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6 Visual Storytellers Talk About Capturing the World Through a Wider Lens

These Preview Creative 25 honorees prove that there are multitudes of stories that can be told with just the click of a camera.
6 Visual Storytellers Talk About Capturing the World Through a Wider Lens
IMAGE Courtesy of Issa Barte, Joseph Bermudez, Aya Cabauatan, Colin Dancel, MAYAD Studios, and Paradox Films
These Preview Creative 25 honorees prove that there are multitudes of stories that can be told with just the click of a camera.

When we reminisce on the past, we often refer to photos and videos that have frozen moments in time. We flip through pages in a photo album or, in the more modern world, swipe our fingers through different channels of social media. There are stories out there that have yet to be told and, in some cases, to be remembered. Even if the pandemic has made it exponentially difficult, there’s still a vitality in capturing these narratives through different perspectives and broader understandings.

Proving this are the six creatives we’re honoring in our inaugural Creative 25. With every click of their cameras, Colin Dancel, Joseph Bermudez, Issa Barte, Aya Cabauatan, Paradox Films, and Mayad Studios all aim to not only tell these stories, but to cement them into memory. When it comes to their craft, the worst thing one can do is to forget—and with the promise they show with their work, it’s frankly too hard to do so.

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Preview Creative 25: Photographers and Videographers

Colin Dancel

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PHOTO BY Colin Dancel

It takes a certain eye to capture things above and beyond the surface. A creative who possesses this talent is fashion and arts photographer Colin Dancel. Her skill of integrating ruminative and almost otherworldly effects into her work can be seen in the images of Bea Alonzo, which she shot for Preview's January 2020 cover. When asked to describe her images, the young creative states, “You don’t really kind of understand them but you kind of feel what it’s trying to tell you…I want people to feel [what I was feeling] whenever they see my images.” The kind of images Colin produces takes more than just a great eye for things, but also a particular kind of bravery.

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Some often see bravery as a raw, brawny emotion, but in Colin’s lens, courage becomes real with vulnerability. “That’s just something that I have been working [on]—showing what vulnerability looks like for me, and what that looks like in front of a camera.” It's in this sense that each photograph Colin captures is like a path to discovery, unearthing what is so often missed and unseen. Vulnerability is not an easy route to take for a photographer, but it's because of it that Colin is able to execute a rare and impactful kind of storytelling that will resonate with anyone who catches a glimpse of it.

In today’s turbulent times, how do you stay relevant and keep up with the ever-evolving creative scene?

“I think how I stay relevant is being able to just keep doing the work. [After] the Canon issue last year, we’re kind of creating this database for women and non-binary photographers. We’re trying to build a database, just for us. And I think, more than staying relevant, it’s more about how we kind of shift the industry to make room for more people. Because one of my insecurities or frustrations before was that the industry [was] always tapping the same people. How about the other people? Like how are we able to make room for them?"

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"And I think this is kind of my way of making room for people because I always tell everyone na I’m here where I am because people gave space for me, gave room for me to singit and learn with them. And that’s really something that I want to pass on to other people by means of this database, so me, together with Jazmin Tabuena, [who’s] also a photographer, we’re slowly building that database. I guess that’s our way of making sure that the industry is kind of ready for more people or [to] give space to more people, or [to] give opportunities and jobs to people. It’s not about just one single person being relevant. I think it’s like an industry-wide thing.”

What do you hope to see more of from the field of Philippine photography in the near future?

“I think just more appreciation for the art and the design aspect of things in the way we live. I think we have to realize that the moment we open our laptops, designers are behind it. Designers are kind of designing the way you open your laptop or the way you open your apps and everything. We live in a world that is designed by people and I think people need to kind of realize that more. Like the ads that you see on TV, the tarpaulins, those are all by creative people designing and almost dictating the way we live, like that’s how powerful it is.”

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PHOTO BY Colin Dancel

What do you have to say to any aspiring creatives who want to get started in the same industry as you?

