INTERVIEW WITH PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER MANNY FONTANILLA
” I Never stop shooting. No one can stop me doing what I love to do in photography.”
Manny Fontanilla is an up-and-coming professional photographer. Manny is no snapper. His images are taken from a stunning perspective, each worthy of their own individual accolade. Indeed, Manny’s photographs graced the pages of HUF Magazine issue 35.
Manny readily puts any ego aside. His photographs are not about the photographer but about the people in them. It is easy to see how people journey just to be in front of his lens. Manny took time out of his busy schedule to tell HUF Magazine about his photography and how he creates his highly polished and carefully styled photographs. Images which are sure to raise him to the forefront of fashion photography in South East Asia and beyond.
“I am a freelance photographer and have worked with different modeling agencies in Manila, the Philippines. I’m always happy and proud of my photos because every single photo has its own story to tell. I also work as an online photo retoucher for different fashion photographers in Asia, Europe and the USA.
“I am based in the Philippines and I have been living in Baguio City in Northern Luzon for almost four years now. Baguio is a highland so it is one of the coldest places in my country and it is such a beautiful city. In fact, it is being labeled as the Summer Capital of the Philippines because, when summer starts, people from the lowlands just go up to spend their vacation there and enjoy the cold weather.
“The Philippines is a tropical country – we only have two seasons which are the dry season and the wet season – I can say that it is one of the most beautiful countries in South East Asia. In my country, you can see breath taking scenery like the Hispanic colonial places in Vigan and Intramuros – which are rich in history, the beaches in Boracay and El Nido, the Chocolate Hills and the underground river in Palawan. And you must see the perfect cone peak of Mayon Volcano. The Filipinos are very hospitable and friendly people. We love to serve good food! We are a very resilient race – we can always find hope and happiness even in the midst of calamities. Maybe the reason why we have this temperament is because of the geographical location of my country. I always love shooting in my country. Since it is an archipelago, there is always sun shining in my country. That is why Filipinos are naturally happy people.
“I have done several photo shoots outside my country such as in Thailand, The Netherlands and Belgium. I really enjoy working in other countries because I’ve always been curious about other cultures. And I get inspired by the new experiences I receive from these new places and cultures which I incorporate in my works. I am always amazed by the beautiful landscapes, breathtaking locations, and the warm hospitality of the locals. Thus, inspiring me to create beautiful photos. And I would love to experience these in more countries too.
“During my college days I had to work and support myself so I worked as waiter in different restaurants to finance my schooling. I studied and finished my degree in Architecture and had a chance to work in a local firm of architects as a designer. I designed buildings and houses for clients. My background in architecture helped me more passionate about it. Through this, I get to adopt ideas and concepts to translate in my works as a photographer. I have no formal schooling in photography. Everything is based on my research on the Internet, in books, magazines, and experiences in life.
“I remember during my college days, I used to volunteer to take group photos of my friends by using just an ordinary digital camera. When I first had my point and shoot camera, I was very excited to learn taking photos. A long time ago, I asked my neighbors and relatives to pose in front of my camera. Would you believe that? I had to do their makeup, too! I took photos of them with much
excitement. I made reflectors from aluminum foil and used these as my lights during my practice period. I only used natural or ambient light. It was really fun and I learned a lot from those experiences. After a year, I decided to buy a professional camera and kept on practicing.
“I remember there was a transgender person who sent me a message through social media and asked me if I could take her photos. I said to myself, “I can do it.” That was my first paid shoot. After that, many transgender people approached me to have photo shoots with me. Maybe because I really can do makeovers on them… They always loved the results of their photos.
“Now my subjects, or the people I take photos with, have changed. But I am thankful to my old subjects because, through them, my skills have been enhanced. Nowadays, I work with fashion models. It has always been such an honor to work with different professional models from around the world. I get to develop my skills more by working with them – both simple people to professional fashion models.
“In the Philippines, there are good professional Filipino models that I’ve had the chance to work with. But some of these good ones are already in the international agencies, like in New York and Milan. I also shoot foreign models and mixed race models from different modeling agencies in Manila. The Philippines is one of the best countries in Asia where you can make good portfolio material. That is why there are many foreign models coming to the Philippines to update their portfolios.
“I am a photographer who is very creative and one who never stops learning. When I’m alone traveling or when I’m in quiet places, I relax. Then, I write down my ideas on paper or I just take notes using my phone. Then after that, when I’m home, I make drawings of these ideas and keep them for my future photo shoots. If it’s needed I can work on my own – like doing the styling, makeup and even hair styling. I have people in the fashion industry that I really love working with. But if I would be working with another team, it’s important that everyone must be open to each other’s ideas. There has to be an absolute harmony when picking a team in order to benefit from each other’s creativity. When a team works together as one, the outcome will be all the better.
“When I prepare for a shoot, I always make sure that I have everything that I need with me and that I don’t forget a single material. I have a checklist. I am always excited when I work. I’m always inspired. So from the start, I’m already thinking of what color mood I’m going to use. I always make sure that everything goes smooth and organized, that we finish on-time and that we accomplish everything. I am always excited to review the photos after the shoot.
“I always get inspiration from a certain situation whether it is sad or happy… For me the sadder I am, the more I get good ideas. During my high school and college days, I used to enter drawing competitions… I really love it when there are people critiquing my work. Because in that way, I get to learn and I can improve more. There’s this saying ‘nobody is perfect.’ [Smiles] I love art. I love sketching human figures and portraits. I even create my own superhero characters.
“When I’m shooting models, females are really different from male models. Practically, male models are easier to groom than female models. Because with females you really need time to do almost everything – like hair, makeup, nail polish, etc. – polish their look and style them from head to toe, while the male models don’t need so much makeup and styling. I always prefer my male models and female models to look natural. Because, ‘Less is More.’ [smiles]
“I had the opportunity to work with several fashion magazines in the Philippines; like MEGA & Philippine Tatler. I’ve worked with other local clothing brands, international brands for bags and local beauty products, too. I’ve also worked with local designers and international designers; like Michael Cinco (based in Dubai) , Francis Libiran, Albert Andrada and Rocky Gathercole.
“I think there is no difficulty in being a fashion photographer so long as you really love your job and you do the right thing. And the respect you give to your clients, models and your team, is very important because that will reflect in every output of your works in terms of skill and reputation. I always remember what my parents taught me. That is, to always be humble in everything and always be disciplined in all aspects. I think these values will keep me grounded and help me become more professional as a photographer, in the future.
“When I have more time for myself, I always browse fashion magazines, read articles about different fashion photographers and browse their works. In the world of photography, it’s so difficult to establish your name. It really needs perfect timing and hard work before you reach the peak of success.
“Success needs a lot of hard work, drive and passion in order to achieve it. Never be afraid to experiment. Put passion, love and dedication into your work, keep on practicing all the time. Never be lazy to shoot because practice makes perfect. I am thankful nowadays, that for the past 3 years of photography, people can already recognize my name and my work as a fashion photographer in the Philippines and some other countries. For me, this is already the beginning of success.”