IT’S ANOTHER DUMB HOUSE BILL AFTER ALL

The principal author of House Bill 4807 or Protection Against Personal Intrusion, has recommitted his bill to the Committee on Public Information today. In his letter to the Committee on Rules of the House of Representative, Cong. Rodriguez stated and I quote — “This bill, due to malicious and uninformed statements of some members of the House of Representatives has been mistakenly dubbed as the “Anti-Selfie Bill” and has been met with strong opposition particularly by the media. Further, it came to my attention that certain affected stakeholders, including the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and the Photojournalists Center of the Philippines (PCP), Inc., were not invited to the Committee Hearings on said bill.”

Clearly, this is not a well-thought-of bill. I wonder how many craps made it into our laws.

The congressman requested a further hearing on the bill and ask that all stakeholders involved be heard to ensure constitutionally protected rights are covered.

They should have thought about it from the start. I wonder how they yakked this bill through the plenaries. In any case, this should be considered as a win for journalists, photographers and freedom-of-expression loving citizens.

But this is only the first round.

House Bill 4807 is more than Anti-Selfie Bill

Do not be misled, House Bill 4807 is more than Anti-Selfie Bill

 

HOUSE BILL 4807: END OF STREET PHOTOGRAPHY IN THE PHILIPPINES?

HOUSE BILL 4807: END OF STREET PHOTOGRAPHY IN THE PHILIPPINES? by elmer nev valenzuela

House Bill 4807 will curtail press freedom as well as freedom of expression.

I have conquered The Met.

Two of my works have made it to the halls of the Metropolitan Museum of Manila. Consider this as an invitation to the exhibit as it opens on the 20th of this month. My photos, ‘LEAP’ and ‘QUIAPO UNDERPASS’, were taken with artistic intents only and nothing more. But of course, if those images could pay the rent, that would be a bonus.

Now the sad news is, I may no longer be able to go around doing street shots the way I do. There is this looming bill in Congress which appears to be crafted in order to shut down shutterbugs.

House Bill 4807 — called the Protection Against Personal Intrusion Act — prohibits taking visual or sound impressions of unsuspecting individuals with the intent to gain or profit therefrom. Plainly put, this outlaws taking photos or videos of people without their consent through the use of modern devices such as cameras, videocams and smartphones. The bill aims to ‘promote and protect the personal privacy of every person by preventing intrusion for commercial purposes, and enjoining everyone to respect the dignity, personality, privacy and peace of mind of every person.’

Respect. Privacy. Intrusion. I agree.

Some photographers have gone too far with their gears. There are in fact, cameras — aside from spy cams — which are, in many ways, designed for, well — furtive shots. They’re lightweight, more handy, and has faster and totally silent shutters. Perfectly stealthy. Any jackass can get his hands on these things. Not to mention the powerful lenses used by voyeurs and paparazzis who are hell-bent on intruding people’s private moments for whatever purpose it may served them. House Bill 4807 will curb these photography misdeeds if not eradicate them completely.

HOUSE BILL 4807: END OF STREET PHOTOGRAPHY IN THE PHILIPPINES? by elmer nev valenzuela

Pinoys are not that susceptible to photography and in fact they don’t really mind photographers on the street.

Unfortunately — however good the intent of this bill is — I would like to raise some bones of contentions here:

  • The bill will curtail press freedom.
  • And freedom of expression too.
  • Consent doesn’t go with photojournalism in most cases. How does a journalist ask for consent from, say, an angry mob?
  • This will make news photos and videos illegal. Do you stop media outfits from documenting actions of officials and minimize journalists’ access to information and proofs?
  • The danger here is when hideous organizations/elements or the police itself prevent reporters from taking photos of their actions.
  • Tourists may get caught up in this law and — worse — give another blow to tourism.
  • How do you ask permission from people in picturesque places? Or do you simply wait till the frame is cleared of every single body?
  • Does it apply to CCTV cameras? Because it takes videos and pictures of me without my consent.
  • How about TV cameras? Because they take close-up shots of audiences in a ballgame without their consent as well.
  • The bill could be used as a tool for suppression.
HOUSE BILL 4807: END OF STREET PHOTOGRAPHY IN THE PHILIPPINES? by elmer nev valenzuela

Street photographers in the Philippines are not insensitive to people’s “right to be left alone.”

Of all the creeps this House Bill is stirring, my greatest concern now is what will happen to STREET PHOTOGRAPHY in this land should 4807 comes into law. This genre of photography features the very subject the bill aims to ‘protect’ — people. Human scenes in public places.

