We've been trying to have Sam to be featured on The Local Folke for so long now, and we've been stalking him for quite some time since he had his exhibit at Cafe by the Ruins Dua last 2016 and ever since then we have been an avid follower of his works. Besides being a teacher and a "hobbyist" photographer now based in Yokohama, Japan. He is also the creator of Miru Cameras a self-made and handcrafted wooden pinhole camera brand. He is a graduate of Environmental Science at Ateneo de Manila University and he uses photography as a way to express his love for nature and its Creator. David has been featured in local media and has been hosting exhibits for both his pinhole camera and works as a photographer, moreover, he as had done workshops locally as well.
TLF: How did you develop an interest in photography?
SF: I developed an interest in photography after I was thrown into it. Our school was going to participate in an inter-school district press conference and because our main photographer for photojournalism was abroad, I became the substitute. (Rather, I was made the substitute photographer because I was the only one who could borrow a camera before the competition.) I had no knowledge of what I was doing except for the mini-lecture we had prior to the competition proper. When it started, I didn’t even know how to load the film into the camera so I had to ask one of the event staff for help then went on my shooting spree. Soon after, we had to return to caption our printed photos but because I didn’t know what I was doing, I just studied and analyzed the local newspaper. Needless to say, I was glad that the competition was over or so I thought. By God’s grace, I placed 4th overall which meant that I would go to regionals. Armed with my new knowledge of film loading, I went to regionals where I placed third overall! This would then allow me to compete at the national level where, unbelievably, I placed 4th overall. It was in the whole process where I fell in love with photography and took a huge interest in it.
TLF: What course did you end up taking in college? Does it affect your chosen path now in some way?
SF: I ended up taking Environmental Science in college. My science background did help my photography in a lot of ways though. It has helped me in understanding concepts and calculations with regards to my stint in pinhole and do-it-yourself photography and as well as self-developing film. Being exposed to nature and creation helped me appreciate it even more and this is why it remains one of my constant subjects. Creation fills me with such great awe for the Creator that all I can do is attempt to capture it in a single frame.
TLF: What was your career path? How did you get from being an aspiring photographer to actually doing it full time, for a living?
SF: I am now a full-time teacher in Japan and I teach science and art. To be honest, I would say that I’m part of the demographic that does not want to mix my passion with my work. I tried at one point but did not enjoy it. It felt forced and I lost the joy I once had towards the photographic process. That’s just my story though.
TLF: Do you have any formal training?
SF: Apart from a semester of Visual Literacy and a semester of Basic Photography (where I didn’t even have my own camera for 1⁄2 of the semester) in the last year of my college life, I did not have any other formal training. Later on, I took an online course done by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) through Coursera which I am now in training to become a mentor for. I was also accepted as a mentee for the Invisible Photographer Asia (IPA) Mentorship Program.
TLF: How do you educate yourself to take better pictures?
SF: I spend a lot of time looking through the works of other people. Instagram and Facebook is the most accessible platform for me to check out works of other photographers but when I can, I go to my local bookstore and dig through the photobooks. I also take the time to watch videos from channels like The Art of Photography and the like. More importantly, you gotta practice. A LOT.
TLF: Are there any books or any people whose work you’d advise newbies to look into?
SF: I’d advise newbies to look at photobooks... Lots and lots of photobooks. Go to your nearest secondhand bookstore and look for all kinds of photobooks. Study them and figure out which ones appeal to you the most. Each person is inclined to a unique style that fits his/her personality. I loved black and white and hence I was immediately drawn to photographs from
people like Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Eliott Erwitt and the like. If you’re new photography, I think it would be a safe bet to start off with the masters/pioneers of photography and work your way to the modern photographers.
TLF: Among your works, which one is your favorite? Why?
