Artist Profile: Miguel Nacianceno

12 I first met Miguel while modeling for Candy Magazine back in my 20s. I was probably 23 at the time (my parents didn’t allow me to pose in front of a professional camera till after college), so Migs had his work cut out for him to make me look young enough to fit the magazine’s very wholesome tween image. I must say, I think he did a pretty good job.


Miguel enjoying the view after a good ride (and being shy on my blog).

Since then, I’ve seen more and more of what Miguel can accomplish behind the camera. Whether through his Instagram feed, fantastic food or interior shots in the country’s leading magazines, and my current favorite: his travel shots in new magazine Grid.

I asked Migs to share a bit about his love for photography and where this passion will be taking him in the near future. I hope you enjoy his invaluable advice and beautiful pictures.

03Hi Migs, what exactly is it that you do?
I am a professional photographer, I’ve been at it since the mid 2000s. I do a lot of lifestyle photography, which is, I suppose, a way of saying that I shoot homes, interiors, food, and lately, a bit of travel. I’m rigged to shoot a lot on location. Lately, I’ve also gotten into publishing.

02How did you get into photography? When did you know it was how you wanted to make a living?
I credit both my parents for me getting into photography. I went to college thinking of writing, and or making films. On one summer break, my mom saw an ad for a photography workshop in the newspaper and nudged me to take it. That moment in the dark room, when I saw a concept that, at first existed only in my mind, literally appear on paper, got me hooked. My dad provided moral and actual support by lending me his old gear (he was a keen amateur, apparently), and by later helping me buy my own stuff. They’re the best.

04What were your struggles when starting out? When did you finally get to a place when you felt confident with your skills?
At first, I wanted to be a photojournalist in the mold of the National Geographic or Magnum photographers. I joined the school paper (The Guidon), and eventually made photo editor. My first job out of college was as a news magazine photographer (hat tip, Newsbreak). I covered a bunch of stuff: national elections, Erap’s arrest, EDSA 3, the city hall beat. I make it sound like I’m a veteran, but I only really lasted 3 months. Hahaha. I think I said to myself, I’ll need to take on commercial work, to help support the personal work. Eventually, the commercial work took over completely, and I now miss shooting for myself.

I’ve been lucky about getting breaks. The stint with Newsbreak was because one of the founding editors was the mom of a Guidon colleague. When I started doing commercial work, an art director who worked for a big publishing house gave me the heads up that they were reviewing portfolios and were looking for new contributing photographers. I think any photographer worth their salt will never feel absolutely confident about their own skills. Just last week, I was in Cebu for a travel story, and I felt like a fish out of the water. I was used to doing a lot of produced shoots, with a team, and everything prearranged. Being told to just go to a destination, with minimal equipment, and with only a very general list in hand was very daunting. I was there for 4 days, and I was constantly messaging with the editors about not knowing what I was doing. (laughs). Eventually, I got it together. I guess what I’m saying is that it pays to question yourself, and to actively seek to get out of your comfort zones.

06Did you take any formal classes?
I just took that summer workshop with Mandy Navasero. Then a lighting workshop at the Filipinas Heritage Library. I also took a cinematography workshop in UP with Nap Jamir. I sidelined as an assistant for other photographers: AdPhoto, Jo Avila, Tommy Zablan. I got my hands on every photography book I could get. In the beginning, I read every how-to book, and I especially appreciated a book on film, how different emulsions had different characteristics. That was very nerdy of me, but it was a good foundation to have, even in this digital age. Later on, I collected monographs of actual photographers I liked. That wasn’t for the technique, but for broadening my mind and finding other things that the medium was capable of. Other than that, photography is pretty much a thing you learn by doing.

08Are there any photographers you look up to?
Tons. I love the work of William Eggleston, Joel Sternfeld, Stephen Shore, Philip Lorca diCorcia, Alex Webb, Nadav Kander, Alec Soth and a lot more. These guys are color photographers doing different things, and the range of concepts that motivate their work is mind boggling and too lengthy to get into. I will just have to geek out in person sometime else. Editorial photographers I really admire are Benjamin Rasmussen, Andrew Hetherington, Chris Buck, Jake Stangel, Emiliano Granado, among others. Send these guys to shoot anything, anywhere, and they’ll come home with the best images you’ll see. He’s not a photographer, but I really love the work of Edward Hopper, the painter. When I look at his work, and then look at the works of the color photographers I admire, I feel like he’s the spiritual ancestor of color photography. I say color photography, because in the beginning, only black and white photography was considered to be… art. Those guys I mentioned changed that.

