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!)



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.

Tori Cristi - Let’s keep the funk alive

We live in a day and age where we’re even more connected than we know. We can initiate conversations and get things moving in an instant with Instagram and other social media platforms… It’s imperative as creatives to really maximize the tools we have at our disposal. I DM’d Tori and set up a quick portrait session with her in Long Beach. She’s one of the few dancers in the LA community that still trains in a street/funk style known as Waacking and is making moves to try and spread the culture throughout LA. I’ve always been fascinated with this subculture of the dance world. From the dancers themselves to the awesomely funky fashion, I wanted to capture that vibe through Tori. We also had some great conversation about funk music, the current state of our dance community and I even got to pick her brain about some things about Waacking, really insightful! Super happy with how everything came out and I’m glad I finally got to collaborate on a project like this with her. Thanks Tori! <3

Photo nerds- I didn’t get to shoot too much 35mm for this session because of the fading sunlight. So I shot mostly on my 5D3/50mm and had to push my ISO way up. I did have a roll of Portra 160 loaded into my AE-1 and snapped a quick portrait of her just to experiment with that film. I have to say… Portra 160 is my favorite film right now for portraits. The grain is super fine and in the right light looks amazing.

Catching those “in-betweens”

Portra 160. Amazing grain..

the good stuff…

Quynh Ava x Inviscus Brand

Blogging is some thing I definitely want to force myself to do because it gets me to write and reflect on the various projects I work on as well as share whole image sets from my shoots that would otherwise get lost in the great abyss that is Instagram. However, I have been really strict on myself in terms of learning to adapt with this new age of social media (this can be a separate blog post in itself…) The goal is to eventually drive the Instagram traffic and interactions I have with other creatives and influencers back to this blog (and thus my website).

Back in late December, I collaborated with my friend Quynh on shooting her personal take on the new line of apparel released by Inviscus Brand. With Inviscus being based out in Santa Ana, we decided to explore and shoot around Downtown Santa Ana. I shot a mix both digital and 35mm for this shoot and love how they all came out in the end. Quynh was awesome to work with and the looks she put together were absolute fire. You really can’t go wrong when you have that plus the golden hour and a great location. Great vibes all around… =)

Shooting film has changed the way I shoot digitally as well. I’ve really slowed down my shooting process, thinking about everything from the light, to my background, and subject. Every click of the shutter is deliberate and intentional. The result is alot more keepers and less bullsh*t, not to mention tons more hard drive space. (Yay for saving money on memory!)

Take a scroll down at the final image set as well as some of the fun BTS film shots.

My Yashica T5


Digital workhorse, 5D3/50 1.2L

Catching the “in-betweens” ;)

That orange tone in the back!

Daylight burning fast!

Caught the light..

my style of shooting back in 2012 #backlitgang

Digital version of another photo below…

Probably my favorite shot of her so far.

that light is how it really looked. O_O

Film version of another photo above…Wow.

Happy accident..

Black “Earl” Windbreaker

Yashica with flash.

“is this how you model?”

Alex and Quynh after we wrapped the shoot…

better than digital?

golden hour goodness

Quynh and I =)

Hope you enjoyed that! Stay tuned for the next blog post featuring Tori! =)


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