Painter & Street Photographer: Interview with Visual Artist Carlo Gabuco

Carlo Gabuco

Eric’s Note: I first met Carlo Gabuco in Singapore about a year ago, at the Invisible Photographer Asia gallery with Kevin Wy Lee. When I looked at Carlo’s work, I was overwhelmed by the sense of beauty and darkness in his monochromatic images. I was even more surprised to discover that he was first a painter (I saw a recent painting exhibition by him in Manila and was also blown away). 

Discover more about Carlo’s artistic vision and his visions/aspirations for the Filipino street photography community in the interview below.

1. Great honor to have you Carlo and welcome to the blog. For the readers out there, can you introduce yourself and how you got into photography?

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I’m Carlo Gabuco, a Visual Artist based on Manila, Philippines. I started to have an interest in photography back in 1998 when I was in college. At first I photographed like everyone else. I just took photos of the things that I thought were interesting at that time such as shapes, colors, textures– that sort of thing. I also took photos as references for my paintings.I didn’t really have any definition of what I wanted to photograph. I was simply exploring the medium of photography.

Suddenly in 2001 the EDSA people power revolution happened which gave me the urgency to document the whole event. I wasn’t really aware about documentary photography at that time, but for me it was an important moment, a historical moment, too important to miss.

Unfortunately all the negatives along with the prints were either lost or stolen. I’m not really sure, but I think that’s where my interest in photography kicked in.

2. I recently attended one of your exhibitions in the Philippines for your paintings, which were very impressive. You are also a photographer. How do you find both mediums similar and dissimilar? Do you prefer one medium over the other?

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I don’t actually prefer one medium over the other, both are very challenging and difficult. I love the whole process of painting and photography. I like to think that painting and photography answer to one another– both media I believe reinforce the ideas and concepts I’m trying to develop.

(Eric’s Note: You can see some of Carlo’s paintings here).

3. Describe what you think your photos say about yourself?

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I honestly don’t know what my photos say about myself. However I do believe that when I photograph things they are unconsciously based on my principles, influences, experiences, and how I was brought up.

I don’t know how to put them all up together to describe myself, but I think that these are the things that are molding me and pushing me to do what I do.

4. Where do you gain inspiration from? Who are some painters, artists, musicians, photographers have influenced your photographic vision?

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I have always admired the works of Dave Mckean, Phil Hale, Chuck Close, Trent Parke, Christopher Anderson, Martin Parr, Antoine d’Agata, and also I listened to a lot of punk rock back in college, that I think helped with my image making.

Also I enjoy books from Arthur Danto, F.Sionil Jose, John Berger. And of course, movies.

All my inspiration I get from people around me, I’m just happy that everyone has been really very supportive and critical of everything I do.

5. Can you share your concept behind your “At the Metro” and also explain why you chose the first series to be in black and white, while “At the Metro 2” in color?

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At the Metro is a collection of photographs I took for the last 3 or 4 years. At first it was all about taking random images everywhere I went, without any knowledge about street photography and documentary photography. However over time, I began to understand how it connects to my thought process as a visual artist.

I honestly believe that the street is a representation of many things: social, political, religious, etc. That’s when I saw the possibility of working the streets through photography. Through that, I came up with the whole idea of compiling all my street images and calling it “At the Metro.” It’s not about lines, shapes, composition and aesthetics for me, It’s more of a reflection of the society that I belong to.

As I have said earlier its still a work in progress, I really have no good reason why I did the 2nd one in color, probably its just because I’m still having a hard time editing and putting them all together.

6. You are very active in the art and photography scene in the Philippines. In terms of photography (or perhaps more specifically street photography), would you say there is a certain pinoy aesthetic, style, or approach?

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Yes I believe so. Every city, every country has its own character. This creates some similarities in the work that I see.

However I also see lots of unique work coming out of the photographers from Manila. I think it is the distinct smell, look, structures, culture, historical background of Manila which creates different work.

Also, many photographers in Manila have different personalities, which influences how they perceive and approach their photography.

7. What is your hope or vision for the photography community in the Philippines in the next 5 years?

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I have high hopes for the Philippine Photography scene. I strongly believe there are lots of talent ranging from the established ones to the up-and-coming.

Many photographers here have strong and interesting stories to tell and great images to be seen.

I’m hoping for international recognition for my fellow photographers, for the Philippine photography to be put in the map along with other countries.

8. Who are some local pinoy photographers you recommend people checking out?

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Veejay Villafranca, Paolo Picones, Geric Cruz, Tammy David, Jose Enrique Soriano, John Javellana, Jake Verzosa, Geloy Conception, Sonny Yabao, Alan Dejecacion, Wawi Navarroza, these are the Filipino photographers that I admire and believe.

9. Any projects you are currently working on?

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Right now I’m doing 2 projects one is a continuation of a project I did during my residency in Singapore at Objectifs Centre for Photography and Film making in 2012, they invited me back to do an exhibition with them.

The 2nd one is a long term project sort of a story book and a photo essay in a sense. Its about a myth of a mermaid in a small town in Zambales in the northern part of Luzon Im attempting to create a series of photographs that may represent the story and hopefully connect it to the current social situation of the town.

10. What advice would you give yourself if you started photography all over again?

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Shoot more.

Biography

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Carlo Gabuco:

In creating artworks, I always start by taking a closer look at the things happening around me. I like to take part and really be involved in the society I belong to. I have noticed though that some, if not most people nowadays are becoming less involved and more apathetic about things that matter in their own societies.

This observation and realization lead me to asking the questions, why are they apathetic and what causes their apathy? And then it hit me, we are now living in a world greatly influenced by mass media, a world of information overload and of colorful, sensationalized and gigantic advertisement. We are now immersed in the sea of “game shows, soap operas, billboards and fast-changing, high tech movie effects.”

In our complete devotion to them, we are held captive from urgent and real concerns of daily life, tending to overlook “some of the complex and more significant issues.” I make artworks that try to alert some people of these concerns. I present startling, disturbing and sometimes violent images that are missed by sound bites and sleek camera shots. 

Find out more about Carlo on his about page here.

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What do you think of Carlo’s work? Show him some love or feedback by leaving a comment below! 

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