Lawrence del Mundo Quezon City, Philippines
Lawrence likes to think of himself as an amateur photographer who happens to take pictures for a living.
Not having many childhood pictures to fill photo albums and share with his sons, he decided to take up photography seriously in 2010 to document his own family’s history and to ensure that his children will have truckloads of photos to look at when they have a family of their own.
A self-taught photographer, Lawrence is grounded on the documentary approach, primarily, and almost exclusively, using available light.
When he is not taking photographs of his lovely wife and his three energetic sons, Lawrence works as a freelance photographer based in the Philippines, specializing in editorial, documentary, travel, and portrait photography.
Lawrence del Mundo was chosen by photographer Andy Lee
Laatikkomo’s interview with Lawrence del Mundo November 26th, 2015.
L: Where are you from? Or what cities, and/or countries have you lived in – what places have influenced you?
LdM: I can only consider Metro Manila, Philippines as the singular source of influence on how I see, having been born, then bred and raised in its distinct color, clutter, chaos, cultural complexity, and character, both of the Asian and third-world variety.
L: What is your first memory of photography?
LdM: As a very young and impressionable child, I remember going through every single dusty photo album in my grandparents’ house, thumbing every page, and scrutinizing each black and white and color photos of my mother, her siblings, parents, and relatives. I recall being fascinated by the history it provided and personally wanted the same ‘historical record’ of my childhood.
Also, I distinctly remember my aunt and my cousin taking care of the photo-ops with the Yashicas, Minoltas, and Rolleis in their hands.
Looking back, it all started with a very strong fascination with the photograph rather than photography itself.
L: Your images hold an intimate sensitivity to them. Do you approach your subjects with a personal or empathetic lens; is it important for you to feel a certain intimacy with what you are photographing?
LdM: Yes, I can say that it is a key ingredient for the images I take.
To preserve and capture this ‘intimate sensitivity’, I try not to intrude, first and foremost. I’ve always felt that to get a better chance of creating intimate, sensitive, and moving images I must keep the scenes undisturbed, interactions unscripted, subjects unposed.
“As you are, where you are” serves as a guiding principle when documenting what transpires around me. I hold this true even for portraits.
In instances when my presence is all too obvious, thereby, changing the general feel and attitude of the people around, I make a sincere effort to earn their trust and regain a sense of ease that comes with an established rapport with the subject/s. Only then will I take pictures that matter.
After all, photographs, while stills, must move.
L: Light and contrast are very strong elements in your work. Are you consciously looking for specific compositions or do they form in your images through a more unconscious level, through years of skilled labour?
LdM: I have so far learned that the harder I try to find a photographable scenario or setting off with pre-determined composition pieces in my head, the worse off I come out at the end of the day.
I go with the flow and take whatever it is given me. I guess, in a way, my personal and visual sets of experience have formed photographic templates against which I unconsciously base my decision to click.
Based on experience, I get higher probabilities of creating better, stronger photographs when I don’t consciously look for one.
As I’d like to say always… “Some photographs… they just happen.”
And we have to be sensitive and aware enough to take it.
L: In one of your blog posts you talk about using photography to commemorate the details of your family life because we can. And how the lack of photographs from your own childhood spurred you on to photography. How do you think your experience of commemorative images differ from told or written stories?
LdM: Each time we trip the shutter button, we create history. A family history vividly, mysteriously, and eloquently told.
Whether it’s a single picture or a series of photographs, commemorative images make for more compelling stories which have that magical effect of literally taking us back in time, putting us right back in that moment. Helping us remember how hot the day was at the theme park 10 years ago, how painful it was to suffer consecutive, heartbreaking defeats, how happy we were that refreshingly cold, snow-laden January morn.
Every single thing from the past comes together, especially when enjoyed with the people you share memories with.
L: Some of your images seem to follow one specific colour. Could you tell us your relationship to or interest in colour?
LdM: This is quite an interesting observation and question.
Interesting because, first, I’ve always preferred black and white over color photographs. In fact, there are countless number of photographs that I shot for color, but ended up being converted to black and white.
As it was only about a couple of years back that I paid real attention to color. To be honest, the sudden interest in producing color photographs was brought about more by my desire to change things up a bit and stay fluid in terms of style than pursuing a special relationship with color photography.
But I won’t close the door on this. It may be possible that I produce more meaningful and relevant work with color. Who knows?
Secondly, I was never aware that my style tended to follow one specific color. Warm tones and hues are natural eye candies for me, but, as of late, I’ve been trying to temper things by going for cooler and somewhat muted colors.
Maybe the warm 44 years of Manila experience, which has been latent in my black and white eye, is slowly wanting to break out and make a statement. J
L: Could you list 5 (or more) words that you were thinking about when you made this work (shown in Laatikkomo)?
LdM: Simple, honest, real, familial, free.
Thank you so much Lawrence!