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