CONSENT doesn’t go with street photography. While I don’t have any trouble in asking strangers for a photo (in fact with the right approach you will be amazed how people can be so accommodating) the result wouldn’t go anywhere near street photography. SP is more than a snapshot. It is about capturing people’s emotions and actions candidly. It is about documenting the life of our times genuinely and exhibiting it as it is. And since there is a clear amount of intrusiveness in doing Streets, no question the artistic expression would go head-on with the bill.

As of this writing, 4807 is on its third reading. And we’re hanging on to every word.

 

Latest: The lawmaker gave in to the people’s demand yesterday, Sept. 11, 2014 and has withdrawn his support for his own bill. (Weird as a dream, this is how they do it in Congress) But of course, this doesn’t mean House Bill 4807 is laid to rest.

MALATE EVENINGS

Yesterday being a holiday, I took an experimental walk to two contrasting places in the metro, Makati City and Quiapo. Contrasting since one is strikingly opposite in many aspects to the other. Makati being the central business district, Quiapo the center of underground economy.

Makati is to upscale sector as Quiapo is to the reduced. The list goes on.

The idea was simple. Idiotic in fact. To see and appreciate how easy it is to do street photography in Quiapo, as set side by side with Makati where almost any type of photography is tabooed.

Banned.

No-no.

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Then in between Makati and Quiapo is a nicer place, in order and demeanor.

Goodnight Malate.

EVENING IN MALATE by elmer nev valenzuela_9

 

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EVENING IN MALATE by elmer nev valenzuela

TRAUMANILA

Today marks my tenth year of living here in Manila. Malate in particular. The western end, the area by the bay. I know the place like the back of my hand now. And, as a small tribute, I won’t be going into its bad lights today.

Even though the city best speaks of that ‘run like hell by the Filipinos’ crap.

So today I’m left with nothing but potatoes.

Er..photos.

TRAUMANILA by elmer nev valenzuela

Sitting at the dock of the bay wasting time ♪ . Ermita and Malate districts from Harbor View Restaurant

TRAUMANILA by elmer nev valenzuela

From Puente de Claveria to Puente Colgante, now Quezon Bridge.

TRAUMANILA by elmer nev valenzuela

Uncongested Sunday morning. Quiapo underpass

TRAUMANILA by elmer nev valenzuela

Day Is Done. Flag retreat at the Philippine Post Office

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Bonifacio Shrine, Taft Avenue

TRAUMANILA by elmer nev valenzuela

Guradia Civil. Intramuros

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The fab Manila Hotel

TRAUMANILA by elmer nev valenzuela

Muralla Street, Intramuros

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Ballet dancer sculpture, Cultural Center of the Philippines

TRAUMANILA by elmer nev valenzuela

First United Building, Escolta.

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ASEAN Garden, Roxas Boulevard

TRAUMANILA by elmer nev valenzuela

Sunbathe. Cultural Center of the Philippines

TRAUMANILA by elmer nev valenzuela

Seaside Boulevard, MOA Grounds

TRAUMANILA by elmer nev valenzuela

Lyceum of the Philippines University

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Riverside Drive

TRAUMANILA by elmer nev valenzuela

Goodnight

SHADOW SELFIE: OVERTURE TO STREET PHOTOGRAPHY

There was this shutterbug whose blogsite I stumbled upon not so long ago, the guy makes great street photography and in fact, one of his works, a set of Manila urban shots, once made it to the most coveted Freshly Pressed. Although I failed to bookmark the site and somehow can’t find it anymore, I remember imparting something like step outside, it’s where the real thrill is comment because — here’s the rub — he was shooting from the comforts of his car.

And then there’s this budding street tog who rides, shoots and never steps out of the jeepney for fear of camera snatchers prowling the streets of Quiapo. I share her worries, Manila is malignant with lawlessness. And so she asked me how did I ever have the morale to shoot in public places. My reply was simple, but first, a story:

Exactly a year ago today, I was with a bunch of gentlemen at a luncheon table in Bayleaf Hotel as we take a short break from the first ever Shutter Games — an on-the-spot photography competition arranged by Digital Photographers of the Philippines. The food was heavenly, but I was more absorbed by the group’s conversation especially when one of them, a silvery-haired man who speaks as though everyone on the table is involved in their business, talked about black and white photography, street photography, Bresson, Maier, black and white street dot com etc. I’ve never been so engrossed in nosing around. That night, I googled every topic they had and I landed on tons of fascinating black and white street shots. This was how I got stung by the street photography bug. So this is year one for me in this brand of photography and as a fledgling street tog, allow me to take a crack at answering one of the many FAQs in SP: how to overcome fear in street photography?

