Tag: fujinon (page 2 of 6)

Manila American Cemetery Part 2

In the month long battle for Manila over 1,000 American soldiers died, more than 16,000 of the 17,000 Japanese military personnel died and at least 100,000 Filipino civilians were killed with some estimates suggesting up to 200,000 may have died. Of these civilians many were killed by the U.S. artillery fire while tens of thousands were massacred by the Japanese, bayoneted or burned alive often after being raped and tortured. The commander of Japanese forces in the Philippines, General Tomoyuki Yamashita, was later tried for war crimes and executed.

Back in the 1980’s I knew a veteran of WWII who had served with the RAF. Towards the end of the war his unit had been deployed to Singapore and was there when British servicemen liberated from Japanese prisoner of war camps began their journey home. He never told me what they said but to the day he died Jimmy refused to have anything Japanese in his house. He had no issue buying German made products yet it seemed the brutality of the Japanese military was of a different order.

Manila itself was razed to the ground, destroyed as completely as Berlin or Tokyo. Only a handful of buildings survived or were worth restoring. Manila was once renowned for its fine Spanish architecture and under American rule neoclassical and art deco style dominated. Today after the destruction of the war, the rapid rebuilding and the chaotic expansion of the city nobody could call Manila beautiful and I speak as someone who loves the place.

Manila American Cemetery Part 3

Despite all that the Philippines and Manila suffered during the war I could detect no animosity towards Japanese people among the Filipinos I met. I think this is remarkable but this generosity of spirit seems to be a national trait. Coming from Northern Ireland where we clutch our animosities tightly through generations this is particular noticeable. Yes Manila can be a violent place and some of the conflicts in the country have been and are brutal, but there is an openness and a willingness to accept and welcome former enemies that is quite remarkable.



A Note on the Photographs

Normally I shoot in colour and decide afterwards whether to process particular shots in black and white but in this instance I decided from the outset to shoot in black and white and set the camera up accordingly. (I was shooting in RAW so technically they are not black and white but I had the viewfinder set to black and white). The weather was perfect with the rain holding off but a beautifully textured and tonally diverse grey sky. Blue skies and direct sunlight are the worst possible conditions for shooting in the cemetery since the strong edges of the architecture generate harsh shadows. Add to that the very light coloured stone used and the end result is extreme dynamic range from the near black shadows to the highly reflective bright stonework. The grey skies eliminate the harsh shadows and allowed the texture and structure of the stonework to be displayed.

Czar Samuel

Czar Samuel was ruler of the First Bulgarian Empire at the end of the 10th and into the early 11th centuries. He spent most of his life expanding Bulgarian territory and fighting the Byzantine Empire but after his death the Byzantines triumphed and the Bulgarian Empire collapsed.

This sculpture, unveiled in 2015 on the 1,000 anniversary of Samuel’s death (he died in 1014, but close enough), generated controversy at the time partly because of the style, partly because of the location but mostly because of the glow in the dark eyes. The sculptor, Alexander Haitov, said that he glowing eyes ‘radiate internal heat’ but most people thought they were a bit silly. So when the LEDs behind his eyeballs died in 2018 they were not replaced.

People of Manila 3

Here’s the next set of street portraits from my time in Manila. These were all taken in Pasay around Taft Avenue and some of the backstreets of Paranaque.

When I saw the guy in the first picture I thought he was a schoolboy, partly because of the uniform and partly because he looked so young. I found out that he was an undergraduate studying at the Philippine College of Criminology and this is the College uniform. He was clearly very proud of the uniform and the college, insisting that I take some pictures of him. This was taken in the backstreets of the Baclaran neighbourhood, and this was clearly not a wealthy neighbourhood. In all likelihood he is the first generation of his family to attend college. Many poor Filipino families value education and work long hours for little money to be able to send their kids to college.

The man in the second picture was in the same neighbourhood and I came across him and a few of his neighbours just hanging out and chatting. The others were a little shy but he was happy to have his picture taken. As I wandered off down another side street they called me back. They didn’t speak much English but managed to make it clear to me that the street was best avoided. It was another expression of the kindness of the people that they were prepared to look out for a total stranger strolling around the neighbourhood.

