A Filipina hobby photographer shares her passion
By Judee Bendiola
“One, two, three: smile!”
A common trait of Filipinos is that we never ever forget to bring a camera, may it be for special events, planned getaways, or even just to take snaps of what’s on our own dining tables. There is an undeniable passion for capturing every moment, sharing these images with our loved ones, and reliving these experiences through the retelling of funny anecdotes coupled with animated hand gestures. In the ubiquity of social media platforms, the desire to share one’s passion through images has never been greater. Left and right, you can see that a lot of Filipinos use their mobile phone cameras to take a whole lot of pictures. Sometimes, it makes others wonder whether the “photographer,” nay “documenter,” is able to enjoy the moment, enough to remember it in the future, or would he or she only remember the act of taking the photos as the moments pass by?
But, understandably, when one lives overseas, it is inevitable to experience an energetic enthusiasm for all that is new. A camera and a budding curiosity to explore are great companions for surviving in a foreign land.
I know of a Filipina who has established a stable footing in Deutschland while balancing her eager desire to capture every moment. I am an avid spectator of her academic and professional journey, ever since we became roommates at one of the boarding houses in Krus na Ligas in Quezon City. We both graduated from the University of the Philippines – Diliman where she earned her undergraduate degree in Composition at the College of Music. Her mentors were composer-ethnomusicologist Jonas Baes for composition and composer-conductor Josefino Toledo for orchestration. I still remember how, back then, she never failed to share with us (her roommates) her concert days, her passion for music, and how the arts consume her soul.
After graduating, like many other friends, we took different career paths. Unexpectedly, ours intertwined again in Germany. Now based in Freiburg for seven years, Marie-Luise Calvero or Mayee is a film music composer who braved the unknown territories of Germany to study. She successfully finished her master’s degree in Film Music at the Institut für Neue Musik (Institute of New Music) of the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik (State Conservatory of Music) under composer and film music expert Cornelius Schwehr.
Other than her love of music, Mayee also has a passion for photography. As a friend and her number one fan, I am amazed at how dedicated she can be when she falls in love with a hobby. So, to understand how she manages to balance life in a foreign land with a career in film music, thrive more than just survive, and still have time to feed her other passions, I interviewed Mayee to tell you her story.
MB GLOBAL FILIPINO: When did you arrive in Germany and when did your love for photography start?
Mayee: I arrived in Germany in the Winter of 2015 for further studies in music. My love for photography started when I was a child. I was always fascinated with my dad’s cameras, so much so that I almost broke one of them trying to [secretly] learn how to use it (I wasn’t allowed to use them by myself).
MB GLOBAL FILIPINO: How do you balance your work/studies with your photography gig in the studio?
Mayee: I worked in a photography studio to support myself while looking for work in my area of expertise. After three years, I sadly had to quit because the fixed schedules in the studio would not coincide with my current teaching job. As of now, I do private photography gigs, so I am more flexible. I do portraits in my living room, which I can lightly convert to a mini studio, or outdoor if the client prefers it. I also do reportage or event coverage.
MB GLOBAL FILIPINO: Any interesting clients you’ve photographed so far?
Mayee: As a photographer, I’m not so much into directing my clients to “pose.” I have it easy when my clients already know how to project. What I am really good at is encouraging my subjects to try out ideas. I like candid and dynamic photography, so I always incorporate movement in my poses. I had one client who was uncomfortable with the idea of moving around, so I just let her sit there and gave her minimal directions (tilt your head this way, look at the camera, the light, close your eyes, etc.). This small “guidance” I gave seemed to help her open up and, later in the shoot, she was doing her own poses and moving by herself. It was fun. It felt like a collaboration, and I do love a good “collab.”
MB GLOBAL FILIPINO: Any future plans with your photography?
Mayee: I don’t have specific plans yet to shift completely to photography. I would like to have it as a business on the side. I greatly enjoy teaching electronic composition and programming, and helping my students realize their ideas for exhibits and multimedia installations. I don’t think I would ever give that up. For now, I want to develop bigger and more solid ideas for multimedia installations and have my work installed somewhere—maybe in a museum or in Zentrum fur Künst und Medien (Center for Arts and Media). I hope I will be able to achieve that.
Nothing is impossible. That is what Mayee proves as she set her career in sound design and music production. She is an inspiration especially for aspiring graduate students who want to pursue higher academic degrees in Germany. She creatively uses her skills in photography to survive financially and widen her art through meaningful collaboration.
In her spare time, Mayee is an avid reader and collector of “The Little Prince” in different languages. With the ups and downs of living overseas, she writes poetry and short stories, illustrates and paints. She learns as many languages as she can—having Filipino as her native tongue while being proficient in English, German, and Spanish. Mayee is currently a lecturer for electronic composition at the Studio für Elektronische Musik at the Hochschule für Musik Freiburg and is open to any creative collaboration.
Contributing writer Judee Bendiola is a Filipino expat in Germany. Get to know Judee on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter at @iamjudeebee. She is also currently working as a Marketing & Communication professional for Non-profits. You can reach out for possible collaboration via LinkedIn or at [email protected] Join her advocacy in supporting the Global Filipino community and share her stories.