Writing & Design Sample
Select two recent photo series from any publication and explain why you were drawn to them.
Also tell us: If you could have lunch with any two people, who would you choose and what would you eat?
It was a clammy humid November afternoon in the concrete jungles of Makati, Philippines and there I was — crammed in the back of a white minivan — eager to move an inch in the three hour traffic jam I found myself in. Thankfully as a traveler, I wasn’t pressed for time and so I took, what felt like, the shortest most glorious power nap I’ve ever had.
I woke up, arrived at my destination and quickly forgot all about the traffic.
The only thing that remains vivid about that day is the mixed scent of fish, fresh fruit and smog.
So, when I saw the photo series of Manila's Commute from Hell in the Guardian earlier this month, I couldn’t help but feel grateful that I only had a glimpse of that experience. Photographer, Eloisa Lopez, follows several individuals as they commute through the overpopulated developing country. These commuters thrive in their situations and seeing these moments captured in photography puts life in perspective. For example, Alejandro, a 58 year old man must wake up at 3am every day to navigate the dark labyrinth of alleys by flashlight, just to catch a bus for a job that starts at 6am.
It’s truly humbling.
With Manila’s traffic conditions only getting worse, the Filipino people strive to overcome these challenges by embracing and utilizing technology to create multiple solutions.
In January 2019, President Rodrigo Duterte approved the Telecommuting Act which institutionalizes work from home arrangements in private sectors. This encourages telecommunication workers the protection and benefits of working from home without having to deal with long hours of traffic.
Filipino based applications like Micab, Dibz Parking, Sakay.ph, Jojo and Pinoytravel tackle different aspects of the traffic problem from coordinating ride shares, finding parking, booking bus fares to delivering packages. Their efforts to resolve the traffic problem will help many commuters, like Alejandro, navigate their way to work.
I’m deeply inspired by the Filipino people Lopez captures in her photo series. They endure harsh living and commuting conditions yet are undeniably determined to seize the day. The true definition of resiliency.
Perspective is powerful. It allows you to observe life outside of your own pair of eyes. Russian photographer and philosopher Evgeny Molodtsov does a beautiful job in harnessing that power. His photo series, Pattern Recognition: Google Earth, Herbs, Haircuts & Mars in LensCulture, pairs images using different technology from Google Earth, NASA images and infrared photography to showcase the similar patterns between the two.
I’m drawn to these photos because it forces me to see life from an omniscient, third person point of view down to the microscopic point of view. In some ways the images makes me feel small because I’m reminded that I’m just an ant in the macrocosm of existence. In other ways, it makes me feel grand, like my body is a whole universe in itself and the miracles of life is happening right under my nose: such a breathtaking experience.
Molodtsov’s emphasis on global interconnectedness is reassuring. This series reminds me that there is a common thread that weaves through the fabric of life and we should put our attention on those unifying factors that make us appreciate nature and come together as human beings.
“Gratitude is one of the strongest and most transformative states of being. It shifts your perspective from lack to abundance and allows you to focus on the good in your life, which in turn pulls more goodness into your reality.” — Jen Sincero
If I could have lunch with any two people, the first would be Virgil Abloh, an American fashion designer, entrepreneur and DJ who has been the artistic director of Louis Vuitton's men's wear collection since March 2018. His recent collaboration with IKEA and his “Figures of Speech” exhibition at MCA Chicago proves that he is one of the most influential multidimensional designers of our time.
Often heard in interviews praising technology, Virgil is known for working anywhere around the world from the comfort of his smartphone. Being a person who has worked remotely, I understand that it requires a lot of discipline and organization to work independently. From proper time management to meet deadlines, creating time blocks to batch tasks to effective communication with team members via email and video conference calls, I appreciate his work ethic and his ability to work wherever he goes unapologetically.
He is the epitome of the modern man on the go and so I figured a quick stop at the Curry Up Now food truck would be appropriate for our lunch. With our chicken tikka masala burrito on hand, we would stroll the San Francisco waterfront from the bay bridge to the Pier.
