By James Enriquez
For many of us, 2020 will always be a memorable year. The pandemic has hit closer to home than any of us could imagine. While a lot of industries and activities have come to a grinding halt, photography was there through it all to record every harrowing moment.
The Neutral Ground Reborn, an online photo community, has been championing the spirit of the Filipino photographer since its re-inception in 2015. The 5,300 strong group members participate in daily competitions with no restrictions in their creative vision – the photographer and the image. In the community that fostered collaboration and comradery, all that mattered was the burning desire to push one’s creativity and consequently learn from one another.
Photos competed daily, weekly, and monthly. And finally, a “photo of the year” was declared to represent the values and mission of the group. Since the lockdown, taking photos have been somewhat difficult. Despite this challenge, members came out with brilliant images that are captivating and tugging at our heartstrings.
This year, Ireland-based photographer Christian Basa bagged the coveted “Photo of the Year” award with his photo “The Farmer.” Using heavy symbolism of hardship and strife, Christian was able to produce this masterpiece with only a medicine dropper, a single speed light, and a tripod-mounted camera.
The second-place image also serves as memoriam. Rolly Batacan, an OFW in Dubai, passed away last May 2020. Yet his powerful image “Golden Reflections” still resonates with everyone and has made it through all the way to the top five. Perfectly balanced, a massive cloverleaf basked in the afternoon sun is reflected from the side of a high-rise building in perfect symmetry. The NGR community will surely miss his brilliant imagery.
The third-place photo is no stranger to this community. “Mother & Child” by Quezon City- based photographer Mac Omega, is a heart-warming portrait in black and white that captures not only the emotion but the great tones and contrast as well. Shot from his home province of Leyte, Mac chanced upon the pair while out in a park with his family. Trusting his instincts, he then waited for the perfect opportunity and captured an image that conveys a depth of emotion from an unlikely source.
The challenges for photographers are always present, further exacerbated by an ongoing pandemic that has claimed livelihood, liberty, and life. But nevertheless, NGR remains an avenue for Filipino photographers to shine through and to realize their creativity while continuing to give hope wherever in the world they may be. The group’s membership continues to grow and encourages everyone to keep on shooting – not for the fame or prestige, but for the love of the arts.
To our new and incoming members, welcome to the Neutral Ground Reborn.