A Love Affair with Noir

Photographer of the Week: Erin Cross

By Maan D’Asis Pamaran

For Erin Cross, life is better expressed in black and white. Her photography delves deep into the sharp contrasts that monochrome can bring.

The Shibuya Scramble Crossing is strangely deserted at 4 p.m. (Erin Cross)
Three men in unspoken social distancing (Erin Cross)

Her love affair with noir, which she calls her “monochromance” is her longest lasting relationship to date, she muses. It was the end of an unhealthy relationship that brought about this new one which began with a visit to Japan. In the winter of 2013, on a Tokyo trip, she began documenting her tour in shades that reflected her emotional state which resulted from her breakup.

Girl Friends (Erin Cross)

“I wasn’t in the mood to take pictures, but since it was my first time in Japan and everything amazed me, I still brought my cameras with me wherever I went. Because I was feeling down, I didn’t want my pictures to appear lively. I started by casually posting pictures on Instagram using one of its monochrome filters, Willow,” she writes.

Her Instagram followers took notice, she says. “Someone pointed out that I was posting one black-and-white photo after another. I then looked at my account and I immediately felt like my pictures heightened my real emotions at the time — dark and morose.”

Soon she found herself buying disposable Ilford film cameras in Shinjuku, editing all her digital photos using various apps with what she calls, “dumb filters that now I dislike” and kept shooting until she forgot about her heartache. This lasted for about six months. “It was during that half a year I spent in Japan, I fell in love with black-and-white photography,” she discloses.

That love grew with such passion that it turned into an advocacy. Erin came back to Manila a woman on a mission. She started by self-publishing her 5x5 inches collection of the black-and-white film photos in a DIY photo zine series, MONO which evolved into her current platform MONØMANIA (www.monomania.love).

Closed, just like its neighboring buildings (Erin Cross)

As someone who not only takes photos in black and white but opts for those same colors in her wardrobe and living spaces, Erin says she is okay with having the same style and voice through the years. “To me, being consistent means cohesiveness. And being cohesive is difficult to achieve.”

Her own memorable photography experience includes being mentored by Antoine D’ Agata and Sohrab Hura at the Angkor Photo Workshop and in her way, she seeks to inspire other people to continue their love for the craft.

Tokyo Skytree (Erin Cross)
In Solitude (Erin Cross)

“Through black-and-white photography, I was able to gather like-minded people by presenting our framed works and sharing our love for the craft. I organized group exhibitions, slideshows, and other collaborations in Manila, Singapore, and other Southeast Asian countries.” She also staged MONØMANIA, the first black-and-white photography fair in Manila and Asia in 2017.  She adds, “My personal achievements include being able to organize group shows and showcase other people’s work, not necessarily mine. I want to keep inspiring people in shooting black and white, regardless of what genre they love or approach they want to do. This is a lifetime goal.”

As a photographer who got her start from taking pictures using plastic toy cameras during her university days, she has this advice for those who are starting out on their photography journey: “If you truly love the craft, you will always find a way to create something, sometimes even with the lack of tools. You set the shutter by yourself!”