02 September 2015

Medium of interrogation

“I grew up not being able to ask a lot of questions. The camera was the first tool in which I was allowed to explore, to ask the questions that I wanted to ask,” shares National Geographic Young Explorer and documentary and travel photographer Hannah Reyes. “It’s a good tool to immerse yourself in something and make you get out of your shell.”

The fun and prestige of photography is not lost on anyone who has ever tried pressing the DSLR shutter button or even a digicam’s and begin to feel a new sense of wonder evoked by seeing what they have just captured. It’s no surprise that bulky cameras aren’t only carried by men and women in tourists spots and popular events — they seem to be everywhere, every time. In fact the device has become as commonplace as a hat or a pen that it has found its way to arguably one of our top daily necessities: the mobile phone.

Shutterbugs have a new toy in their smartphones. While conservative photographers can’t be bothered to take snapshots with their phones and photo enthusiasts are already more than happy to have clear photos as keepsakes, Hannah takes an altogether different view on smartphone photography.

In four words, she approves of it. “What I like about mobile photography is when people use the camera to get closer to people. Because it’s so tiny, they can get intimate with their subject. It’s also easy to show them your photos right after,” she explains and further highlights the practicality of it: “When I was at Intramuros — they’re super strict now with cameras — they didn’t care when I was just taking photos with a smartphone. It doesn’t scare people unlike when you’re holding a DSLR; they’d stop and look more.” Most of all, Hannah states that with a smartphone, which is almost like an extra limb to most of us, you don’t have any excuse not to practice photography.

Calm, good-natured, and with what appears to be a fragile frame, you wouldn’t be able to tell that Hannah has gone through Cambodia’s Cardamon Mountains to cover the illicit production of an ecstasy precursor, or that she’s been in the midst of a crossfire during shanty demolitions in Manila. Her work — and hard work — caught the attention of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian and Lonely Planet, all of which published her photos. Given this record, does she feel powerful enough to influence positive change through her chosen medium of expression? Hannah muses, “Photographers are vain when they say photos can change the world. I don’t know… But it can make people see.”

—Originally published in a different version on GIST.PH

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