Mindanao, Street Sceneries
Mindanao, street photography
Image © 2012 Ronald de Jong
Street photography is not limited to buzzing metropolitanareas, the culture and life in the streets of any city or village in Mindanao can be perfect to capture the fascinating, local urban, rural and social landscape.
Because of the tropical climate Mindanao is one of the best places for street photography, so much happens with so many people out in the open. The intimate settings, the various traditions, the many strange faces and attitudes are every bit as photogenic as the region's magnificent natural vistas. The mixed lighting conditions and ever changing views can be challenging, a test of patience, yet creatively and personally rewarding. General Santos City and Koronadal City are just a few perfect backdrops for photographic forays, providing incredible street sceneries that will captivate the mind of every fervent shutterbug.
The urban areas in Mindanao are a melting pot of the surrounding rural belts and a magnet for people from many different walks of life. Neighbourhood markets are an indispensable element of the islands social landscape and ideal places to really capture the unique atmosphere of the local community. These locations show of all facets of city life and are always full of interesting, inspiring characters and situations that are producing many different aspects of people photography. There certainly is enough ironic imagery in these public places where the poor and the rich will meet together. Beggars, young and old, male and female, can be found in most markets and on the streets, they are an interesting but a grey visual aspect of the picturesque surroundings. The intense and piteous expression on their faces, their compelling body language with cupped hands asking for some money, often tells a gritty tale. Adding these scroungers to a photograph is like pasting live in a digital frame, this can be a little confronting but will create a powerful, dramatic looking shot. Alongside the beggars, numerous street vendors are roaming the roads, sidewalks and parking lots, selling sunglasses, pirated CDs, DVDs and all kinds of street food. These peddlers selling their merchandise either on foot, by bicycle or in a cart on the street are willing and challenging subjects for eye catching images. Don't be surprised if some money is asked for taking their photographs, so it is wise to put a few coins in your pocket.
Nothing captures the magnificence of the region like the different means of transportation; the colourful jeepney is one of the most popular ways of public conveyance and a cultural symbol in the Philippines. Decorated with flashy graphics and extravagant ornaments this flamboyant vehicle is an all-time photographic favourite. It's worth keeping an eye peeled in all directions, great photographic scenes play out on the streets and country roads right in front of you, motorcycles and tricycles are the dominant mode of urban and rural transport in Mindanao, these rushing bicycles are really everywhere. The chaotic movement of traffic, the rhythm of uncontrolled,crowded street life, the confluence of activity, the sheer amount of motorcycles, tricycles, drivers and passengers going every which way will surely make an excellent and unusual contribution in creating dynamic and impressive pictures.
One of the charming things about the cities in Mindanao is that they offer a lot of the old and the new, long standing wooden houses situated side by side with recently constructed concrete buildings. The older historical dwellings are often built of stone while the upper half is made of wood. This authentic Bahay Na Bato preserved in their original state, are a reflection of the vibrant and rich past of the region. In many cases these characteristic houses are not maintained properly, this can be seen in the many forms of natural decay. But for a photographer's well-trained eyethere is always beauty and elegance to be found in the derelict and forgotten structures and its surroundings. If there is a house there will be people living in it, if present, they can amplify the composition of the picture with meaning, depth, contrast and colour.
Photographing local people engaged in their day-to-day activities can help to tell the story of the picture as much as the urban landscapes and buildings. But when a person is the main subject in your image, it is important to ask permission after photographing them and their property. If photographing children take extra care to get permission from a parent or guardian. The friendly, unbiased Mindanaoans are generally very natural and spontaneous in front of a camera. Thanks to a rather laid back attitude towards life they are quite approachable and most of the times don't mind being photographed candidly, but some could have objections or even get offended, delete your images on the spot when permission is not given. In several parts of Mindanao there are existing restrictions limiting public photography, some places may require permits, while others simply won't allow it. In general, inside and outside banks, nearby schools or in shopping malls, you are not allowed to take pictures, the best thing to do is make your way to the security guard or manager's office and explain exactly what you are doing. Depending on the location and circumstances it is sometimes better not to wander around on your own, poverty, local customs and beliefs can create unpredictable, unpleasant and unwanted situations. There are conflict ridden places in Mindanao and it is best to avoid these spots, however there are far more many parts of the region where you are as safe as you can be like in any other city in the world.
Street photography on this exotic island is a never ending journey of discovery and much more than just taking pictures from every day places and faces. It is capturing the true slices of Philippine life as we see it in a split of a second; it is documenting and preserving everlasting memories, rather than creating them. These instant, moments are captured, without tricks, reflecting purity and spontaneity. The streets of Mindanao are always full of the elements of surprise, great moments can happen at any place at any time, you never know what you are going to encounter and what might pop into the frame while clicking the camera shutter.