The Taft Avenue Extension is densely packed with market stalls selling a little of everything. I passed through here regularly and often took pictures. Like most of the areas I explored very few expats ever visited and I was something of an oddity so people were often happy to chat. It was challenging taking photographs here because stopping to take a picture would create a massive human traffic jam within seconds. I managed to get this one at a moment when there was a brief lull in the crowds.

In the same street where I took the previous picture this was another stall selling shoes. There were three young women on this stall but the third didn’t want her picture taken and hid behind a pile of shoe boxes to the amusement of her two friends.

On Taft Avenue I came across this group of guys and kids. I assume one of them is the driver of the Jeepney but this was obviously a day off since they were sitting in the back sharing a bottle of something potent and having one of those loud and hilarious conversations that happen when drink has been taken. I took several pictures of them and in every single one someone had his eyes closed.

People of Manila 4

I posted this a couple of days ago in my ‘Urban Life’ series but here it is again with a little background. This is probably one of my favourite photographs from Manila. The family ran this little stall at the end of our street. The menu largely consisted of every conceivable part of a chicken but I generally stuck to the pork. The grill is just off to the left where his wife is grilling my pork skewers. The glare from that fluorescent light in the background was a challenge when processing this picture and from time to time I still work on it to fine tune it some more. The nicest part of this picture is the little guy on the right. He was a shy kid and when we smiled at him he would often hide behind his mum or dad. I didn’t notice the big smile at the time and only saw it when I opened the picture in Lightroom later.

Roxas Boulevard runs along the edge of Manila Bay and is one of the major North-South roads in the city. When Pope Francis visited, his convoy traveled this route every day and the road was closed when he was passing. Crowds of people lined the route to catch a glimpse as he passed and these four boys were taking a break from standing on the raised median which had the best views. You can see the feet of the people still waiting there just behind them. The boys were taking a lunch break with their sandwiches and at first refused to have their picture taken. As I walked away they had a change of heart and called me back. I like the sense of friendship in this picture and the very natural responses of the boys. I took one more shot which was a little more formal and posed but lacked all the humanity of this shot.

Here’s another shot I really like. This was also taken during the pope’s visit a little further down the road from the previous shot. These guys are the barangay police from barangay 76 in Pasay. Barangays are the smallest unit of political organisation in the Philippines, similar to a ward or a district. Each barangay has its own small police force. As with the previous photograph I liked the naturalness of this shot with the different postures and expressions, particularly the guy on the end looking over his friend’s shoulder.

This older man spent his days on Wilson Street a few hundred yards from our apartment. Every time I passed by he would smile and wave. Having been convinced that photographing vulnerable homeless people was morally dubious I never thought about taking his picture until one day he made clear from his gestures that he wanted me to do so. I thought his face conveyed sadness but also real dignity.

These three guys were security guards at a complex of new office buildings further down Wilson Street or possible on Mabini Street. I got talking to them and took some shots. Normally my portrait shots are set in a particular context, but here the ‘context’ was a plain wall. I was quite pleased with how these turned out which was helped, as ever, by the openness and naturalness of my subjects.

People of Manila 5

Here’s another set of portrait shots taken on the streets of Manila.

These two women were shopkeepers running small local stores on Wilson Street. At the time I didn’t notice the third lady in the background who was greatly amused by it all. It was only later when looking at the picture onscreen that I saw her.

This elderly lady was sitting on a big tyre having a chat with some of her neighbours. They said hello and I grabbed this quick picture. I think this was on Leveriza Street. Without really thinking about it I just managed to avoid having the yellow pole behind growing out of her head.

This one was taken in Chinatown during Chinese new year. This lady was running a news stand on the corner of Ongpin Street.

These were both taken among the many market stalls and small shops along the Taft Avenue Extension. I was always surprised at how many stalls were selling shoes and not just sensible flip flops but crazy shoes with six inch heels.