I think the slight hint of spice would be a perfect pair to our conversation.
Virgil is an unorthodox designer. Hailing from Rockford, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, he earned a degree in civil engineering. His roots, experience and qualifications have often been questioned in the world of fashion because he does not have the traditional designer background. I see a lot of myself in the way he approaches life: unafraid to put himself in new and uncomfortable situations.
During our lunch conversation, I would first ask him, “How do you do it?” I’m curious to know what his morning routine is like and how he balances his time, work and relationships. I’ want to know if he has any mindfulness practices like meditation, intention setting, yoga, etc. Especially when having so many responsibilities and obligations, I think it’s important to have a practice that nurtures our emotional, mental, physical and spiritual health. I’m curious to know his.
Other questions I would have prepared would be, “How do you see technology influencing the future of fashion & design?, “How do you think social media plays a role in fashion?” and “What are five key lessons you wish you knew at my age?”
What excites me about Virgil Abloh is that he is a revolutionary thinker of this generation. In a previous interview for Highsnobiety, he was asked, “do you see your art career separate from your fashion one? He replied:
“I don’t classify anything. I don’t give myself, internally, a title, or classify the work. I just exist in different places.”
This makes me hopeful because being a person who is passionate about photography, I find myself in different photography spaces and I tend to question if I’m suppose to be there.
It’s this type of thinking that inspires me to continue putting myself in challenging spaces and to not let myself be defined by my work or title. That, I too, can exist in different places and excel.
I know that lunch with Virgil Abloh would be filled with insight into his world & inspiration for mine.
The late Ren Hang was a Chinese Photographer and Poet known for his photographs about gender, nature, nudity & homosexuality.
I enjoy his work because his photography is effortless, provocative and mysterious. He is my favorite photographer of all time because of his organic approach to his work. He used a point and shoot 35mm film camera with flash. To me, his relationship with his art was very intimate and private. When looking at his work, I feel like I’m looking into his journal — a world filled with secrets, fantasies and ideas.
When I was a child, I was afraid of cameras but I was intrigued by them. I thought that cameras captured souls and I grew up afraid to stare into a camera lens. Thankfully, I conquered that fear at a young age by being behind the camera. Growing up a military brat, I moved every three to four years. I took photos of friends & family and created scrapbooks to help me cope with moving on and honoring those memories. Starting as a hobby to taking courses on photography & graphic design, and now assisting photoshoots, I understand that photography has special powers that can capture the most purest emotions in a single flash or it can be strategically designed to portray a constructed reality that was once just visions in our minds. It all depends on how the photographer chooses to wield their camera.
Ren Hang had such a curious eye and used his camera to create his own world. He created images that make me ask “Why?”
What I love most about Ren is his care-free approach to photography. Unfortunately, he was a very sad man inside and his constant battle with anxiety & depression lead to his suicide in 2017.
If I could have lunch with Ren Hang, I would take him to In-n-Out.
Ren never had the opportunity to visit America and so I would treat him to the American fast food experience. Our order would consist of 2 double doubles, 2 animal style fries and 2 vanilla milk shakes.
Sitting outside with warm California air in our faces and the soft glow of the In-n-Out sign reflecting through the glass and onto our table, I’d talk to him about his photography, poetry and compliment him on his courage for sharing those shadowed emotions with the world.
Several questions I’d have prepared would be, “Who are your photography heroes?”, “How does your Chinese culture influence the way you see the world?”, and “What do your photos mean to you?”
I believe Ren Hang had an intrinsic understanding of composition, negative space and played with the human body like props. I’d ask him about some of my favorite photos he shot and dive deeper into his creative process.
I’d share with him my past fears of staring into a camera lens and I’d assume his response would be laughter. Most importantly, I’d share my gratitude for his work and how he’s helped me see the world from a different perspective. A moment of silence between two souls. And me just sitting there in awe. Enjoying the presence of one of the greatest Asian photographers of our time.
Rest in Peace Ren Hang 任航; March 30, 1987 – February 24, 2017