Here at home, I love the work of Paco Guerrero for his travel work, Sonny Thakur for his portraits of people in their environment, Tim Serrano for his dark (literally) images of people and places, and Tammy David for her very involved, documentary work. I also like Pat Martires for his range and attention to execution. I’m lucky that they’re all my friends.

09What equipment are you most comfortable shooting with? 
I have a Canon system that I use for work. I like full frame DSLRs because the characteristics of the images they put out remind of what photographs looked like when shot on 135mm film. I have a Mamiya 7 and Nikon film system in a dry box. I still think I’ll use them one day for personal work. But honestly, I think I should just completely embrace digital. People including myself got into photography because wanted to preserve things, moments, and imagery. But, really, nothing lasts forever. Sorry, I went dark (laughs).

05Can you tell us about your carnival series?
I shot it when I was a year or two out of college. I like that it’s all found photography, but at the same time time, I felt I was going beyond found imagery, and saying something about memory and the representation of things, and that in turn, was also saying something about the medium of photography. To my very young mind, I felt I was being very profound and introspective. (laughs). I enjoyed the month or so that I took to work on that series. I enjoyed the process of mounting my very first exhibit. I loved that my family and friends came and saw my work. All in all, it was a process of sharing of myself that I enjoyed a lot. I don’t know if I’ve said this enough, but the recognition that I got from Neal Oshima, Rina Adapon, and the other partners at Lumiere Gallery meant a lot to me. I felt for the first time that there were others who got me, and felt that I had something to say. They also supported my second show, Common Place. God, I hope they see this.

One day, I hope to pay back that recognition and do something meaningful to me again.

07On that note, do you plan to work on any other series or perhaps an exhibit soon?
For sure, I still want to put out meaningful, personal work. I’m not set on the medium though. Another exhibit would be nice, but I’m also considering a book. Making a film is also interesting for me. I took a quick film workshop abroad in ’04, before coming back home and deciding to be a full time commercial photographer. I’ve only written and a directed a short film to date. That was another process I really enjoyed. But yeah, maybe a book.


Cover photo by Paco Guerrero

Can you tell us a little about Grid Magazine?
Grid Magazine came about because a small but very talented group of people were sitting under a tree, by the beach, getting a bit drunk, and ranting about how things “should be.” They’ve all traveled a lot, for work and pleasure, and felt that the country, our awesome country, was very much under represented in the world of travel literature. They felt they could tell the stories of our country better, and decided to create a magazine. Happily enough, this group, the aforementioned Paco, Sonny and their merry band of creatives, came to us. Us being 5 Ports Publishing, a boutique firm put up by myself and some partners. We were, by ourselves, coming up with travel guides and materials and felt that this magazine, Grid, would be a great fit. We cover local destinations, finding untold stories by locals, for locals. We come out every two months, and we’re working on our third issue. It’s been a crazy trip so far.

16Aside from photography are there any other passions you want to share?
One day, a couple of years ago, I spent a whole day in the studio, and never even saw the sky change colors. I decided I needed to spend time outdoors and bought a bicycle. It’s one of the very few impulse buys I’ve never regretted. I used to be able to ride at least two to three times a week. But it’s been busy lately, and I’m lucky to be able to get out once a week. But I’m not kidding that riding a bicycle has saved me. It’s kept me sane, maybe even contributed a little to my physical health. My only regret is that I didn’t get into it sooner. And if I ever hit the lotto, I’m buying everyone I love a bicycle. If you ever chance upon my on Instagram, I apologize in advance for the bikegrams.

13What advice can you offer photographers that are just starting out?
I think a person thinking of becoming a professional photographer should think hard about what’s important to them. Some people like the idea of being a photographer more the idea of shooting pictures for other people, and they don’t realize that a big part of being a professional is shooting for other people called clients. If what is important to you is that you’re able to make images that you care a lot about, then you don’t have to be a professional photographer to do that. You can be a desk jockey and still do that on your own time. Like in most things in life, only a very small group of people get to do exactly what they want and get paid for it too. Some people are better off separating passion from profession. However, if you think you’ve got what it takes to be in the small percentile of creatives, then go for it and don’t hold back.

14More of Miguel’s work can be seen on his:

Website | Instagram | 5 Ports Publishing | Grid Magazine   | VSCO