Photographer of the Week: Christopher “Phey” Palma
By Maan D’Asis Pamaran
While the crowds cheer on for their favorite musical act and are stomping and singing along to the performer’s greatest hits, Hong Kong-based Christopher “Phey” Palma of Rolakosta Creatives is focused on the stage in a different way. He is hard at work capturing moments that will never be replicated in another time and in another venue. This is where his precision and experience come in, as he tries to capture that shared energy between the concert performer and the crowd.
“I love taking photos of musicians in action! It’s a different rush when you shoot concerts. Sometimes, you'll be limited to shoot only three songs, so your eyes scan everything quick. Your work would always be different with other photographers,” shares Phey.
Growing up as a son of one of Hong Kong’s “OG” Pinoy musicians, he was constantly surrounded by music. “I even worked in a record store for a couple of years. Most of my friends are musicians, so my photography during my early learning stages involved my friends as my subjects.” He eventually got into the music scene in Hong Kong with the help of friends. “I got into concerts and events, shooting my favorite artists and even knowing some of them personally,” he smiles.
He grew up in Hong Kong, but affirms that he is Pinoy at heart and it shows in his work. “When I am in Manila, I try to join photowalks to capture life in the Philippines. It is different from the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong life because it is laidback. One of my favorite images from these trips is “Paano Bukas” from my whole body of work that was shot in the slums of Tondo, Manila about 13 years ago. I have always wondered how that little girl is doing now.”
His journey into photography started with image editing when he was growing up. “Aside from being a musician, my father was also a photographer who had his own darkroom. I actually loved to draw during my teen years. It was a good outlet for me and when I started to learn picture editing on a computer way back years before I even started to hold a camera, I would grab images from Yahoo for me to edit on Paint Shop Pro. My early experience with photography is when I bought one of those early Nokia camphones -- I believe it’s the N95. I really got fascinated with the images I could create and play around with. My spouse bought me my first DSLR in the early 2000s.”
For Phey, photography is entertainment, an outlet for his artistic side, and his livelihood. “What attracts me is mostly the whole process. It doesn’t matter if I’m shooting, post-processing, directing, packing my gears, planning, scouting locations, model arrangements and client meetings, along with learning and making mistakes.”
For his efforts, he has won as the grand winner twice for the Wyng Foundation photo contest, and once as a third runner-up in between these. He was also the grand winner of Asia-Tatler x Leica in Hongkong and second runner-up in an SCMP Photo Contest. He used to be the vice president of the Pinoy Photographers Club – Hong Kong during his early years in photography and is now a judge at the City University of Hong Kong in their annual photo contest.
He can’t wait for the COVID-19 crisis to be over so he can go back to shooting big concert events. “I’m a sucker for lighting in concerts. The colors of light streaks caused by smoke and the play of light and dark always work for me.” He talks about photography with a passion. “You'll always be part of the process of something. You’re always on the forefront and you see everything happen or unfold and how was it done before everyone else. For those who want to start their own photography journey, my advice is, love the process and don’t rush it. As cliché as it sounds, patience is a virtue.”