Snapshots of the OFW Life

Published May 15, 2018, 12:05 AM


By Maan D’Asis Pamaran


Melanie Catamin

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Photography can be more than just taking photos, it can also be a way to connect with others. This was what OFW Melanie Catamin realized when she picked up her camera to take street scenes.

“When I was younger, I took the usual photos of friends and family to save happy memories.” But when the Ilongga business management graduate found herself working in Hong Kong as a domestic helper, it became her way to escape loneliness. “Photography for me is my stress reliever. As an OFW away from family and home, it helps me to overcome the sadness. Photography is an art of expressing myself, my story, the creativity of my imagination. It is my way of showing my hopes and dreams as well as my failures.”

She bought her first camera when she was already working overseas. “I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do so I went on discovering things until I discovered an interest in photography. This goes well with my interest in people and the fact that I am quite observant. With my camera, I like capturing different gestures and expressions of others.”

Mel shares that she has a lot of good experiences with her hobby, and she has met so many good people because of it. Her foray into the streets are not always pleasant, though. “The worst experiences I had when I was starting out were the times when people shouted at me. Lagi akong nasisita at nasisigawan. Then they could not understand my explanations when they confront me because of the language barrier. I have gotten used to it, kapag nasisita ako, nginingitian ko na lang,” she grins.

It is a good thing that her first test subject had no qualms about being photographed.  “My best model is my employer’s dog. I practiced with her most of the time to improve,” she laughs. “After that, I tried to learn every genre not only street, but also portraits or landscapes. It’s challenging learning different genres.”

To improve her craft, she has joined different photography groups. She also joins contests to measure her skill levels. “If I don’t win, I just tell myself to work harder. Joining a contest gives me excitement, teaches me lessons and sometimes gives me heartaches,” she muses. “My photos have received recognition from different Facebook groups and have been exhibited on websites. But what really makes me happy are the positive comments I receive from people I look up to, and the feeling of satisfaction that shooting gives me,” she adds.

The accomplishment she considers as a photographer is being able to share photos of the things she likes and loves with others. “As a visual artist, my goal is to tell the untold story. With every photo I create, there are stories of others and stories about myself. As an OFW, photography gives me the freedom to express myself. Even if I do not talk, my photos can show other people how I feel.”

Her advice to those who are starting out with photography is to focus on their work. “Never compare your work with others. Never compete with them or you will not enjoy your own photography adventures. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your camera’s settings or you will never learn. There is no shortcut to taking great shots. You will learn bit by bit if you keep at it.”

She extends her talk to life in general. “I work as a domestic helper as a stepping stone for my dreams. I use the trials I experienced when I was younger as my motivation to stay strong. My family and loved ones are my inspiration. To those who are still struggling and think they are unfortunate, take these experiences and use them as your weapon to becoming stronger, so when you encounter any more challenges in the future,  madali na lang iyan para sa iyo.”