in what seems ordinary to the rest of the people; he is able to identify uniqueness in all common things. It’s a gift not everyone is privileged enough to have.’ – Larry Piojo

What followed was a journey of enlightenment as he coursed through the book 100 Photographs That Changed the World by Life, which in turn changed his own and ignited his passion for documentary, travel, and street photography. Through historical images around the world, he realized how much one single image can do to change people’s view and inspire them to act. From then on, he wanted to be a photographer.

  • Sky is Falling (Larry Monserate Piojo)

  • Layag-Layag Island, Zamboanga City (Larry Monserate Piojo)

  • Colon St., Cebu City (Larry Monserate Piojo)

  • Watta Watta Festival San Juan (Larry Monserate Piojo)

  • Ancient Zhenyuan Town, Guizhou , China (Larry Monserate Piojo)

  • EDSA, Mandaluyong City (Larry Monserate Piojo)

  • Guizhou, China (Larry Monserate Piojo)

  • Mandaluyong (Larry Monserate Piojo)

  • Mayoyao, Ifugao (Larry Monserate Piojo)

  • Talyer (Larry Monserate Piojo)

  • Makati City (Larry Monserate Piojo)

  • Shadow (Larry Monserate Piojo)

  • Musmos (Larry Monserate Piojo)

  • Dark Hood (Larry Monserate Piojo)

    “Since I did not have a camera at that time, I would borrow from my friends and my cousin and take pictures of anything around me—macro of flowers, insects, crayons; walk the streets of Kalentong, Marikina, Pasay, etc. I literally just photographed everything. I tried to study the basics on my own such as the relationship of shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. I would boost my inspiration by reading books and magazines. I didn’t know any photographers back in the day, so I relied on studying back issue photography magazines I would purchase from book sales for P50 or P20 each. All I wanted to do is to capture as much life and everything as compelling as human beings as I can,” Larry muses.

    His continuing street photography project called “The Metropolitan Chronicles” which he launched in 2009 was an effort to show the hustle and bustle of the metro, day and night, rain or shine. He then created sub-projects such as Grey Skies and Commute to Life which documents the unnecessary ordeal of commuters and motorists during bad weather conditions and the struggles in public transportation in the metro.

    “Street photography for me is poetic, allowing me to freely express myself, like a poet expressing his emotions through his poem, a painter in his paintings, and a composer in his songs. Documentary photography gives me purpose and a reason to look back at life, what we have and what there is to thank for. I am able to express not myself but mainly the voices of the people and the stories I photograph,” he says.

    For this veteran visual storyteller, a photograph that sends shivers from your head down to your spine is a good photograph. An image that stays with you hours later after seeing it and stays in your system for the rest of your career is a good one, though it is always subjective. What’s good to others may look ordinary to another person and vice versa.

    “Most of my photographs are straightforward, but I try as much as I can to put a heart on each of them. I want people to see what I see and feel how I feel. I want the viewers to connect to the people, the story, or to the scene that I photograph. I think it’s not as easy as I thought. Most of my photos are black and white. I feel that black and white is profound, able to express deeply, and an expression that is able to speak even the rarest dialects in the world,” he adds.

    Taking compelling photographs is his goal, and emotions play a very important role in the way he capturesa particular scene. Itreflects how he feels toward someone, or in his words, “how I see beauty in madness, madness in chaos, and chaos in beauty.”

    Larry has been known to inspire others through his workshops and speaking engagements over the years. Several of his images were featured in Digital Photographer Magazine (both print, online, and television); he was featured in Team Manila Lifestyle and EyeEm Magazine; he has received Highly Commended Award for Documentary Photography in DCMAG UK’s POTY 2008; he has won the Untold Stories photo competition and was named one of the 20 Storytellers of Tomorrow by EyeEm Magazine and VII Photo Agency.

    “I have been involved in different photography organizations since I started but none of them were formal or official. I find myself to be more of an independent but with close relationships to different photography groups and organizations in the country. I join photo contests from time to time. This gives you a chance to showcase your work, your story, and your talent to a wider audience and be reviewed by professionals. However, I personally think that the most rewarding part as a photographer is when I am able to inspire other aspiring photographers through my images. When another photographer tells me that I inspire them in many ways, it’s flattering and most rewarding. No amount of award can outdo that accomplishment,” he says.

    While photography for him is “an escape from reality to express reality,” this is his way to relax the mind, body, and soul even in complicated and stressful moments. This is where he is most at ease.

    “A photographer has the ability to see the extraordinary in what seems ordinary to the rest of the people; he is able to identify uniqueness in all common things. It’s a gift not everyone is privileged enough to have. The best thing about being a photographer is not the popularity, nor the skills or the amount of gear you have. At the end of the day it’s always about the photographs you took and the stories you captured. That is a gift, a rare privilege to be able to share and express these to the world,” he ends.

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