Tuesday, September 2, 2008

My Hero

By Raneil Antonio Ibay

Everyone needs a hero. Someone you can look up to and emulate. Someone who inspires you to be better. You’re thinking about someone like the Batman, right? Well, yeah he can qualify as long as he inspires you.

Seriously, I do have my heroes in photography. There’s my dad, Galen Rowell, David Muench, Art Wolfe, Frans Lanting, George Tapan, Bien Bautista, Hans Nelemann, Jim Hanson, John Chua, Dean Collins, Monte Zucker and most recently, Joe McNally.

From my dad I learned the value of documenting the family especially when I see our old pictures as we were growing up. He recorded moments in our life that we can all go back to just by looking at them.

For travel photography, I have George Tapan and Bien Bautista to look up to. Looking at Tapan’s pictures in Mabuhay magazine made me want to travel to those places and shoot them. On the other hand, I admired Bautista’s sense of design in a photograph.

I wanted to be a great advertising photographer like Jim Hansen and John Chua. Hansen enjoys his work immensely but takes his job of image making very seriously. From him I learned the importance of texture in food shots. Chua is a former boss from whom I learned that you are only as good as your last photograph so always try and do your best. He demanded perfection and this made him one of the most sought after advertising photographers in the industry.

Making me aspire to be a great portrait photographer are Dean Collins, Monte Zucker and Joe McNally whose styles vastly differ from each other yet are distinctly their own.

And lastly, I’ve always dreamt of following the footsteps of nature photographers Galen Rowell, David Muench, Art Wolfe and Frans Lanting. A lot of heroes I must admit, but they all shaped me to be the photographer that I am today.

One thing I noticed in them is they all have a hunger. A hunger to capture that one shot that no one did before. A hunger to come up with the best shot possible. A hunger to be a better photographer tomorrow than they were yesterday.

The late Galen Rowell couldn’t have said it better in an article I’ve read in Outdoor Photographer way back in April 1994. In it he talked about an important trait that successful photographers have, “the size of their rats”. The phrase was coined by British mountain climbers to account for why some of them became more successful than others. “The size of the rat refers to the voracious creature gnawing at a person’s stomach from the inside that drives them to leave the comforts and security of their civilized life to challenge themselves in the natural world. Without a big rat, a person stays at home with the family and is content to be a shopkeeper.”

Rowell further writes that the British Antarctic explorer Apsley Cherry-Gerrard also describes the same factor in the last paragraph of his book, The Worst Journal In The World. Written in 1910 after a trip to visit an Emperor Penguin colony in the dead of winter in minus-70 degree F temperatures. Oh, and yes, done in total darkness. He wrote: “The desire…for it’s own sake is the one which really counts…Some will tell you that you are mad, and nearly all will say, ‘What is the use?’ for we are a nation of shopkeepers, and no shopkeeper will look at a research which does not promise a financial return within the year. And so, you will sledge nearly alone, but those with whom you sledge will not be shopkeepers: this is worth a great deal. If you march your Winters Journeys you will have your reward, so long as all you want is a penguin’s egg.”

Like that Emperor Penguin’s egg, great photography is the result of the photographer’s personal commitment and that personal commitment is the size of his rat.

I’d like to end this article with a chorus from the Foo Fighters’ song My Hero: “There goes my hero, watch him as he goes. There goes my hero, he’s ordinary.”

Heroes are also ordinary people doing extra-ordinary things. Who are your heroes?