“I learned a lot and I have so much more growing up to do. But I think one of the biggest lessons I learned is to really show [up]. I know there’s no physical shoots or anything but if you intern for something or someone, you have to be able to show up and you have to be able to do the extra work, or you have to be willing to do the extra work."

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"I think that’s something that I really learned, big time, through all the jobs that I’ve had, is to really show up, do good work—something that you would be proud of, no matter how small. And I guess just keep going no matter [what]. The industry can be mean, the industry can feel it’s throwing you out. It’s not. It’s nothing personal. You just have to keep going.”

Joseph Bermudez

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PHOTO BY Joseph Bermudez
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Joseph Bermudez grew up flipping through his mom's vintage fashion magazines, getting enthralled by the photos of '90s to early 2000s style . It was just six years ago when that he started recreating those images, but through a more contemporary, queer lens. The young photographer's work is where nostalgic references from the aughts combines with a fresher, more unconventional perspective that resonates with people of his age. "When the pandemic hit, I actually just started exploring different styles in photography. I went back to my childhood–What do I love? What do I envision?" he shares.

With inspirations ranging from legends such as Nick Knight and Steven Meisel, to local idols like Regine David, Renzo Navarro, and BJ Pascual, Joseph hopes to one day solidify his place in the industry. Perhaps more magazine covers and features might be the immediate answer now, but in the bigger scheme of things, he simply just wants to keep creating art. 

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What does your work stand for or represent? 

"I want to celebrate the queer or LGBT culture throughout my works. So as you can see in my works, it’s very... I can’t really describe it, but when you see it, parang there’s a sense of 'gayness' to it. Parang the gays love it, so I celebrate queer culture, gay culture in my art."

In today’s turbulent times, how do you stay relevant and keep up with the ever-evolving creative scene?

"For me, to stay relevant, siguro you just need to be consistent with your art ‘cause people [will] recognize you. If you’re consistent kasi, they will know na, 'Oh, that’s Joseph's work.'"

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PHOTO BY Joseph Bermudez
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What do you have to say to any aspiring creatives who want to get started in the same industry as you?

"Just go with the flow. Don’t be afraid to explore, to experiment. Just do what you want, and eventually, you’ll find your style in the end. Of course, you’re not gonna stick to one style. You’re gonna evolve so go for it. Do what you have to do."

Issa Barte

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PHOTO BY Issa Barte
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When the world hit pause during the pandemic, art blossomed in the most unexpected corners for visual artist Issa Barte. As the co-founder of For The Future PH, a youth-led NGO dedicated to environment conservation, Issa encountered stories all the time, ones that she believed needed to be heard and seen. With this sense of responsibility, she picked up her camera, eager for the world to perceive the environmental crisis in the eyes of the people most affected by it. “I realized that photography was a way to share what I was seeing,” she tells Preview.

Starting her journey during the pandemic was not easy, but for Issa, it’s an obligation to present these often neglected communities. Her noble effort as a visual storyteller and advocate has even gained recognition, as she became one of NatGeo’s 25 Young Explorers just last year. Amidst her hard-earned success, Issa is anchored by the heart she has for the people she is helping. It is with this passion that she strives to grow continually, both as an artist and as an advocate for the community. Seeing the ripples made by her photographs, she intends to progress more in her craft behind the lens of a camera.

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How do you build trust with your subjects?

“It’s like making a friend. In my experience, at least, vulnerability only comes with a relationship built over time, but really I guess, [it’s] my eagerness to really get to know them, not just [as a] survivor of a typhoon or someone who has suffered from poverty. It’s really getting to know the person behind them.”

In today’s turbulent times, how do you stay relevant and keep up with the ever-evolving creative scene?

“At least for me, I try not to run into trends. I just keep trying to do what I like and if other people like it, that’s great.”

What do you have to say to any aspiring creatives who want to get started in the same industry as you?

“Our motto in (For the Future) FTF is, ‘You don’t have to be anyone else to be a person that can make a difference.’”

