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Highlighting Positivity

Photographer of the Week: Rafael Zulueta

Updated

By Maan D’Asis Pamaran

More than two years ago, friends rallied around Rafael Zulueta, praying for his recovery from a stroke that brought him to critical levels at the Intensive Care Unit of a hospital. Today, in what can be described as a miracle, he is back to doing what he loves best—photography.

  • Vigan's Calle Crisologo By Night (Rafael Zulueta)

    Vigan's Calle Crisologo By Night (Rafael Zulueta)

  • Tumalog Falls In Oslob (Rafael Zulueta)

    Tumalog Falls In Oslob (Rafael Zulueta)

  • Tristian's Red Velvet Cupcake (Rafael Zulueta)

    Tristian's Red Velvet Cupcake (Rafael Zulueta)

  • The French Baker's Founder and President, Johnlu Koa (Rafael Zulueta)

    The French Baker's Founder and President, Johnlu Koa (Rafael Zulueta)

  • Sumilon Bluewater Island Resort In Cebu (Rafael Zulueta)

    Sumilon Bluewater Island Resort In Cebu (Rafael Zulueta)

  • Salvi's Canonigo Of Pia Y Damaso (Rafael Zulueta)

    Salvi's Canonigo Of Pia Y Damaso (Rafael Zulueta)

  • Roast Turkey With Chardonnay Sauce (Rafael Zulueta)

    Roast Turkey With Chardonnay Sauce (Rafael Zulueta)

  • Ramen (Rafael Zulueta)

    Ramen (Rafael Zulueta)

  • Photographer of the Week: Rafael R. Zulueta

    Photographer of the Week: Rafael R. Zulueta

  • Ominio Heirloom Rice (Rafael Zulueta)

    Ominio Heirloom Rice (Rafael Zulueta)

  • Moriones Festival In Marinduque (Rafael Zulueta)

    Moriones Festival In Marinduque (Rafael Zulueta)

  • Maridel's Snickers Pie (Rafael Zulueta)

    Maridel's Snickers Pie (Rafael Zulueta)

  • Kalinga Jekot Heirloom Rice (Rafael Zulueta)

    Kalinga Jekot Heirloom Rice (Rafael Zulueta)

  • The Gapuz Grape Farm In Bauang. La Union (Rafael Zulueta)

    The Gapuz Grape Farm In Bauang. La Union (Rafael Zulueta)

  • 'Golden Sunset,' First Prize, The Golden Sunset Photo Contest Organized By 'Mother' Ricky Reyes In 2006 (Rafael Zulueta)

    'Golden Sunset,' First Prize, The Golden Sunset Photo Contest Organized By 'Mother' Ricky Reyes In 2006 (Rafael Zulueta)

  • Dinagyang Festival In Iloilo (Rafael Zulueta)

    Dinagyang Festival In Iloilo (Rafael Zulueta)

  • Cocktails! (Rafael Zulueta)

    Cocktails! (Rafael Zulueta)

  • Chef Roland Laudico's Roast Sinampalukang Chicken With Ham And Castanas Pandesal Stuffing (Rafael Zulueta)

    Chef Roland Laudico's Roast Sinampalukang Chicken With Ham And Castanas Pandesal Stuffing (Rafael Zulueta)

  • Chef Kalel Chan's Fresh Lumpia (Rafael Zulueta)

    Chef Kalel Chan's Fresh Lumpia (Rafael Zulueta)

  • Chef Jessie Sincioco's Chocolate Cupcakes (Rafael Zulueta)

    Chef Jessie Sincioco's Chocolate Cupcakes (Rafael Zulueta)

  • Chef Jackie Laudico's Biko Panna Cotta (Rafael Zulueta)

    Chef Jackie Laudico's Biko Panna Cotta (Rafael Zulueta)

  • Chef Babes Austria's Boneless Lechon Cebu, Roulade Style (Rafael Zulueta)

    Chef Babes Austria's Boneless Lechon Cebu, Roulade Style (Rafael Zulueta)

  • A Prenup Shoot Along Calle Crisologo (Rafael Zulueta)

    A Prenup Shoot Along Calle Crisologo (Rafael Zulueta)

  • Bon Chon Founder, Scott Tan (Rafael Zulueta)

    Bon Chon Founder, Scott Tan (Rafael Zulueta)

  • Azalea Chocolate Coated Strawberries (Rafael Zulueta)

    Azalea Chocolate Coated Strawberries (Rafael Zulueta)

  • Arrozeria's Lengua Salpicao (Rafael Zulueta)

    Arrozeria's Lengua Salpicao (Rafael Zulueta)

    “Photography is an art form, and I’d like to believe that I have been an artist all my life. As a child, I liked to sketch. I also enjoyed performing on stage in our community. Then I found photography. Just like a painter does on his canvass, a photographer expresses himself and shares his thoughts and passion about life through the lens of his camera. That is very fulfilling, very liberating,” he explains.

    His initiation to photography took place in his hometown of Sta. Cruz, Marinduque. “I was a teenager when my eldest brother opened a small photo studio and souvenir shop in the commercial district of the town proper. He needed an assistant, so he taught me the basics. It was mostly IDs and passport photos, not much challenge. Eventually, I decided to head for Manila and try my luck. I found a job as photographer for MOD Magazine, and there my skills were honed.”

    He is the “partner in crime” of his wife, noted food writer and book author Dolly Dy Zulueta, a harmonious relationship from when they first started working together in MOD Magazine back in the late ‘80s.

    At his first job, he ran the gamut of covers and editorial shots that ranged from celebrities and events, to fashion, food, and product shoots. When he and Dolly moved to Flavors Magazine, where the stayed for 14 years, he focused on food, travel, and personalities.

    “After my stroke, I had to set aside the profession I love for the meantime as I undergo physical therapy and walk down the path towards recovery. I have nonetheless begun to take food shots again. My wife cooks, food-styles and then sets up dishes for me to photograph at my own leisurely pace,” Raff shares.

    “When people looking at my food shots get hungry and crave to sink their teeth into it. I see that as a compliment,” he smiles. His other favorite subject is nature. “It constantly reminds me of the magnitude of God’s awesome creation, which I see in everything—sunrise and sunset, the sea, trees, flowers, beaches, mountains, even volcanoes.”

    With a career that dates back to the time of film, his love for his craft is evident, not only when he produces his shots, but also when he talks about it. “It has allowed me to meet different types of people, including celebrities, reach places I would never get to visit otherwise, taste everything from the simple bibingka and puto bumbong to the more complex soufflés and confits.”

    Raff says that he uses his photography for positivity. “Through the years, I have set parameters for myself. I want to convey only positive messages and emotions. I steer clear of negativity. I refuse to take pictures that disturb the senses. I will not promote the use of drugs and alcohol.”

    It is especially poignant as he shares, “Photography is my life. I think I will never stop taking pictures, especially of sunsets, beautiful places, delicious food, and beautiful people.” He adds: “My dream is to see a photograph of mine magnified in size and made into a billboard with the words ‘God loves you’ superimposed on it to constantly remind everyone that God’s love is magnanimous.”

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