Everything in Alignment

After the E.R

Faith and religion is something not alot of us talk about nowadays, it’s seen as a “touchy” subject to discuss in this day and age where everyone seems to find every little thing offensive in the world. What a different time it is now.

The whole concept of religion and faith was something I struggled with my entire life up until recently. No, It wasn’t because I had a bad upbringing as a child or anything, I really can’t complain (Thanks Mom and Dad!). Reflecting on it now as I’m typing this out, I think I was indirectly taught by my Dad to see the world in a more “realistic”, logical, left-brained kind of way when I was a kid. There always had to be a logic explanation for everything happening in and around me. I was a curious child and absorbed all kinds of information like a sponge. Maybe because my Dad was always watching shows like “NOVA” on PBS late at night discussing stuff like the space-time continuum and wormholes right before I dozed off to bed (I was between the ages of 7-10 during this lol) . Or maybe it was because my Dad taught me how to play Chess when I was 4 years old, teaching me all of the piece movements and how to think 4 or 5 moves ahead. Or how my Dad and I would have these full blown conversations on the ride home from school about his interpretations and understandings of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Yeah, HIS own interpretations…Some of the die hard, super religious would argue that it’s not in my Dad’s best interest to question God or to keep trying to figure the Bible out and “JUST BELIEVE, SINNER!”. My Dad wasn’t the type to fall for anything too easily, to this day, he is still a skeptic about most things. Whether it was about politics or religion, he always stayed in his own lane and believed what he believed. My Dad never liked to follow the typical path everybody else took. 

Neither did I.

“Don’t take the Bible or any other religious text/belief literally word for word. Draw your own explanations and experiences from it” he said.

Chris Coles aka “Dolph” laying down the reference lines along my blank arm. Photo: Calvin Ma

I believe everything happens for a reason. It happens when it’s supposed to happen. Whether you call that God’s will, divine intervention/providence, karma or the natural ebb and flow of the Universe, everyone has their own way of interpreting whatever *that* is. Everyone of us is intrinsically connected to one another, we are all connected to the Earth and thus connected to the Universe. We are nothing but stardust at the end of it. 

For years now, I’ve always wanted a tattoo on my left forearm of something related to my profession. I bounced different ideas around to my friends and researched into what I wanted. I wasn’t sure though. After a slightly scary incident with my Dad going to the ER, that day really put alot of things into perspective for me. Especially with where I’m at in my life right now, it was the “awakening” I was supposed to go through. Everything fell into place with so much more clarity. All of my life experiences, from my upbringing as a child to my dance career, and eventually the pursuit of an artistic career led me to this very point in my life, sitting in that chair. There was no turning back after this. Everything felt right for me to finally go through this. 

As soon as I saw the mock up of the sacred geometry patterns Dolphin drew up for me, I knew right away this HAD to be on my body permanently. This was gonna be *my* tattoo and no one else’s.

A spiritual turning point. Photo: Calvin Ma

What a spiritual thing this was for me. I didn’t get it at first…

If you’ve never gotten a tattoo, it is definitely something you have to prepare yourself for. The pain is immense and once the artist starts, you are fully committed to seeing this whole process through till the end. In a way, it was therapeutic, going through that amount of physical pain and sacrifice to have this particular tattoo embedded in my skin for life. Through this process, i reflected on my entire life up until this point and all I could think about was FAITH.

There really was no turning back. If there was ever a time to trust and have faith that everything will be in line with God’s divine plan for me, it was now. I had to surrender to align myself. This tattoo was going to be the visual representation of that surrender and alignment.

Exhausted but loving life. Look at my arm! Photo: Calvin Ma

Sacred geometry is too deep a subject to write out in a single blog post…

In a nutshell, the lines, circles, and patterns you see occur EVERYWHERE in the Universe. From how honeycombs are formed by bees, to how flower petals and seashells grow the way they do, how light and sound waves behave, to even how the world’s most iconic architectural masterpieces are created. Sacred geometry is not tied to any one religion, ethnicity, or culture. It is the universal blueprint of all of creation.

I can go on and on about how much these geometric patterns are connected to everyone and everything. Which is one of the reasons why I decided on getting sacred geometry tattooed on my body. I don’t quite understand it fully myself, nor will I ever. No matter where I end up in life, these tattoos will continue to teach me and show me something new each time. 

A short break to recollect myself before we reached the home stretch. Photo: Calvin Ma

I really have to give major props to my boy Calvin for accompanying me that afternoon to document this entire process for me. This was definitely a major turning point in my life and I’m glad I had someone who’s eyes I trust the most other than my own (HAHA). Thanks bro.

To my artist, Dolphin: Thanks for being the artist for my first tattoo. Your life experiences have inspired me to continually seek that alignment.

Tattoo done. Sacred forms, bestowed. Total time: 2 hours, 45 minutes.

