As told to REY ROBES ILAGAN
Portraits by NOEL PABALATE
German photographer Peter Lindbergh once said, “Photography gives you the opportunity to use your sensibility and everything you are to say something about and be part of the world around you. In this way, you might discover who you are, and with a little luck, you might discover something much larger than yourself.”
This seems to be the case for photographer du jour Martin Romero as the art of photography taught him his real passion in life while he captured the vibrant New York scene one photo at a time.
After graduating with a degree in Communications Technology from Ateneo de Manila University in 2010, Martin went into government service as an executive assistant to then Sec. Ramon Carandang for the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office under the Aquino administration. The Tarlac-raised artist then took a detour from public administration life and went into photography full time when he pursued a master’s degree under the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University.
“We had one class called ‘100 Days of Making,’ where we had to explore and execute a topic for a course of 100 consecutive days,” he said. “I thought of doing photography of everyday life but infused with Photoshop or Illustrator. Because of that and taking photos on Instagram of New York life, those really kick started my love for the craft again.”
If one explores Martin’s social media today, one can easily be mesmerized by the plethora of subjects on his feed, from male model Jeremiah Berko posing backstage for Phillip Lim’s latest collection to Filipina style icons Heart Evangelista and Janine Gutierrez attending New York Fashion Week. In this exclusive peek into his life and work, Martin shares with Manila Bulletin Lifestyle career highlights and his take on photographing the world’s best and brightest.
Paris Hilton at Oscar de la Renta spring/summer 2020
“The Oscar de la Renta spring/ summer 2020 wasn’t the first time I saw Paris Hilton. You know it’s Paris arriving because she literally makes the streets her runway. I saw her a block away in a bright pink dress strutting a tippy-toe like walk. I was seeing a real life Barbie doll walking toward me. It was like the movie Life Size, so I took my snaps and off she went inside Cipriani Wall Street.
I had seen her a number of times the past seasons but this was the first time we interacted with each other. To be honest, I’m not sure how she saw my picture with all the tags she gets but I’m guessing it’s because I had tagged Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim, the creative co-directors and chief designers of Oscar de la Renta and Monse, and they might’ve told Paris about the picture. Paris liked the photo I took of her so much that she asked me via direct message if she could have a copy of it.”
Anna Wintour at Marc Jacobs fall/ winter 2018
“The first time I ever saw Anna Wintour was before the Marc Jacobs fall/winter 2018 show. I think every street style photographer’s dream is to capture an iconic photo of Anna Wintour. I honestly thought I wouldn’t see her at all that season, but lo and behold, amid the mob of PETA protestors, security, fans, and photographers, I was lucky enough to photograph her sandwiched between a protestor and police. It was the perfect in-the-moment street style photo I’ve ever taken. It’s still one of my favorites to this day.”
Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys at the 2019 Met Gala
“Probably one of my personal favorite Met Gala moments was when I photographed Swizz Beatz (or Kasseem Dean) and Alicia Keys outside the Carlyle Hotel. It wasn’t my usual street style photo because they were surrounded by fans and photographers but it felt very raw, photojournalistic, and reminiscent of old Hollywood. Swizz Beats posted the photo and captioned, ‘Showed up and showed TF out. This is my fav shot from last night by @martsromero. This felt like we were in our own movie set and it was very romantic! #TheDeans.’”
Heart Evangelista at the 2018 Harper’s Bazaar Icons party
“Heart Evangelista is one of my favorite people to photograph. It sounds cliche but she is beautiful inside and out. She is effortless and elegant in the way she moves and poses for the camera. Our collaboration for her Harper’s Bazaar Icons is one of my favorite photographs as well. Definitely megawatt glam! This was the first time I received a barrage of messages from family and friends after my photo of her went viral in the Philippines.”
Jericho Rosales for Halik
“I had met Echo a few times during different fashion weeks in New York. One random morning after #NYFW, he messaged me and asked if I knew of a cinematographer who could help him shoot something for his teleserye, Halik. I immediately volunteered and said I could do it. I ended up filming scenes for the New York episode. It was a one-day shoot but we filmed from morning until night from Central Park to Dumbo and from the Brooklyn Bridge to Times Square. It was a two-man film team during the dead of winter. This was one for the books. I don’t know how we did it but filming and ‘playing patintero’ with tourists on the Brooklyn Bridge and in Central Park were just pure bliss.”
Living in New York is hard. It’s not as glamorous as it seems. When I transplanted my life from Tarlac and Manila, Philippines to New York, I knew I was going to start from scratch. The best advice that I have for living the creative and freelance life is perseverance.
Eva Chen at Longchamp:
“Eva is probably my favorite person to see and photograph for street style. How she is on social media is how she is in person. We connected because I captured her and her daughter Ren, running late to the Longchamp show. I turned the series of shots into a gif and she loved it so much that she ‘slid into my dms’ and asked for the photo!”
“Leandra posted on Instagram that she was looking for a photo editor for Man Repeller. A bunch of friends tagged me and I messaged her right away. We messaged. She followed me soon after. I didn’t get the job but now that she follows me, I feel like I have to step up my street style photo game. Her advice to me: I tend to be good at this stuff but I have to shoot less of the peacocks and more of real style.”
Han Chong of Self-Portrait
“The first time I ever did street style was outside Self-Portrait. I didn’t have access to the show and was just waiting outside the venue. I noticed that guests started trickling into the location. I was just waiting for friends who were inside the show so I decided to take pictures. I posted the photos on Instagram just for fun. Then the notifications started to flood. To boot, Han Chong had reposted most of the photos that I took. His gesture gave me the validation and confidence I needed. After that, he invited me to his shows season after season. Last #NYFW, he gave me access to shoot fittings and backstage during his show.”
If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere
“Living in New York is hard. It’s not as glamorous as it seems. When I transplanted my life from Tarlac and Manila, Philippines to New York, I knew I was going to start from scratch. The best advice that I have for living the creative and freelance life is perseverance. Life will throw you so many curveballs. There were so many times in the past that I wanted to call it quits, leave New York, and return home. I felt that my life wasn’t going anywhere. Especially with social media where peers and friends were going places, I felt that my life has plateaued. A photographer friend, told me ‘work begets work,’ meaning you just have to work and do the projects that you want to get noticed for. Essentially it’s manifesting but in more concrete and tangible ways. True enough, the smaller commissioned work and personal projects I did eventually showed people what I was capable of.”
Instagram is the new LinkedIn
“If you told me 10 years ago, I’d be interacting with the people I’ve met in the past few years, I wouldn’t even believe you. But to go as far as becoming Instagram friends, I’d tell you you’re crazy.”