Wide-Eyed Wanderer

Travel photographer Paul Quiambao finds joy in discovery and community in his exploration of the Philippines

Interview Patrick Kasingsing
Images Paul Quiambao

Paul Quiambao, Header: Samar, 2017

Hello! Please introduce yourself.

Hi! I’m Paul, a passionate landscape photographer with a thirst for travel and a desire to reach and explore the remote corners of the Philippine archipelago.

How did you fall in love with photography? What made you pursue it as a career?

It all started during college in UST (2007). I was appointed by the UST secretary-general to be the quadricentennial photographer, and my task was to cover all the events that will transpire during the 400-year celebration of my alma mater. After I accomplished my assignment, right after graduation, I went solo backpacking to the islands of Batanes. That journey became a turning point for me and led me to where I am now. I was enraptured and in awe of the raw beauty of the place, that something like this existed in the country, and I was eager to document it with photography. That visit was able to help me develop a unique vision and approach towards landscape photography that I still adhere to now.

What about landscape photography attracts you? How would you describe your approach to photographing landscapes and nature?

The journey, the people you meet, who will often touch your soul with their stories and experiences, and the fleeting moments with Mother Nature that will make you appreciate life and what it is all about. I would describe my approach as raw and real.

Batanes, 2017

You were part of the Philippine Road Trip project in 2016, along with Alfie Agunoy and Francis Sta. Romana, where you aimed to travel to as much of the Philippines as possible on a 45-year-old Volkswagen Kombi, and of course, document the whole experience with photography. What inspired the project?

The project was inspired by the thriving travel culture in the Philippines. We wanted to go on an expedition that could inspire the future generation of Filipino travelers, and at the same time, undertake it for a greater purpose.

At the end of the day, you need a purpose in life to keep moving. Our mission was to give solar lights to the communities living in the far-flung areas of the country. The road trip took us ten months to complete and was riddled with quite a number of challenges along the road as expected.

Aside from the advocacy, what else do you want to accomplish with the project?

Explore the Philippines with a purpose. We want to help inspire a new breed of local travelers who are not just in it for the sights and scenes but are also responsible enough to appreciate and respect local culture and practices, as well as acknowledge the issues faced by the places they visit, and if able, help and bring attention to their plight.

Negros Occidental, 2016

“Beautiful photographs put you into a particular moment in time.
They tell a story and speak to your emotions.”

Samar, 2015

The issue of excessive post-processing of images is especially prevalent in the genres of landscape and travel photography and this causes issues of inaccuracy and false realities. What is your take on this? How much is enough post-processing in your opinion?

It depends, if you’re shooting for a travel magazine, then you need to take minimal processing as you would want to keep it as real as possible. But if you don’t have a client or you’re only shooting for yourself, then you can do any post processing you want on your photographs. Post-processing adds an identity to the voice or style of a landscape photographer.

What for you makes a beautiful image?

Beautiful photographs put you in a particular moment in time. They tell a story and speak to your emotions. Beautiful photography possess heart and soul, and a sincere and authentic quality about it.

Advanced technologies, ease of use and the advent of social media channels have made it easy and accessible for non-photographers to take and share their images. Should professional photographers have anything to worry about?

No, trust your art and stay true to your art. Don’t let society or social media dictate what you want to do. Just never stop making good art.

Quirino, 2015. ” It was hard at first as we had to deal with the practicalities and logistics of such a trip,” remarks Paul about the Philippine Road Trip project.
“The biggest question in our heads being how to survive several months living inside the Volkswagen Kombi.”
Sagada, 2014

This 2018, what do you intend to start? Any projects or shifts that you plan to take?

I want to continue my explorations around the Philippines, to travel to some of the untouched islands, and hopefully to publish a book about it soon.

What realities about human existence has a career photographing nature and landscape revealed?

Always be human before pressing the shutter.

What realizations or insights did this travel project reveal to you?

That you can’t be on the road forever. One needs to find their way back home. •

The story first appeared in the Starters issue, released in 2018

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