Manila, Philippines 2017

Manila, Philippines 2017
Friday, March 17 – Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Adam Marelli Photography Workshop in Manila, Philippines was a success. Read the testimonial below to learn a bit more about what was covered in the workshop.


“Light. If there has to be one word that sums up what I learned from the Adam Marelli Workshops in Manila, it has to be it — light. Let me expound: It taught me how to see light in a new light. Tautological perhaps. But then again, are not the most simple and most profound truths tautological, too?


If there has to be one word that sums up what I learned from the Adam Marelli Workshops in Manila, it has to be it — light.


It is a very simple thing — to become aware of light. And yet is it not often the case that the simplest is what is most difficult? Often, too, we dismiss what is simple. And yet there is no getting around developing a sense of light, if at all we are to begin doing photography, let alone make progress in it. Adam taught us not to rush things, but first and foremost to get a sense of light. Where is light coming from? What is the quality of light? What things appear by virtue of the light? Where does it cast shadows? What sort of shadows? What shades of color, what shapes, what patterns are created? What possibilities are there, and what limitations?


Whatever decisions I will make in creating a photograph largely, if not entirely, lies on that one thing — light.


And yet all too often we are impatient and rush ahead and begin to take photographs — we’re all engrossed in the graphein (‘to write’), but completely ignore the phōs (‘light,’ photos being its genitive, meaning ‘of light’). We forget that photography is the writing of light. Worse, we are not even focusing on the writing itself, but rather are obsessed with the instruments of writing (having the latest camera, the most expensive lens, or the fanciest accessory), and the desire for instant outputs that we think will impress others. We do not want to go through the process. We completely ignore the one thing that is crucial, and that is light.


And because we begin and end with light, Adam also taught us to wait. We are dependent on light. Always. Many times we have to wait for it. At other times we have to chase it. When we arrived at the Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bataan, the sun was just about to set. So Adam told us, ‘Let’s go and chase the light.’ What could we possibly accomplish here in one hour, I asked, feeling a bit regretful about having spent many hours on the road, leaving us with only about an hour to shoot. Adam was telling us to chase the light, but the whole time he was as relaxed as a meditating monk. We took a few shots. Adam made suggestions about composition. We workshop participants tried to produce a couple of decent photographs or so. But again, it was a lesson about light.


So Adam also taught us not only to be patient with light, to be ready when it shines, but also to be grateful for what is there. Again, a most simple thing: Work with what you have. Light comes, and it goes. Do not force it. Tomorrow’s another day.


After two days of shooting, we spent the third and final day on editing. Adam introduced us into the geometry behind some of the most famous paintings in the world. Indeed, in paintings, as well as in photographs, what is crucial is light. The angle of the human face in a profile, the perspective of a building or a landscape — all these are taken into consideration along with the light. For a certain tilt of the head will produce distinct shadows, depending on where the light is coming from. For sure we were only seeing the tip of the iceberg. There was much, much more work to be done. But even here, we do not forget what makes all this possible, namely, light.


So Adam also taught us not only to be patient with light, to be ready when it shines, but also to be grateful for what is there.


One of my students asked me why I was so into photography. I told him that there’s a lot of phenomenology that goes on when I do photography. I recalled Heidegger’s definition of phenomenology: ‘To let what shows itself, be seen from itself, just as it shows itself from itself.’


Philosophy (as phenomenology) is primarily an act of letting, of letting something be seen, on its own terms, just as it shows itself. But so, too, is photography. More than just teaching us special techniques, or secrets of the trade (a lot of which are available online anyway), Adam Marelli taught us the one most important thing — to learn how to sense the light, and to be ready when it shines and lets things appear.


P.S. I am especially indebted to Victor Calanog for my participation in the workshops. One morning, months before the workshops, he messaged me, “Do you want to be my scholar?” Of course I said yes. So there, happily, I was a Victor Calanog scholar for the Adam Marelli Workshops in Manila. I owe him at least a round of Weißbier, but hopefully it will also lead to a lifetime of exchanging notes on the writing of light.”


– Remmon E. Barbaza


Check out our upcoming workshop schedule.

Never miss a post! Get the newsletter: Sign Up