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Aya Cabauatan

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PHOTO BY Aya Cabauatan

Growing up as the girl who always had a camera in her hands, one could say that Aya Cabauatan was simply fated to become a photographer. She took pictures of everything, from her family members to scenes of her summers back home. The age of Instagram benefitted the Ateneo graduate, as it launched her into a web of fellow creatives she would eventually come to know as her community. Like her style of capturing images, Aya keeps things real and raw. "I don’t actually edit or retouch my photos a lot because being able to focus more on the execution of the photoshoot allows that very organic photo that people can relate to... I like to capture genuinity and [to give] a good rapport to whoever I’m photographing."

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A prime example of this genuinity were her snaps of Hannah Locsin for Preview's April 2022 cover. Just one look at the images is enough to make you feel the searing heat of the sun, the hustle and bustle of Manila, and the quiet yet endearing poise of the international Filipina model during the shoot. It's a talent that Aya has evidently honed, and it's something that her younger self would surely be proud of.

There’s no denying the past few years have been difficult for creatives. How did your profession change during the pandemic and what did you do to stay afloat?

"The first year of the pandemic, 2020, was my last semester in Ateneo, so graduating in the middle of the pandemic was… It was a bit of a surprise. For me, [at] the beginning, of course I was anxious. I was worried. At the same time, I was learning more about myself. So I guess that allowed me to become introspective and see how I can improve my work and practice, [and to] do my own personal projects while the world is at a pause. Eventually, when work picked up, I realized that this could possibly be my career path and be my full-time. I started to get more inspired and motivated to get out there."

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"It’s nice to see how the community is growing and supporting each other. From my experience, I know more photographers now and because of the platforms of Instagram and Facebook, I feel like there’s a lot of new opportunities, and of course, there’s also a lot to work on. That’s what the pandemic did to as to this industry. I became more competitive and, at the same time, [there were] more room for possibilities."

Whenever you experience a creative block, where do you get the inspiration to keep going?

"Like I mentioned earlier, [during] the start of the pandemic, I feel like it was a cause for us to be able to reflect more. I only felt such of a big creative block maybe in the middle of the pandemic last year. For me, it was actually [about] staying away from, [or] maybe taking a break from, photography, and finding that new motivation [through] other hobbies, like cooking, gardening or staying outdoors and taking a walk. That, for me, is something that would be able to balance me out again.

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When you’re having a creative block, it’s either you’re uninspired or [you're] comparing yourself to others. It's when you can’t pick up a camera and you don’t feel like creating. [So find] a source of inspiration. You kinda have to like detach yourself and fall out of love of it, and then eventually fall in love back again with the passion. That’s the thing e. When you pursue your passion and make it your profession, that’s what a lot of people worry about–like if I lose my passion and my creativity because I’m doing it full-time, will I be able to maintain this as my career? That’s personally what I thought about. But that’s really a work in progress, like you really get to learn new things about yourself also as you overcome these creative blocks."

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PHOTO BY Aya Cabauatan
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What do you hope to see more of from Philippine photography in the near future?

"It’s a question that there’s so many aspects to answer, but I think it’s that there’s still a lot of work to be done. It’s still community. I feel like in the future… I’m not sure din kasi how photographers would be able to collaborate, but the transparency and not [seeing] each other as competitors but [instead], really appreciating artists for their own personal style and being able to learn from each other and not gatekeeping [is important]. At the end of the day, aside from it being creative, it’s also a business. So having that transparency, the willingness to collaborate and learn from each other also."

"There was recently this group. It’s [an] app [where] once a week we would join together, and there would always be a topic, and it’s like all of the photographers like the super old ones from different times [were there]. There were also [ones from] editorial, fashion, and journalism. [We discuss] transparency in rates, how to rate properly, and  [how to talk] to models. We cover a lot of topics: how to sell your prints, how to handle copyrights, how to handle a creative block. So just starting with that, being able to talk to other photographers. That’s also a good start."

