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  • "Mermaid's Lagoon" - "One of the boys is fishing here," says Geric Cruz of the photo, shot in Zambales. "This was my way of going back to childhood na kasama sila."  
  • "Neverland": "I don't want to sound crazy or anything but there was this weird feel to Zambales. When I first arrived there, naisip ko talaga na parang Peter Pan. Parang fairytale yung kwento so parang nag-coincide lang siya sa environment."  
  • This was one of the first shots I took for this series. Ganun sila magpakita sa amin. The kids, it’s hard to text them kasi wala silang load parati. Every time I’d text them, I’d go, ‘dagat.’ You don’t know if they’re gonna arrive or not. And minsan, ‘pag parating sila, meron silang pasilip-silip, niloloko ka pa nila. So ganun sila dumating sa beach minsan and I wanted to show that.  
  • "Following the Leader"    
  • "Goodbye Wendy"  
  • "Lost Boys"  
  • "Second Star to the Right" - "The beach is a 10-minute walk from my residency. So every night, we’d go there kasi wala nga kaming magawa. We’d lie down and hang out there. Minsan na nga matutulog kami dun eh. Ayoko i-romanticize pero ganun ang feel. Minsan, magdadala sila ng babae tapos mag-se-separate sila—escapades sa mga babae nila.  
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  • "The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up"  
  • "Apparition"        

01/20/15 Photographer Geric Cruz

Through his lens, Geric Cruz discovers portals to the intangible, the supernatural. In 2008, the photographer captured hell on earth through his series on Sitio Damayan. From a desolate charcoal-making town, scorched dreams and fiery survival sense burn vividly in Cruz’s black and white photos.

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While his award-winning photo essay “Where I End, You Begin” acts as a spirit medium communicating the many hauntings of love, Cruz’s series “Second Star to the Right” (2013) saw the photographer’s childhood reincarnated through the friendship of two wilderness boys in Zambales. To kick off 2014, “Second Star” traveled through noted galleries in Korea after its launch in New Delhi and praise received from exhibitions in China. Next month, it finds an audience in Thailand.

All this roaming and capturing the mystical in humanity can get wearisome. More so with “Diaspora,” a new photo series that bridges the spectral history of Manila Bay and the lost souls that stare out to sea. Cruz talks to NOUS about his challenges with the project and how the ease in fashion photography and the freedom of Instagram have proven to be worthy distractions.

 

First let’s talk about “Second Star to the Right.” How did the idea behind the series come about?  

It was for a residency in Casa San Miguel, Zambales. Originally, my thesis was to document relationships around the fishing community. For example, yung mangiisda ‘saka yung boat niya; tatlong batang mag-best friends; isang animal lover ‘saka yung dog niya. The two boys [in the series], sila yung una kong nakilala. They threw saliva at me (laughs).

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(Laughs) What do you mean?

They were playing with saliva and I remembered my brother. Syempre during a residency, you get all emo and shit, right? At that time, me and my brother fought. That was around 2011. We had a big fight and since then, hindi na naging parehas yung—I never said sorry. Naging distant lang kami agad. When the saliva thing happened, instantly naalala ko yung kapatid ko. Kasi we do that all the time, you know what I mean? Yung mga kadiri stuff. So at that time, na-realize ko it’s a good time for me to document a specific stage in a relationship ng dalawang mag-best friends before they drift away. When you reach adolescence, all of a sudden meron tayong gap na hindi natin mae-explain. We have those cousins before na bigla nalang nagdi-drift away na hindi natin namamalayan kung bakit. I wanted to use photography to go back to places. Me and my brother, we don’t have much documentation of our relationship. So I wanted them to look back on this after 10 years. Do you get it?

Yeah, what I’m thinking about is nostalgia to a time before things when to shit.

It’s also my way of going back, parang nanonood ako ng sine. I’m not interfering with whatever developments na nangyayari sa kanila. Pero andun ako nanonood and I’m trying to see kung anong mangyayari, observe kung anong behavior nila. Photography, output nalang siya. Importante siya pero it’s more of the process that I’m more curious about. Experiences nila, seeing them na yung isa may girlfriend, yung isa wala. Paano siya magre-react, paano siya iiwas

I’m curious if you directed the boys a bit for the photos.

I don’t know how to say this—since residency siya, I really wanted to break my process. So in a way, some shots were staged, some shots weren’t. For me, when you stage shots, it’s more real because you get to collaborate with these people and they get to see the photos right away. Meron silang performance na ginagawa on their part, hindi lang ako yung nagde-decide. For example sa journalism, if someone wipes off pawis, minsan nagmumukha siyang umiiyak pero hindi naman siya umiiyak. I wanted to be really OC with those things.

Obviously you can’t take the photographer away from the equation.

Photography is my medium pero mas-natutuwa ako sa proceso na ang dami kong natututunan based sa conversations namin. For example, we had a conversation before a shot. Hindi siya kita sa ritrato eh, kaya parang naging magulo ang photography para sa akin kasi you can’t explain everything to everyone based on a photo.

