A new series of IPA articles where photographers share their First Click, and reflect on the beginnings of their journey and relationship with Photography. For our very first First Click, IPA contributor Tammy David reflects…
FIRST CLICK: Tammy David, San Miguel De Allende May, 1997
The ‘First Click’ I can vividly remember are photos from my trip to Mexico. During the summer of 1997, my mom’s graduation present to me was a trip overseas. I was fourteen years old then and prioritized carrying my Aiwa discman over my mom’s Olympus point and shoot film camera. But since I was the only one among siblings who tagged along and I knew it meant the world to her to be photographed in all these old churches, I had no choice but to take photos, and thereby taking the responsibility of red eyes or blurred faces. Believe me at that time it was a chore to take photos as well as having my photo taken. My mom would always bark at me to look at the camera and smile. I was that annoying kid who refused to smile since photography got in the way of Donkey Kong. At that time, I had no idea what 400ASA meant in the numerous Kirkland film boxes I had to lug around. I never heard of the “rule of thirds” and my idea of perfect composition was just my mother’s smiling face in the middle. I don’t remember taking pictures of food, the good-looking men in Acapulco beach or the beautiful architecture of the museum of anthropology. The only time I was interested in taking photos was when we visited the Chapultepec castle, one of the places where Baz Luhrman shot Romeo + Juliet since I was a big fan of Leonardo DiCaprio. Other than that, I just wanted to do more important things like chase pigeons or zone out in the tour bus.
As much as I want to sound cool like other photographers who inherited their grandfather’s rangefinders or took road trips with their polaroids as kids, the only time I became interested in taking pictures was years after this trip when I got paid for it by the local paper. When I was a hobbyist armed with my first digital camera (Kodak DC215 1MP) I revisited my old issues of National Geographic Magazine (cliché I know), I came across a series of images from Mexico by David Alan Harvey of Magnum and boy did it bring me back glorious memories of that trip. Looking at Harvey’s colorful pictures of San Miguel De Allende brought back memories of me walking around the plaza, buying lipstick red popsicles and bargaining with vendors who sold me rosaries and puppets. I remember I felt regret not being interested in taking pictures then. But boy did I make up for it. During my first trip to Cambodia I took pictures of my “chartered tuk tuk and my driver Rith” and $1 breakfast from the old market. In New York, I snapped photos of people tuckered up from a night out and my sister who ambushed Bill Cunningham in Fifth Avenue. In Banaue, Northern Philippines, I took photos of my sunburn and a self-portrait of my knee deep in the rice fields. Yes, I have become the typical photo monster who packs more than two cameras, documents everything from boarding to landing, and uploads 200 photos from just a weeklong trip. Also nowadays, it’s my turn to demand people’s attention to look at my lens and not breathe on slow sync moments. They may hate it now but someday, like the fourteen-year-old Nintendo addict turned freelance photographer, they will appreciate these pictures that will take them back to a certain time and place.
Tammy David is a documentary photographer based in Manila. Tammy graduated with a BA in Humanities at the University Of Asia and the Pacific, Philippines in 2007, and also completed a diploma course in Photojournalism from the Konrad Adenauer Asian Center for Journalism in partnership with the World Press Photo Education. Her work has been exhibited in Manila, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hanoi, Jakarta and Germany.