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Paradox Films

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PHOTO BY Paradox Films

Love is perceived in many ways, and it always persists through every obstacle. Armed with this truth, event videographers Aris Magayanes and Duds Inguito, have never allowed anything to limit their passion for storytelling. Establishing their own company, Paradox Films, has only helped them grow in their skills as creatives, specifically in capturing matrimonial affairs. The approach to catching the layers beneath a happy ending comes with precision, skill, and as love stories imply, serendipity. “We don’t control,” Duds shared. “We don’t do second takes, lalo na sa mga moments… When it comes to moments, we’re not gonna direct that.”

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Alongside instinct, storytelling, especially in such a solemn event, goes above and beyond the lens. For Aris and Duds, being a videographer means relating to the people whose stories you’re telling. Aris puts it simply, “Dapat minsan alam mo yung nararamdaman ng ibang tao or kung ano yung perspective nila.” Overall, every video that Paradox Films produces gives off a timeless message, one that remains relevant ,especially when the pandemic happened: Don’t give up on love.

In your opinion, how did the landscape of the events industry change in the past years and what did you do to stay afloat?

Duds: “Pansin namin parang, more on family. Parang naging mas close yung weddings. So we need to tackle more on, paano nila na-push through yung wedding… Doon kami nag-stay eh, parang [sa] story. Actually, doon kami nag-peak! Wala nang pabonggahan eh. More on paramdam na lang na kahit na ganito, nasa gitna tayo ng laban, kaya natin ipagpatuloy ang pagmamahalan. Parang mas nag-peak pa kami nung pandemic actually, kasi more on story-based na ‘yung weddings.

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Aris: “‘Yung pinagkaiba lang naman ng intimate tsaka nung regular wedding sa’min is yung regular wedding, lahat ng guest na gusto mong i-invite, invited. Pero yung intimate [wedding], dahil sa restriction kaya [konti] lang. Actually, mas mahirap nga ngayon, ‘yung trabaho na kailangan mong i-produce kailangan mas doble. Parang imbis na ito lang yung ginagawa ko, nadadagdagan kasi kulang ako ng manpower."

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PHOTO BY Paradox Films
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What would you say is Paradox’s biggest achievement so far?

Duds: “Biggest achievement namin… we did break the typical weddings. Marami kaming brineak [na trends] sa wedding [industry]. And it’s a good thing, I guess. Kasi parang if you watch weddings noong 2015, they were more bright. If you watch now, meron na ring dark [treatment] sa videos…Siguro trendsetter na rin kung tawagin? Siguro ‘yon biggest achievement [namin], because we believe na as an artist, you need to leave your mark."

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PHOTO BY Paradox Films
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What is your advice to any aspiring creatives who want to get into the field of videography?

Duds: “Take time to create. Tapos kung walang nagkakagusto sa art mo ngayon, wag kang mag-doubt sa sarili mo. And also, you are what you attract. And if it’s a wedding, you need to respect it… Kasi we’re not directors eh, we are here to record the wedding and to create on our own. Respect and don’t stop creating, I guess. Kasi ang tagal namin before magkaroon ng recognition eh, it took us 10 years!”

Aris: "My advice to them is, in everything that they do, do it for their passion. Always communicate well with your clients and always be open and accept criticism. And lastly, always challenge yourself to come up with new ideas and styles. After all, creativeness has no boundaries. There is also this quote from Kevin Hart that I like, 'Everybody wants to be famous, but nobody wants to do the work. I live by that. You grind hard so that you can play hard. At the end of the day, put all the work in, and eventually, it'll pay off. It could be in a year, it could be in 30 years. Eventually, your hard work will pay off.'"

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Mayad Studios 

PHOTO BY MAYAD Studios
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PHOTO BY MAYAD Studios
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When it comes to local wedding videography companies, Mayad Studios is one of the first to come to mind. For a group that's been in the game for more than a decade, this is only one piece of proof to their success. "The main core lang talaga of Mayad is to be a wedding photo and video company, but then we would always believe in the authenticity of storytelling," they share to Preview. With international branches on the horizon, the company works like a well-oiled machine; though what really drives them forward is the dedication and heart of the very people behind every production.