I checked out your ongoing projects like “Gago” and “Diaspora.” You shot the grit of Manila in “Gago” but what’s interesting is that there’s an element of amusement and the fantastical.

Yung “Gago,” if I really think about it, parang na-reborn ako sa photography dahil sa Instagram. I always miss the feeling of yung hungry ka—yung nagsisimula ka. During the time I was doing “Gago,” kaka-break ko lang sa girlfriend ko so parang wala talaga akong iniisip ng iba kundi photography for a while. So yung Instagram, yun na yung may venue ako sa photography where I don’t really have to think. Pero lately ko lang na-realize na may theme ang kinukunan ko. Nung sini-save ko yung photos ko sa iPhone, I realized I was doing some kind of social commentary. Parang street photography siya where I wanted to use words a lot, like quotes on walls. Yung words na yun, para sa akin, iba lang yung dating. You feel it more when you read something and you know a person wrote it down. So ginawa ko nalang siyang series with those quotes and the people that I see—yung mga weird things that I see or yung mga people na nakakausap ko sa kanto.

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I get what you mean when you say may impact ang quotes na yun, especially since you thought enough to zero in on them and capture them. You see humor in the Pinoy condition, like punk baklas

Siguro yun yung nagde-define sa akin ng Manila. Yung may mga ganun, mga bading, quotes sa wall, mga love quotes—the thought na people actually write it down. It’s also a way of showing everyone na may expression din lahat ng tao. Yung iba, ang babastos syempre pero it’s good to see—I don’t know, it feels like people are talking to me. Naaaliw lang ako.

Can you recall any characters that stood out? 

Dami eh. Kaya ko rin title ang “Gago” kasi parang mas-tumapang ako na lahat ng tao, kinakausap ko.

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Let’s go back to what you said about Instagram, na wala ka nang paki masyado.

Yeah, kasi sa Instagram, wala namang rules yan eh. Sa photography, there was a time na syempre, nag-iingat ka, especially since galing ako sa documentary. In Instagram, I felt like I was playing. It was fun again. Para akong bata. Iba yung aesthetic ko sa Instagram. Yung mga hindi ko kayang gawin sa personal work ko, ‘dun ko nailalabas yung mga bastos, yung mga kwela lang, mababaw

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Can you tell me about your ongoing project “Diaspora”?  

So “Diaspora” is basically a project I do in Manila Bay. I live around the area and I go there when I’m quite sad. I go there to make muni-muni and I saw this guy staring at the sea. You know how all the people are staring at the sea, parang naisip ko na it’s weird there’s this place na sobrang may history din tapos yung tao tumitingin, kung anong iniisip nilang problema is nag-ro-root din sa history natin as a country. So parang mirror image na nag-s-stare down ang history ng lugar ‘saka yung history ng tao. That’s the theme but I’m still having a hard time turning it into images kasi Manila Bay is so plain. Kailangan kong ma-trance para may makita akong something. So basically it’s about those people who live there. Tinatanong ko sila, ‘What’s up with Manila Bay?’ They all agree with me na meron ngang magnetic feel and they just can’t leave the place.

It also gives me the impression that people are stuck where there is movement because it is a port.  

And meron ding mga statwasi Ninoy, mga presidente natin dati. Whenever I see people there na siraulo, I really try to talk to them. Feeling ko sila yung parang pumitik na sa history ng lugar or yung personal problems nila or whatever, naka-escape na sila. Kasama din ang siraulo pero hindi ko pa siya na-validate in a way, na may focus ako. Although I do have some photos of crazy people. I’m trying to be careful because of exploitation and all that. But the truth is I’m trying to give them light. Am I making sense?

I was just thinking that what you did with “Second Star” in using the setting to give the boys a story, maybe it’s the same thing you need to do.

Pero it’s easier kasi Zambales is so nice. Syempre mahirap din pero in terms of giving a nice visual feel, ang dali—may stars, may beach, may dagat, ang ganda ng sunset. Dito sa Manila Bay, may sunset na maganda but that’s all you can get.

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Manila Bay already looks too familiar so I guess you have to dissociate us from our notions of it.

Yeah, so I wanted to present it na medyo madumi pero maganda. I was in Cambodia recently and I was talking to this artist about yung work ko sa “Diaspora” and how I’m having a hard time, and sabi sa akin, ‘Ba’t di mo gawin sa tubig?’ Eh syempre siya, hindi niya alam na hindi madumi ang Manila Bay.

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Then again, the thing with your photography is that when capturing something desolate, you’re able to find purity.

Photography, visual masturbation talaga siya eh. It’s really selfish so I try to be careful about that. That’s why I like fashion now kasi yung main point is to make it look nice. Yun yung pinaka-pure eh. Wala kang tinatapakan na tao. Yung model, ganun din prinsipyo. I just feel like it’s a good…

Distraction?

Oo. I don’t get much fashion work but I’m enjoying it. I have other works but I don’t want to say something first. Kasi when you say something, hindi mo na matutuloy eh