Artist Profile: Migs Naguiat

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Film photography is an art that requires a good amount of skill and a high level of patience. In fact, I’m convinced that photographers who choose this medium would have passed the marshmallow test with flying colors as children.

When I see people do it incredibly well, I can’t help but  take a step back and admire their craftsmanship.

Such a photographer is my friend Migs Naguiat.

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Every time his photos pop up on my Tumblr account or Facebook feed, I get instantly teleported to his chilled out places and serene moments. His work is a refreshing visual cleanse from a long day and I’ve always hoped they’d receive more attention.

I was happy to recently hear that Migs is being recognized for his talents. A few of his photos are being displayed in The Story of the Creative, a show being done in New York from July 25 – September 10.  Its opening night was held yesterday in the Angle Orensanz Foundation for Contemporary Art at 172 Norfolk St. New York, NY.

In case you’re in NY and want to check it out, the succeeding days of the exhibit will be at the See | Me gallery in Long Island.

In celebration of this achievement, I asked him to share a bit about his love for film photography with my readers. I hope you enjoy hearing about his process and seeing his beautiful photos as much as I do.

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Cat JL: Aside from photography, what’s been keeping you busy these days?

Migs Naguiat: During the day I am busy being an entrepreneur.  I run a company called Analog Soul.  We specialize in designing and manufacturing garments and different types of merchandise for clients.  I am also busy setting up another business that should be launching by August.

How long have you been taking photos?

My father was the first person who got me interested in photography.  Growing up hearing his stories of his dark room or people he photographed really intrigued me.  It seemed so magical to me how this small thing with rings and dials and mysterious numbers and symbols could take such crazy images.

I started taking pictures sometime around 2000-2001.  I wanted to give it a try so at first I borrowed cameras from uncles who had some unused slr’s lying around.  Not too long after,  my girlfriend (now my wife!) gave me my Nikon FE10 as a gift and I’ve been shooting with it ever since.

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What equipment do you use?

85% of my photos have been shot on my FE10.  I only carry 2 lenses (a style I copied from my hero Henri Cartier-Bresson) a 50mm 1.8 and a 24mm 2.4.

As for film, I went through different phases through the years.  At first, I liked the yellow/gold tint of Kodak Gold.  Later on, I shifted to Fuji Superia which had a more greenish tint to it.  I shot with this film for many years.  A few years ago, I found Kodak Ultima and fell in love with it.  Unfortunately, Kodak here in Manila does not seem to carry it anymore.  As for b&w, I’ve shot almost exclusively with Ilford XP2 400.  I should really try the others in the Ilford line.

For digital, I have a Canon 350D.  I picked it up when the DSLR’s were just coming out but I hardly use it anymore.  I recently got the Fuji X100 and I have been enjoying it a whole lot.  Sometimes, I get frustrated that it wont do some things I know my film camera can do, but, for such a small camera, its pretty awesome!

Your shots are often to do with water, sky, and sunshine. Why do you think these elements attract you the most?

Someone once commented on my blog, “Migs, parang you’re perpetually on vacation at the beach!”  When I heard that, I realized that if taken from just my blog posts, parang nga I’m always at the beach. Truth be told, I don’t get to go on vacation very often and I think that is the reason why I want to capture all the wonderful things I feel while I’m there.  I want to be able to return to those feelings, the memory, and I am able to do so when I look at my photos.

I think I am drawn by the ocean, the sky, and sunshine because somehow, looking at the vast expanse and at the same time feeling the sun on my skin makes me feel alive.  Most of the time, my mind is constantly working, thinking about things incessantly, noisy with chatter.  When I look out to the sea and sky, my mind is still.  When I realize I am in the moment, I want to capture it, I want to be able to remember that exact moment and hopefully return to it through the photograph.

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On average, how many good shots do you usually get from a roll of film? Do you ever take a safety shot? 

When I first started, a majority of the shots I took were over/under exposed or simply, what I saw and felt did not translate the same way on my shot.  Over time, as I got to know the principles of exposure better, there were less mistakes.

Whenever I get my film back from the lab, I always get disappointed the first time I see the results.  I suppose, while waiting for the lab to develop my film (usually a week), perhaps I get too excited and my expectations get too high.  The funny thing about this is that I’ll leave the pictures be for a while and when I return to it a few hours later, my perspective on the roll has changed and then I begin to see photos that I get excited about.  What’s even more funny is that when I return to old rolls after months or years, photos I did not pay much attention too in the beginning all of a sudden look so exciting to me!  I say to myself, how could i have missed this shot the first time around?!

