Thursday, September 26, 2013

*344. PICTURE-PERFECT: The Kapampangan Eye Behind the Camera

CLICK NA CLICK! Ace photographer Ricardo Reyes Twaño of San Fernando, owner-manager of Twaño Studio, the capital town's leading portrait salon in the 50s.

 “Pretty as a picture!”
That’s how a person of impeccable looks is often described—no bad angles, beautiful, whether from a distance or up close. But in truth, it takes more than a pretty face to be “Miss or Mr. Photogenic”—it is oftentimes the discerning eye behind the camera that can make or break the picture-perfect shot.

Since the advent of modern photography, Kapampangans have developed an eye for this art, creating pictures that not only document and preserve the moment, but also tell stories, capture realities, instruct and inspire.

 One of the earliest Kapampangan ace photographer was the prodigious Jose Ma. Piñon whose studios churned out “carte-de-visite”—small visiting card portraits popularized by the Victorian age. Piñon also took photos of the historic events in Malolos aduring the years of the Revolution.

 In the first two decades of the 20th century, Pampanga’s most in-demand photographers were Ramon Dizon (1882-1956) and Julio Valenzuela (1883-1940), who had studios in Angeles. They did mostly portraits—from solo sittings to family and wedding entourages. They were part of  the large Nepomuceno and Henson clans (Valenzuela, by marriage to Nemesia Henson Nepomuceno)  so it was said that they never ran out of subjects to shoot!.

 In the Commonwealth years, Juan de la Cruz Studio, under the proprietorship of Rogerio Lagman, rose to national prominence after being named as the official photographer of the 1933 Pampanga Carnival and Exposition.

Salon photography was certainly elevated to high art by Pablo “Bob” Razon who established a photo shop near the Manila Grand Opera along Avenida in 1946. His first patrons were Americans and their girlfriends; they could not pronounce his nickname “Pabs”, so they called him “Bob’s”, and the rest is history. Bob photographed presidents, moguls and mavens, socialites and royalties, celebrities and scions, with a long, successful career that ended only with his death in 2013. Today, he is acknowledged as the undisputed “Dean of Philippine Portraiture”.

Less well-known, but certainly just as skilled was Ricardo Reyes Twaño (b. 1922) of San Fernando. He was trained in Manila studios where he photographed personalities from Hollywood stars (John Wayne, Cyd Charisse, Harry Belafonte), statesmen (he photographed Pres. Carlos Garcia and family) plus scores of local showbiz celebrities, from Nida Blanca to Susan Roces. He set up the Twaño Studio right next to Pampanga Hotel which enjoyed quite a large patronage, especially from students amd American servicemen.

Selegna is perhaps Angeles’ most iconic photo studio run by the Pamintuans. The "home of glamour, haven of distinction" has been in service for over 60 years; its main shop was originally located along Henson St., with a branch at Sto. Rosario St. In the 50s, it specialized in glamourized portraits, family pictures, baby portraits and class pictures, with free panchromatic make-up.  Today, Selegna continues to be favored by students for their yearbooks, debutantes, prom queens and kings as well as newlyweds.

Romeo V. Vitug of Guagua began a career in journalism as a photographer for many publications like The Sunday Times Magazine. His photos were often used as covers in the tumultuous ‘70s. From photography, he shifted to cinematography and earned awards for his work in many Philippine movie classics that include Brocka's "Tatlo, Dalawa, Isa", "Atsay", "Wanakosey", "Bituing Walang Ningning", "Pagputi na ang Uwak, Pag Itim na ang Tagak", and "Madame X".

In the 80s, the place to go for picture and video documentations was Mukha Photography. It was put up by Rolly Baron (his mother comes from Dau), who dropped out of Ateneo to pursue his love of photography. His first successful offerings were portraits in either color or black and white, mounted on boards. He branched out to event coverages—weddings, baptisms, debuts, reunions—which made Mukha Photography a national name.

Never has photography in Pampanga seen livelier times than now, with more and more Kapampangans taking up the camera in the hope of following the footsteps of Holy Angel alumni Yen Baet. Her husband started her interest in photography and she surprised everyone by winning First Prize in a contest sponsored by National Geographic. Today, she is ranked as one of the world’s top ten travel photographers.

Another award winner is Ruston Banal Jr., who placed third at the World Photography Organization’s Sony World Photography 2013 contest with his work, "Kuraldal". He describes his works as "visual anthropology", with focus on people and social atmosphere where culture and heritage revolve".

Then there’s Angeleño Jason Paul Laxamana, who made a big leap from photography to film, megging the acclaimed, “Babagwa” for the 2013 Cinemalaya Film Festival. It has since made the rounds of moviehouses worldwide.

Cameras have gone digital, making photography so simple for everyone to do—no more films, no more developing process, no more waiting—just point and shoot. What has not changed is the perceptive eye behind the camera, who sees more than a subject in front of him, but a picture-perfect story about to unfold.


marc nepomuceno said...

Just some corrections, Alex. Ramon (not Roman) Dizon did not marry into the Henson-Nepomuceno family, but rather he himself was a member of the Henson-Nepomuceno family, his parents being Ramona Nepomuceno y Henson and Pedro Dizon y Dayrit (a consanguineous marriage). In fact, Ramon married his first cousin, Maxima Nepomuceno y Paras, but the marriage resulted in no children.

Julio Valenzuela y Limquanco was the one who married into the Henson-Nepomuceno family when he married Nemesia Nepomuceno y Henson. Valenzuela is not a common name among Kapampangans, so I'm not sure if he was Kapampangan.

alex r. castro said...

Thanks,C.Marc. Article amended based on your inputs.