Q and A series: A photographer??s Life
Kat: rock and roll
Background music, French songs by Carla bruni
Nana: so how did you start kat?
Kat: I started when I was 13 or 14 years old, I remember, we were attending Canaos, an Igorot celebration, either to celebrate a happy occasion, or somebody who has passed away, an ancestor, to celebrate his life.. my experience as an Ibaloy, we were raised by my father, to knowing our roots?.the rituals that Ibaloys have.
We were exposed and I was always interested in these events..why is so different from the city life, what I saw in the city, in Baguio, where I grew up, and the lives of the rural folks. My father said, maybe it would be nice if you have a small camera. And I said, Pa, it is expensive..so he said, no I will get you small camera.
From then on, oh but at first I borrowed a camera, an Olympus, from a cousin who was a nurse in Japan, at that time. When she came home she had with her an Olympus double frame camera, this is what I first used, and it was always black and white.
Black and white was cheaper then, this was in the early 70s.
My father said, it would be nice if you take pictures of the events, our culture, ancestral celebrations, etc..
But I never thought that I would make this as a career.
As a profession.
So this is how I begun.
I was excited to see the pictures I produced.
Nana: I met you kat in 1991. Thru Francine?
Kat: we met at an NGO thing, the Mt. Apo climb.
Nana: I was organizing an exhibit, I think, this is how we first met. Early 90s no?
Kat: it must be Francine who introduced us to each other.
Nana: the Tabak climb to Mt. Apo, then Francince brought me to Ayala Musuem to meet you..
Kat: then we met Mang Frank, we used to eat at pancake house, the tacos were only P15 pesos.
Nana: From there, you already had a career as a photographer!
Kat: I applied at Ayala Corporation. I saw it at an ad, at that time, Ayala Museum was looking for a photographer. Before Ayala, I asked myself: what do I really want to do/to become. So I said to myself: I am going to be a photographer. So I have to look for a job, that really is photography. To photograph. I didn??t really want to do news photography, the running around, running after a story..press photography. You shoot, click..this is not what I want to do..so when that ad came up, the chance to shoot events, museum set up, etc, then ayala foundation would eventually send me on assignments to shoot in the areas, like Mindanao, or the Visayas, for their corporate needs, lives of communties, etc..
I wanted to see the world in a bigger sense also, not just do corporate photography, use photography , role of photography for me meant something more later, as I explored, got exposed?
I also got side jobs even when I was employed.
But in 1998, I quit the corporate photography job.
Went freelance fulltime. I decided that I do it now, or I may never get out.
A 9 to five job.
Nana: did you have second thoughts, you didn??t feel like you it??s a big step (forward), did you feel afraid..of the unknown, what is out there? The uncertainty of freelancing?
Kat: I was also afraid?I talked to my father about it..I was close to my father.
Before that, I was in New York, in 1995. I went to study at ICP. When I came back I felt the vacuum, what will I do? I want back to ayala foundation, but the impact of ICP, new york was really big..it made me realize a lot of things. One is, photography is powerful, you can do so much if you are working on your own..very inspiring, life changing experience, this is what photography is for me really.
You meet all kinds of people, there are many ideas that flow in your mind.
Because of the experience after New York studies, I got inspired, fired up?I thought there are many things to do, to photograph, here at home, in this country.
Projects that can be materialized, only here at home?
After I quit my fulltime work, I had a lot of work?photography jobs.
my worked rolled on, for a year on?
but also, I felt burnt out. I got a lot of corporate photography jobs.
So I went back to my old pictures. I started to look at them again. And felt I really enjoyed the personal projects I did before. My own, personal projects..do you remember that hand made photobook I showed you and vir. I went back to my old negative files, I printed again, and looked back at my new york experience?
Looking back, of course, doing corporate, editorial jobs were really very good, I had money, money in the bank, but I don??t see myself doing just that..
I begun to see my work, the past ones, and remembered the feeling, mostly black and white pictures, mostly very simple, cordillera pictures, Olson, that portrait?.i felt a closeness to the community, the people, the relationships you develop when on field, shooting, a very happy feeling?looking back I felt an easy feeling, the pictures meant more to me..
So I said to myself.. anyone can take pictures of corporate events, but the pictures I took of cordilleras, my people, they are most special..
But I don??t ever regret doing corporate work, I thought that was a good experience, that I had to go through. Its part of the growing phase in my photographic life.
Nana: freelancing work, how is it now?
Kat: mang frank, told me: if you go past 6mos, and you are still okay, you will do okay.. past 6mos, you are not regretful, not depressed, bec some people regret right, and try to go back, so I believed Mang Frank?.
I got jobs from UNDP, NGOs, and would have also corporate jobs..
Variety of institutions?UNICEF
I also do my personal projects..not necessarily funded at this time, but later on, I can see that it will be.
Nana: what is your dream project?
Kat: I want to do a Philippine Atlas Online.
This will involve a lot of images, maps, etc?I want to collaborate on this with different photographers, from all over the country. I feel that I would like to direct this project, to work with different photographers on this..this is for educational purposes?also for visitors/tourists, to understand and know more about this country..
Another dream project is a black and white photobook. About the Cordilleras, because it is close to my heart.
The people, culture, ordinary village life. This is necessary, for young people to know and appreciate their culture, their roots, ancestors.
And eventually Philippines, in colour.
Nana: what is you message for younger photographers?
Kat: I think?.to stay with your vision.
We are seduced by gear, by people working in certain styles, by people who are popular and we try to imitate them, but?.of course we need to experiment..
But if there is something that comes back to you, heed that call..its like my cordillera project, It never left me..it stayed on, even when I was doing all kinds of photography work.. it was always something that made me stop and say to myself: this is an important project that I need to do?even if its important only to me, so what?.
It??s a passion project!
What you are instinctively drawn to, interested in?gut feel..
??stay hungry? not in a literal sense. Need to know, new images, travel, get stimulated..new ways of looking at things.
Nana: would you say you are successful?
Kat: (laughs)?.i think so, maybe not in monetary terms, but there are many meanings of success. To me it is striking a balance between getting paid jobs, and then doing your own picture stories, stories closest to your heart. Worthy projects.
Photographers are very dynamic beings..we almost do not stay put, we always experiment.
Interview done May 28, 2010.
Quezon City, philippines
Here are links to Kat Palasi's work:
A Photographer's Life
Q and A series: A photographer??s Life