I suppose, looking at pictures is like stepping into a river.  As the saying goes, you never step into the same river twice.  For me, when I return to a photo after time, my perspective on things are different, and things that were once mistakes all of a sudden are gold!  I guess, you can say today’s mistakes are tomorrow’s treasure.

Is it getting harder to use film as the years go on? Is it becoming a dying art?

Sadly, I think it is getting harder to use film.  Some types of film are getting harder to come by especially here in the Philippines.  When it comes to cameras, the parts and the service are also becoming hard to find.  Just recently, my Nikon FE10, the camera I’ve been shooting with all these years, conked out on me.  I took it to Nikon and they told me that they no longer service Analog cameras.  I am currently trying to find someone who can service my camera (If any of you know anyone, please hook me up!  Or if you know of anyone selling old Nikon SLR’s, please contact me.).

Although its becoming harder to use, I don’t think film is a dying art.  I think the allure of film is stronger than ever.  There is a ritual to shooting film, from unboxing your film, loading it into your camera, the distinct click of the mirror slap, the sound of the winding mechanism, 36 chances to capture life, the long wait for developing and lastly, the great reveal.  Sometimes, the process is so painfully slow.  Each little step you take is you giving a part of yourself and I think that because it requires more work and time, it makes the final product a little more meaningful.

Another allure of film is the look.  Somehow, film has a quality all its own that is difficult to describe.  The colors, the sharpness and softness, the imperfection, like wine, each kind of film has a different character.  Now a days, there are apps and Instagram that replicate this look quite well but there is still something about about the real deal that can never be replaced.

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Can you see yourself moving to digital?

I have no problem with digital. In fact, I recently got myself a Fuji X100.  I also have on my wish list the Canon 5D (i’m thinking of having a go at video one of these days).  In very many ways, digital has so many advantages over film.  I like the fact that you are not limited to 36 exposures.  I like the fact that you can change from color to b&w, or bump up the ISO on the fly.  All the creative choices are at your finger tips, like you’re at an all you can eat buffet.

What is photography to you? Where do you hope to take your love of capturing images? 

For me, photography is a way to share my story and it is a way for me to remember.  Photography is a reminder for me to be aware of the present moment, too look around me and see real life happening right now, as well as to look inside me and see what I am feeling at the present moment.  This is what I want to capture.

Someday, i hope to be able to do travel photography professionally.  I’d like to be able to see new places and meet new people and share their stories through my photos.

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What advice can you offer someone who wants to get into film photography?

I guess, the best advise I can give is just go out and shoot.  Don’t be afraid of just having 36 shots.  Try the shot even if you feel the light is too low, or the weather is bad, etc.  If you see something you want to capture but are unsure if you can get it right, take 2 or even 3 of the same shot.  Even if it turns out that its not what you want, you can always learn from each shot you take that knowledge with you the next time you encounter the same situation.  Sometimes, mistakes make the best photographs.  When I travel and shoot with film, I make it a point to shoot a minimum of a roll a day.  Shoot, shoot, shoot!

Who are your suppliers? Where can people buy equipment and get their photos developed?

For color, I usually buy my film from Fuji or Kodak.  There are many different types of film available from them.  Each type of film has a different character to it so its best to experiment and see what you like.  For b&w film, I have my Ilfords purchased from London and ask my friend to bring it home for me whenever she comes home to Manila (Thanks, Inez!).

I usually have my stuff developed in Fuji on Pasay road.  I ask them to have the roll developed but, instead of printing the shots, I ask them to scan the negatives to a CD that way I have a digital file of the roll and I can upload the images to my blog.

What would be your dream photography excursion? When do you plan to do it?

There is still so much of the world and our country that I have yet to see and I am hoping one day, I can shoot for a travel magazine so I can visit all these different places.  If there would be a project that I would really like to do, it would be to travel the Philippines extensively and to try to show it from my perspective.

Outside the Philippines, Japan is always a favorite. Cherry blossom season is amazing and I would love to see it again.  I would also love to visit Japan in autumn. Bali is another place I would like to revisit.  Ooh, the Maldives would be awesome too!  Truth be told, I would really love to go anywhere.  Take me anywhere and I’d have a great taking pictures!

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Your lovely wife Mika is often seen in your photos. As an artist, how important do you feel it is to have a muse? 

The happiest moments in my life are times spent with my wife, Mika.  I want to remember so many moments when I’m with her.  This is why I love to photograph her, she is my inspiration and this is my small way of thanking her for happiness that she gives to me.

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Where else can people see your work?

People can see my photos on my blog.

I recently put up some selected photos on the website of See|Me.  I was lucky enough to be invited to be a part of their show called The Story of the Creative.

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