Developing a Marketing/Distribution Business Plan


Ben at Biceps Machine


This last week of the year between Christmas and New Year’s has traditionally been a time for reviewing the year just past and envisioning what the coming year might bring. Something exciting is taking shape and I’ll put down in writing what holds the promise of fire.

By May 2011, I shall have completed three years of an informal sabbatical to study photography and video production. A bachelor’s degree takes four years so I gave myself four years to acquire skills and experience sufficient to start making money from a new career. I think 2011 is the year I add marketing and sales to the learning experience.

I did 19 model and 13 portrait shoots in 2011. By my own assessment I have some ways to go before I’ll think myself qualified to compete with professionals in the field but just this piece of statistic is impressive. Where do I go from here?

The thrust of my present endeavor has roots going back at least to my senior year in graduate school when I found myself conflicted about my career goals. I chose to go on with school and finish the degree because I saw the degree as my ticket to come to America. It took the next 30 years for me to start working on that initiative. I limped along all those years but now find myself poised to finally make the life change I was not able to make until now.

Joe Campbell, the great American mythologist of the 20th century, used to tell his students: follow your bliss. Bliss is what this is about for me, and authenticity: making my actions harmonize with my inner world and aspirations. Bliss, authenticity and identity are what this is about. Finding out who I am is why it’s taken this long to take this step into embodiment.

I remember the day in 2008 I shot my first model, Kaleb. This is how I want to feel, I told myself. This is my bliss. The learning curve has not been clear-cut and I have often faulted myself for not making a beeline for the goal. But what is clear today is how the path had to manifest itself gradually. One makes the path by walking. I didn’t know in 2008 where I wanted to go!


Christmas Is for Children Is for Grownups


The Magic of Jack


I’ve done over 80 images from the Bernard family portrait shoot last Saturday when I discovered a whole set of additional images largely featuring the two boys, Ethan and Jack. Ethan has a narrower repertoire of expressions, probably my fault for not posing him better but Jack was a darling! I told his cousin, Emily, whom I’ve shot several times now, that at this shoot she was second place to Jack. The boy was a challenge to shoot but his pictures are the most fun to process and post! For 2011 I want to do more children portraits, in addition, of course, to doing more portraits in general. I love shooting models but I think, as my skills and experience in photography grow, my interest too is expanding! It’s exciting and validating.


Art as the Salvaging of Shadows, Living Our Whole Selves


Food for the Dark, Cold Winter Days

I like aspects of the nudist movement because of the reasons you wrote about. I don’t like Puritanical hypocrisy but don’t deny I have my fair share of it. The naked body can be beautiful but probably only if we have a healthy relationship with our own naked bodies! Raised as you were in a predominantly Catholic society, I have the same attitude towards the naked body as the Puritans that settled New England from the time of the Mayflower settlers through the early years of largely English colonial activity. But early on I became sensitized to what I now deem a largely unhealthy tendency in much of world, both East and West, to think of the naked body only as a sexual object.
A photographer (or visual artist, more generally) finds beauty not in his or her subject but through the artist eye. I attribute our conventional ideas of beauty to the media that abound all around us, often so ubiquitous we no longer see them or become aware how they affect our attitudes and ways of seeing and interpreting experience. One of the goals of a photographer is to teach the rest of us to see again, to see beauty where we’ve grown blind to see it. I’m a photographer because I am obsessed with seeing the world without prejudice as beautiful. I don’t always succeed but succeed more than I could ever hope for.
I’ve been doing web workshops with established, gifted photographers this past year and I’ve learned more than just technique from watching them work. I am especially interested in their philosophy, in how they see the world and how they interpret it through the work they produce. As you’ve guessed by now I am flawed philosopher. I like to break down seemingly whole objects or concepts or experience to see what they’re made of. I became aware of this that summer after I left medical school and went back to San Agustín to study literature and philosophy of literature. By then I thought it was too late to change gears. I don’t think I could have made the switch then either. There were too many obstacles. I had to grow a little more emotionally and intellectually to attempt the switch, which I am now doing.
Photographers are constantly pushing the envelope of what is photograph-worthy. If beauty is in the eye of the artist, there are increasingly other reasons for creating pictures. I’ve never been attracted to photo-journalism although many modern photographers have been influenced by photo journalists. While I have mostly done documentary-style videos I want to venture into narrative videos. To do this I have to develop story-telling, an aspect of imagination and creativity. It’s a whole new ball of wax but it’s the challenge that goads me. I want to develop my appreciation of art, grow intuitive and creative qualities, and find and validate the “feminine” side of me. Nowadays, of course, we are blurring the boundaries between the gender stereotypes. A great part of the world is discovering wholeness. I like to think I am part of that movement and abet it by my own small efforts.


