Capturing hope in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic

Published June 9, 2021, 3:27 PM

by Jessica Pag-iwayan

International Filipino photographer Steve Tirona on working for Don Papa Rum’s ‘A Sweet Sugarlandia Spring’ campaign

With more than three million recorded deaths across the globe, staying positive in this COVID-19 pandemic era takes a lot of effort. To remind everyone that there’s still hope, premium single island rum brand Don Papa Rum, partners with renowned Filipino photographer Steve Tirona for a magical photoshoot. 

THE MAN BEHIND THE CAM Steve Tirona openly admits that depicting hope through photos these days is a tough challenge

Under the theme “A Sweet Sugarlandia Spring,” Steve is challenged to set a message of hope and of looking forward to a fresh start in the coming days. His works have been exhibited across the world from Japan, Malaysia, Australia, the Netherlands, and the US, and he has a permanent collection on display at The Singapore Art Museum. He has also done a magical photoshoot at the legendary Beverly Hills home in California, last seen on Netflix’s 2020 hit show “Ratched.” 

Hope as a sensitive issue

“Trying to convey hope during these times is a little bit of a sensitive issue,” he openly tells Manila Bulletin Lifestyle. “Hope can come from images of normalcy, which in some cases is still a fantasy for others. For this shoot, we tried to keep the setting as natural as possible. We were not heavy handed in conveying one specific message. It was all about the overall mood.” 

Being a tropical country, the Philippines only has two seasons—wet and dry—so most Pinoys might not be familiar with the season of spring. But for Steve, this is not a major concern. 

BLOSSOMING HOPE The campaign aims to remind everyone that there’s still hope and we call all look forward to to the days where we can again spend time with our loved once

“I had more of a global audience in mind for this campaign since Don Papa can be found everywhere around the world these days. It’s also nice to convey the message that non Filipinos from other places are also enjoying a Filipino made rum,” Steve says. “The digital space has made the world smaller so to speak, and I’d like to think that Filipinos also have adopted a more global outlook. And because the brand’s themes are also universal, they resonate well with all of their different markets.” 

Supporting local artists

The photographer then expressed his gratitude for to brand for its effort of incorporating local arts and artists on its various campaigns. “It’s great that Don Papa is making more of an effort to support and work with artists for their campaigns,” he says. “I think it’s really beneficial for both sides—the artists get more attention and have a new platform to present their art. Likewise, the brands get to explore other ways to present their products in a non-commercial way, which provides more depth and space to explore other content opportunities that add value to their global audience.” 

Looking back, this is not the first time the said brand partners and supports local creatives. Prior the pandemic, Don Papa would hold an annual art competition. For this year, the company partnered with Art Fair Philippines, sponsoring residencies for select artists. 

“Sweet Sugarlandia in Spring” photo series, shot by Steve and produced by Hyperion LA, can be seen on  Don Papa’s Facebook and Instagram.