SF: I now live by the words of Imogen Cunningham when she responds to the same question and says, “The one I’m going to take tomorrow.” So right now, I would say that I don’t really have a favorite photograph. However, If I were to choose, my favorite is actually a “failed” photograph. Flashback to 2015 when I dived into the world of DIY photography and made my own cameras. Being unsatisfied with my first model, I made a smaller, classier-looking and more ‘expensive’ pinhole camera with premium materials. However, when I took it out for testing, only ONE shot came out and it wasn’t even close to the quality of the first one I made. This humbled me in a lot of ways and allowed me to become more strict in my making of cameras and also helped me embrace the flaws when they happened. I once hated seeing the photograph but now when I see it, I am reminded of how far I’ve gone since then.
TLF: What challenged you most about photography?
SF: I’d have to say that it’s the compositional and technical stuff. I just don’t get it sometimes but I guess that’s part of the process.
TLF: What inspires you to take photos?
SF: The Beauty of Creation inspires me a lot. Beauty being the Creator and how He is reflected in what He has created. Other people’s view/perspective on the beauty also inspires me and encourages me to approach a new angle.
TLF: What motivates you to continue taking pictures economically, politically, intellectually or emotionally?
SF: A lot of my motivation to shoot comes from my personal relationship with God. When I was making the ‘Untitled’ series, I was in a very rough patch in my walk with the Lord. I had felt extremely lonely after moving to Japan and leaving everything behind in the Philippines. This is why most of my subjects in this series were alone. When the Lord began to heal me, I became more aware of His beauty and found myself taking more pictures of things I thought reflected that.
TLF: You have a signature style and feel in your photos. How did you come up with your style or decide on one?
SF: I really don’t know how to answer that because I just photograph and process it in the way I think looks good. For my black and whites, I love the interplay of light and shadow. This is why high contrast chiaroscuro is the way to go for me. I also really love minimalism. I’ve only recently delved into the world of color photography and am still searching for my own style. I do, however, prefer colder tones than warmer tones. Perhaps it’s a result of growing up in Baguio. (hehe)
TLF: Who are your greatest influences as a photographer and how did they influence your thinking, photographing, and career path?
SF: I’ll be honest when I say that I did not know any great photographers/influences until much later on in my journey. But when it comes to street photography, moment photographers like Eliott Erwitt and Henri Cartier-Bresson rank among my favorites. I enjoy candids and seeing the works of these guys inspired me a whole lot. My photography teacher also emphasized the importance of knowing “why” we took photos. This influenced me a lot in terms of knowing when
and what to shoot and although I am not a full-time photographer now, I carry all these things when I go out on trips and shoots.
TLF: Whose work has influenced you most?
SF: I follow this awesome photographer on Instagram named Eri (@ericonbu). When I came home from my gap year in Japan in 2015, I was looking at and analyzing the style and aesthetic of a lot of Japanese photographers and her minimalist style was what captivated me from the get-go. Her style has really influenced the way I view and take pictures whether in color or in black and white.
TLF: What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos?
SF: I wish I knew how expensive it would get. haha
TLF: What makes the good picture stand out from the average?
SF: A good photograph captures the attention of the viewer and also allows a silent dialogue to happen between them and the subject(s) of the photo.
TLF: Colour vs. Black and White. Why one over the other, and is the photographic process different?
SF: I’d love to say both but I’m still biased towards Black and White. Ideally, for me, the process of taking the photograph it should be no different. However, there are some things that work best for color and some things that work best as a black and white photograph.
When I want to convey an overall mood and a certain emphasis on a subject in a photograph, color works best for me. Personally, I found black and white more capable of portraying the candidness (raw-ness) and feeling of an event or a particular situation. Black and white also helps me focus more on getting the photograph right (compositionally and
technically) as opposed to looking for something colorful that stands out and the like.
TLF: What does photography mean to you?
SF: Photography is a way for me to worship the Lord. Back then, I was struggling and frustrated because I wanted to be able to show my gratitude and worship Him. My friends were very talented and they were using the talents that they were given to worship and serve Him and since I wasn’t musically inclined, I wanted to know what I could do. During a camp, the Lord had revealed to me that the camera was my instrument and since then, I’ve seen it as that and that every picture I take is to be used for His glory and not mine. It’s a great medium for me to get my message across and share with people what I think is beautiful.
TLF: What would you tell a young artist who wants to pursue photography?
SF: Know your why and get your message across.