Silver Linings

Photographer of the Week: Alfred Manabat Jurcalis

By Maan D’ASis Pamaran

It was a series of photowalks around Adamson University campus that spurred an interest in photography for Alfred Manabat Jurcalis 18 years ago. The architecture program student was happily surprised when his work was featured in their university paper.

Tackled (Alfred Manabat Jurcalis)

“I was their graphic artist and I joined the photowalks out of curiosity, borrowing a Sony digital camera for that purpose. I was surprised and happy that the photos that I took were published more often than what our official photographers took,” he smiles at the recollection.

Musketeers (Alfred Manabat Jurcalis)
Camel Keepers (Alfred Manabat Jurcalis)

This inspired him to continue taking photos, even today as an architectural draftsman in Abu Dhabi, UAE for about eight years now. “What attracted me to photography is its convenience of capturing a moment and seeing other stories in a frame that you’re not aware that was there in the first place.”

Young assistant (Alfred Manabat Jurcalis)
Under the bridge barber (Alfred Manabat Jurcalis)
Wyvern (Alfred Manabat Jurcalis)

On his journeys, he has developed a passion and interest for photojournalism, street photography, music photography, and portraits.

“I love low lights that illuminate my subjects, because it invites the viewer to participate by filling in the blanks or in this case – to fill in the blacks,” he muses. “At this moment I’m still developing or looking for my style that I can call my own, but for now I’m leaning towards low key lighting and silhouettes with dark backgrounds. I like illuminating my subjects with a silver lining effect,” Alfred shares.

He looks deep into the meaning of his work and offers this explanation. “An effective photograph to me is the one that you will look and ask questions, and wonder about the story behind it, like what was taking place when it was taken and why it happened. As a storyteller, I know that my mood affects my own perspective, how I deliver my views of the photos and if I stay true to the moment without any bias.”

Alitaptap (Alfred Manabat Jurcalis)
Isolated (Alfred Manabat Jurcalis)

To engage with fellow enthusiasts, he joined the Shootecada Photograpers' circle in Abu Dhabi three years ago, and joins contests for the experience. “As of now, I just want to own a certain photograph because it has my name on it. It’s as shallow as that,” he grins. “But I’m looking forward to have an opportunity to capture a moment that can deliver the story of the unreached.”

New Normal (Alfred Manabat Jurcalis)

He describes photography as a tool and as a weapon. “Photography to me is the art of stealing away a moment from time that passes through our lives so that we can frame it on walls of our houses or in pixelated world of binary numbers of 1s and 0s. At the same time, it is a weapon that can document history and tell a story to your point of view. The most important principle is to stay true to the story because it is also a great weapon to spread lies.”

Innocence (Alfred Manabat Jurcalis)

One of his most memorable shoots was a trip to Prayagraj, India last 2019, during the celebration of Khumb Mela. “The experience was great – there are stories everywhere. The people are great, the subjects worthy of portraiture are left and right, it was like mecca for photographers. Together with fellow photographers, I learned a lot by watching and shooting beside them things that I didn’t learn from seminars and YouTube tutorials, things that you think you wouldn’t do, but you did for the sake for taking the so called ‘money shot.’"

Speaking of doing unexpected things, he recounts a trip to Varanasi, India on an island in the middle of the Ganges River. “We were taking photos of the children riding in horses, and ask them if we could take their photos while on top of the horse. To take a better angle, we lay on the ground, and took the shots, not realizing we were lying on the ground with horse, camel, and other animal feces on the ground mixed with the sand. The things we do for perfect shots!” He laughs.

The experience also brought a realization. “On our way back to UAE, we posted our photos and I compared our shots. Even though we are shooting side by side, we have a very different approach, different attack, different angle, and very different storytelling. That is how I learned, you can tell a different story in one moment.”