Shooting Portraits with Children

The Family's Next Generation

Shooting a model for the first time in May 2008 opened a door that I didn’t know till then was there, and a whole, new world opened. A cliché but true, I felt reborn: a new me, a new way of looking, a new way of looking at me.

This morning, I shot a family portrait. It’s actually the second time I photographed a family but the feeling was much like how I felt in May. Maybe some doors take time to really open. Maybe it was having children at the shoot. I love taking pictures of children! They can be difficult but their lack of self-consciousness is a reminder of Paradise Lost. With experience they’ll collect hurts, regrets, losses, embarrassment, pride and they’ll lose that primeval innocence.

Watching children can take us back to our own innocence, back to a time when emotions were simpler, not fraught with the memories of the years. Children are so much closer to the heaven some of us believe we’re headed for. In children that heaven is still visible, a truthfulness we lose with common sense.

Picturing children feels to me a task with which to gift all humankind. We all need to be reminded of where we were and where we can be headed for. Not to be a child again, but to rediscover the wonder of childhood, the wonder of once upon a time that with William Butler Yeats we can sing:

Though I am old with wandering

Through hollow lands and hilly lands

I will find out where she has gone

And kiss her lips and take her hand

And walk through long green dappled grass

And pluck till time and times are done

The silver apples of the moon

The golden apples of the sun.

Time Soon for Dreaming Next Year


Nudist Beach in Biarritz, France


For a change, before I get back to doing portraits, I processed this shot from my 2009 trip to Northern Spain. This was actually taken in Biarritz, France, a short motor ride from San Sebastian in the Basque region. The beach below is a nudist beach of which there are many in both Spain and France, their cultures much more open to nudity than the U.S. or the Philippines.

I’m halfway through the last creativeLive workshop of the year, an inspiring one by entertainment photographer, Jeremy Cowert. You can check his portfolio here:

He’s been a full-time photographers only since April 2005 but was a graphic designer for several years before that. His work shows the influence of his training and experience in graphic design. His photos remind me how photography especially digital photography can be that much closer to traditional art (whatever this means). He paints with light and color. I am still searching for my style and vision. The workshop reminded me that my first interest was in visual arts and drama. My younger sister loves to remind me of my childish productions when we were children and the drawings I made in grade school. I gave that up when I found that I couldn’t draw a straight line! But software now allows me to overcome my deficiency and return to the fundamentals of visual art: color, composition, and emotional impact of the whole.

I have not celebrated Christmas in traditional ways for years now. I do hang an evergreen wreath outside as a reminder of the return of life in the spring. Often I also invite people to a “gathering” to celebrate friendships and re-invoke the meaning of holy days (Christmas, Hanukkah, Pagan winter solstice, etc). My friends still give presents despite my asking them not to do this. What shopping I do is for food for the gathering, and last-minute purchases for my business. I can’t believe that I have been studying photography for almost two and a half years now. I’ve learned a lot but it seems there’s so much more to learn.

Cowert reminded me of something else. At the workshop today when asked what his goal was as a photographer, he replied: to be as good at his craft as he could be (and this was an ongoing goal) and to give back to the world. One of his recent projects was going on a Passion world tour:

The Manila portion of the tour:

He volunteers his photography skills, something I want to also do. He went to Haiti, for instance, during the acute relief effort to photograph the catastrophe to help solicit donations for the ravaged population. I should take this into serious consideration as I contemplate my own personal goals for the coming year. Year’s end has always been a time for envisioning what I want to accomplish. I don’t do lists anymore but take the time to “dream” where I want to be at next year’s end.


He volunteers his photography skills, something I want to also do. He went to Haiti, for instance, during the acute relief effort to photograph the catastrophe to help solicit donations for the ravaged population. I should take this into serious consideration as I contemplate my own personal goals for the coming year. Year’s end has always been a time for envisioning what I want to accomplish. I don’t do lists anymore but take the time to “dream” where I want to be at next year’s end.