One can always be assured of a visual feast when tuning into a Mayad-made video. They make certain that every shot, pan, sound bite, and edit is fine-tuned to a tee. Not getting lost in the process, of course, is their intention to help recount their clients' stories through their own unique way. Their advice to any budding creatives echoes this sentiment: "Kailangan meron ka lang ng very strong fundamentals and style on your own and everything else will follow. That’s one way to be adaptive to change and at the same time, [to not lose] yourself, your creativity, and personality."

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How do you make sure that the luxurious image of Mayad is upheld in every shoot?

Carmela: "Actually, before the pandemic, I was still screening kung sinong papasok na shooter for Mayad. From there pa lang, pinapakita na sa kanila kung ano ba yung Mayad na elegant, yung beauty, parang ganon. During shoots, we inspire yung mga shooter through international artists, and [pinapakita namin kung] paano ba yung cinematic, elegant shoot. Aside from me and the shooters, isa rin dun yung mga editors who help make our work elegant na tingnan. Parang, kahit simple lang yung mga shoot namin, how we frame things, parang 50/50 siya with the editors and in planning also."

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PHOTO BY MAYAD Studios
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Allan: "I think it’s the collaboration with the team talaga. Super important yun kasi pinapakita namin yung brand. For me as a director and with the editor sa relationship, dapat strong talaga yung bond niyo. Isang team kayo pero kailangan natin i-push yung mga sarili natin na ito talaga yung brand natin. Ito yung kailangan nating gawin at ipakita. Also, kunwari may mga shoots na simple beauty shots lang, sa editors alam din nila yung gagawin nila kasi they are trained kung ano yung elegante, kung paano mapapakita yung ganitong feel, ganitong genre ng pag-edit, so nasa training din ang collaborations talaga."

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PHOTO BY MAYAD Studios
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How did your business change during the pandemic and what did you do to stay afloat?

Kaye: "You know, to be honest, we were just very lucky kasi even in the middle of the pandemic, parang hindi totally nawala yung trust ng mga tao. I think we cannot really take credit for it. It’s really like the whole industry tried so much talaga to stay afloat kasi it’s not just us who were affected to be honest. I think yung pinaka naging key doon is to really just stay hopeful, because at the end of the day, luckily, weddings or events in general, they’re here naman din. It’s not like a trend, 'cuz people would always want to get married. Na-notice lang namin in this pandemic na nawala yung grander and bigger scale weddings."

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PHOTO BY MAYAD Studios
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PHOTO BY MAYAD Studios

"Now, we scale down, like meron kaming na-experience na two [people lang], literally just the couple. The key is to really just stay hopeful together and just ride the wave. If it’s there, it’s there as long as you know how to hone yourself in the process of waiting. Parang hindi lang din sila na-stuck into one genre kumbaga. A lot of them tried to work [with] their talent din that’s already innate within them."

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PHOTO BY MAYAD Studios

What would you say has been your biggest career achievement so far?

Kaye: "The biggest achievement that Mayad has–it’s actually the people, sa totoo lang. It’s their love for the company. Some of them, you’ll be surprised, sobrang dami sa’ming more than 5 years na. I think when you venture as a company talaga, of course you can stay as like a small enterprise, but being a full-blown photography and videography company, it’s so hard to keep up kasi it’s ever-changing."

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PHOTO BY MAYAD Studios
mayad studios preview creative 25
PHOTO BY MAYAD Studios
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"The people within Mayad love the brand so much that they’re willing to always push themselves, to be stronger and to be better than who they were from five years ago. I think that’s a forever thing when you’re a company and the people love you so much, yun yung magiging reason for people to love the brand more. What we show on the outside, it’s really, we start with a stronger core. That’s really the key."

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