As briefly as I can now: In this day and age when camera has pervaded everywhere — air, land and sea — and picture taking has become commonplace as a coffee break, how is it that street photography (the genuine 24-karat street photography that is) can still be a very daunting task, especially for newcomers? What is so scary in capturing street scenes?

Aside from dealing with the fear knowing there are hideous elements out there who might find your gear too hot, street photography in part, is about being a social odd bird. A street photographer tends to focus not on conventional subjects, and this raises eyebrows; he finds beauty in the most mundane, which makes him subject of scrutiny; he shoots candidly in private and public places, causing suspicions; he crosses one’s space, making him atrocious. In other words, SP is risky business. Once a street tog goes into action, he is out on a limb. But that’s just simply the challenge of street photography. Chew over Robert Frank’s words:

If an artist doesn’t take risks, then it’s not worth it.

So, without further ado, how do we overcome fear in street photography?

My answer is simply –one must first make himself be an innate part of his playing field. Whether it’d be a street, a train or a village green, he must melt with the multitude, be immersed to the situation and, attached to the setting as dust is to a pavement. Be it a gospel truth that as there are vendors and pedestrians, there are street photographers as well. It’s nothing short of acclimatizing. Every time I set foot on a ‘gathering place’ with the camera around my neck, I always make it a point to allow a few moments of lolling, observing and taking in the pressure of the place, the distressing gazes. And when everybody goes back to minding their own business, I knew I have become “part” of the scene, a fly on the wall, and then calmly shoots.

As to the fear of getting into unpleasant situations (thank heavens I haven’t been into one), so far I haven’t heard of a good street shooting gone terribly bad. Or a battle royale arising from SP. There will always be some minor incidents, your subject going into an angry outburst, a dirty finger on you, or a run-in with the guards. As per street photographer Kip Praslowicz, it’s more likely for a cheerleader to get into an accident than for a street photographer to get punched.

The net is loaded with extensive tips and tutorials on coping with fear in street photography. I think Eric Kim’s short and simple 5 TIPS will suffice. IF at the end of the day, you still can’t seem to find the courage for this artistic endeavor, don’t give up just yet, every cloud has a silver lining.

When I first started doing street, I found myself playing around with one of the most ‘uninteresting’ subjects at hand — my own shadow. Now I have gathered a few stocks here from my first months on the street featuring that sparring partner of mine, and my take as to how a simple practice as shadow selfie could be a good ice breaker for budding street togs.

Elmer Nev Valenzuela, street photographer, shadow selfie

First of, shadow selfie is fun and easy. Creativity starts out of the classroom and here, there is no failing grade. People have been doing selfie for 175 years now so there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Besides, you can do this all day without fear of getting into trouble since you’re not being an inconvenience to anybody but your dark side. For now.

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One amazing thing about street photography is that it involves cryptic, enigmatic, or bizarre images. As for London-based street photographer Nick Turpin: “A series of street photographs may show a ‘crazy’ world, perhaps ‘dreamlike’. This is, for me, the most fascinating aspect of Street Photography, the fact that these ‘crazy’, ‘unreal’ images were all made in the most ‘everyday’ and ‘real’ location, the street.”

Your shadow is a creepy thing. You can create your own dreamlike scenes by simply picking a ‘crazy’ spot for which to juxtapose your surrealistic shade.

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It’s all about the light, light, light. The more intense the light source, the sharper the figuration, the more you’ll learn to be appreciative and beholden to light which — after all — is the SOUL of photography. Then perhaps you might begin to share my fondness for taking photos at times when shadows are the longest.

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Acquaint thyself with the street by taking your shadow for a walk. (Folks from the field of spiritual psychology would refer to the shadow as our Dark Side. The Negative Ego.) Take pictures of your Negative Ego out on the street, in the park or in the ghetto. Before you know it you’ll be in harmony with the street and pretty much gone, broken, snapped off from your comfort zone.

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PEOPLE, the essential element in street photography. The component of greatest importance. Gary Winogrand is unrivaled here, imho. Let your shadow mingle with the crowd just to allay your anxiety. Go down the line if you have to. Embrace the human element of street photography. Maybe then you’ll never have to be afraid of your own shadow.

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I believe that the shadow is one of the greatest gifts available to us, Carl Jung said. It is the opponent within us that exposes our flaws and sharpens our skills. It is the teacher, the trainer, and the guide that supports us in uncovering our true magnificence.

The fear associated in doing Street is but a natural sensation. I say, introduce yourself to the street first, make friends with the street, feel the street. Bite the bread of street photography. Shadow-selfie might just provide a warm up. It will walk you through the fundamentals of street photography the easy way and, ultimately, create astounding shots.

That’s without the shadow of doubt.

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