Chronicles of a Student Journalist: Behind The Black Walls

(This essay blog entry about my experience during the 2012 Comguild Conference is written for a photojournalism and lay-out class. I wrote this in under two hours two months after the event..)

“I need a good shot,” I kept telling myself one Saturday morning, as I rode the bus to Quezon City.

Though this was not the first event I have taken pictures of, I still worry about taking pictures of things or events that you have no control. I went there as a participant. I cannot tell them to stop moving so I can capture the moment. The thing I worry about the most is the lighting. I wished, then, that I have a camera that can be more light-sensitive to compensate with my shaky hands.

I went to the venue with my friends, Adi and Rudstin, around an hour before the program starts to have a good look at the place and to prepare myself for the challenge.

I haven’t had a story in mind when I arrived in the venue. And I don’t think randomly taking pictures of the program will help. The discord between the shots may be apparent. I quickly approached an usher to inquire about getting access in the backstage.

For quite some time, I waited in the back, near the entrance, to see who was in charge and if I can ask permission to take pictures backstage. I was lead to Ms. Zhandra Norte, the conference chairperson. I was given permission to take pictures backstage however, I am the only one allowed to do so.

Personal Dilemmas

As the program started, I kept checking backstage for notable activities. Aside from the personalities, I also wanted to see the staff working to ensure the smooth flow of the event. However, the place remained entry as the guest speakers had not arrived yet. I stayed in the audience area where I took pictures of the stage and the people in charge of the lights and sounds.

I returned backstage in time to catch a glimpse of the first speaker for the morning, Ms Marissa Flores, GMA’s Senior Vice President for News and Public Affairs. Still nervous and unsure of what to do, I took a scant number of shots that turned out to be not decent enough.

My dilemma in taking backstage shots is whether I am interfering with a person’s privacy. I certainly do not want to have my pictures taken without my consent. I would immediately tell people who posted online a photo of me, flattering or not, to remove it. Whenever I take pictures, I put that into consideration. I would not want to take pictures of people if that would make them uncomfortable or invasive.

However, I was there for a purpose. I aimed to chronicle what is going on backstage. I desire to capture the portrait of a prominent individual behind the stage or the cameras. I am battling with my personal ideals and the task that I have to perform.

Very often, I thought of letting a friend or two join me backstage. I would have been more relaxed if there was someone there who shared my plight. But I know I was given that opportunity and there are rules that went along with it. Disobedience may result to disappointment time to take pictures of what was going on onstage to allow a variety of shots.

Trying to capture several facets of an event caused me to miss the talks. I barely had time or focus to sit down to listen to the lectures of the speakers. I haven’t heard anything from the first speaker. I listened to the first few paragraphs of Mon Tulfo’s lecture. Only when the last speaker for the morning session, Carl Balita, gave a lengthy talk (plus a song), I got time to sit and listen with the students in the audience area.

I headed back to the backstage area when they announced the start of the afternoon session. To my surprise, I saw Ms. Maria Ressa sitting by the left stage entrance. I pulled my programme from the pocket of my camera bag and recalled that she will deliver a lecture that afternoon. I was a bit aghast. That afternoon, the media personalities who will be awarded by the Comguild will arrive by that time. I will miss her lecture.

Briefly, I took a picture of her on stage and immediately position myself in the corridor where there is ample lighting and a clearer view of arriving personalities.

Almost Starstrucked

A few minutes passed since Ms Ressa was called on stage for her lecture, I saw Ms. Mel Tiangco arrive. Around fifteen minutes after, Kara David followed. One by one, the prominent members of mass media and awardees that afternoon came – Alvin Elchico (who really stopped and allowed me to take his picture.), Jessica Soho, Ted Failon and the Hall of Famer Awardee for Best Field Reporter, Mr. Jiggy Manicad.

My anxiety increased. I can recall myself fumbling in my cameras dials and controls. There are times that I forget to check if the images will be over or underexposed. In that cramped backstage area, I was surrounded by these personalities, their loved ones, a few fans and the conference staff. It was nerve wracking. The constant motion of the people, the dim lights, the dark walls and my shaky hands were the hurdles that would keep me from taking decent images, and I need publishable pictures. Just ‘decent’ won’t do.

My experience in the 2012 Comguild Conference is a mixture of various emotions. I was glad to be among people who believe in the powerful role of mass media in society. I was a bit downcast for the lack of chance to absorb information from the lectures of the speakers. I was afraid to be offensive when taking pictures of people backstage. I was mad at myself at times when I missed a photo-worthy moment.

Setting eyes on the other side of the event is also very fulfilling. I felt the pressure of ensuring that the plans will push through and that everything will be in perfect order. I also saw that people we thought we can only see on TV are real and are also human.

Kara David’s laugh when she noticed that her dress is of the same color with Mel Tiangco’s is a memory that I could find myself smiling about. I definitely am not the only one who notices that kind of thing.



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