Let me close with this: There is no pot-of-gold at the end of all this. All we’re gonna have on our death bed is our stories and life experiences to tell. Have FAITH and TRUST in whatever belief system you choose to follow. Align yourself with what makes you the happiest. Make sure your stories are good ones. 

Everything in Alignment.

Guisados lunch. Fresh tat.

Metatron’s Cube/Flower of Life

Next blog post: I left my digital workhorse 5D mark 3 at home and did a Hypebae inspired shoot entirely on my Yashica T5 with my good friend Quynh. This was really fun and this little camera continues to amaze me. =)


CineCosu - From one artist to another

This was probably one of my most anticipated collaborations to date…

Dominique Zamora a.k.a “CineCosu” has been breaking ground and making her mark in the cosplay community with the many collaborations she’s done with other awesome cosplayers and photographers. She also happens to be one of the most sought after wedding cinematographers in the industry and my co-worker/partner at Justin Element Productions. Can’t say enough great things about her, she’s a fellow artist I have a ton of respect for, isn’t afraid to try new things to flex her creativity, and just a really great friend to have.

Downtown Long Beach has always been my go-to shoot location when it comes to experimenting with new concepts, new processes, and new equipment. Because the city’s shores face south, the weather is always great year round and the natural light that flows through this part of the city always looks amazing. The city recently completed what they call “The Rainbow Bridge”, a pedestrian bridge with an arched LED canopy that connects the Promenade side of the Long Beach Convention Center to the Terrace Plaza. We started and ended our shoot here. Amazing piece of functional architecture for the city. I will definitely be back here again (maybe in the early morning?)

Thanks for the trust Dom! I am absolutely in love with these images. Check em!


35mm

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She wanted her own shot of the place too

The real CineCosu.

Yashica T5 - Flash fired - amazing skin tones

Stay tuned for the next blog! I’ll be blogging about my experience getting my first tattoo…


No turning back! Photo by Calvin Ma


Sammay Dizon - Kinetic Storytelling

My career went full circle recently with Sammay shortly after 2018 arrived. 

My friendship with Sammay goes way back to 2009… We were both dancers for the non-profit hip hop dance company Culture Shock Los Angeles. During that year, she was one of the senior members on CSLA’s youth team Future Shock LA, which I happen to be an alumni of as well. In the summer of 2009, I first picked up the camera for the first time and started getting my feet wet with Photography, long story short, I was hooked and in love with the craft (Possible blog post on my career timeline? Yes. ;) )

Fast forward to May of 2010, almost one year into my journey, I was contacted by Sammay and hired for my first paid gig as a photographer. Sammay’s 18th Birthday/Debut. If you aren’t familiar with this Filipino tradition, a Debut is pretty much like Latin America’s Quincenera. It’s the Filipino woman’s “coming of age” celebration for her 18th birthday. Not bad for a first photo gig, I’d say. It was alot of fun and these images helped jump-started my career. Shortly after Sammay turned 18, she moved up north to the Bay Area, California to attend UC Berkeley for college and has since continued to live, work and maintain a presence up there doing great work as a choreographer/producer/interdisciplinary performance artist. A kinetic storyteller as she’s known by (pretty rad if you ask me).

She just so happened to announce that she was gonna be home for the holidays and a little into January 2018. Seeing this as an opportunity to reconnect with an old friend and catch each other up on our lives, I messaged her to see if she’d like to collaborate and create something unique together. We’ve always kept up with each other’s work through social media and have seen each other grow into our respective artistic careers. We became the artists we were supposed to be. As a portrait photographer, I’m always in constant pursuit to collect as many portraits from as many people as I can meet. I like to find out what they’re about, how they live their lives, what their motivation and passions are, etc.

One of the main details that continues to catch my eye is the handmade ‘Malong’ she brought along to the shoot (I want my own!!). The Malong (also known as a ‘sarong’) is a traditional tube skirt bearing a variety of geometric designs and patterns from Southeast Asia. Aside from being a very beautiful piece you can wear, it also has roots as a flexible weapon in Southeast Asian martial arts like Filipino Kali and Indonesian Silat (such ingenuity!)

beautiful.

#THEMOREYOUKNOWWITHEARL

Video by Sakan Lam. The sarong/malong being used to augment empty hand techniques in Silat.

Exchanges between two artists like this yield beautiful results. These images of Sammay portray the kind of person that she is. It takes alot of courage and vulnerability, to be able to let yourself go in front of the camera like she did. Once she got into her own groove and started dancing and moving (with a little help from my useful bluetooth speaker), I put the viewfinder up to my eye and settled into my own groove as well (“flow-state”). It’s an intimate exchange and involves letting things go and letting things be as they are. I didn’t want to restrict her by overly directing her movements. I trusted what she was giving me and in return she trusted me with what I was composing in the frame. Truly grateful I was able to create these images with her. Thanks for the trust Sammay… =)

Kalinga tattoo by Apo Whang Od

Yashica t5 magic…

digital. 5D3/50mm

Hope you liked these images as much as I did… Learn more about this amazing friend of mine right here.

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