Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

A girl wades amid lighted floats in the waters off Dumaguete City, Philippines. The floats were part of the Dal-Uy Festival of Hope. Participants decorated small plywood and paper craft and inscribed them with their hopes for the future before launching them into the sea.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Hersley Ven Casero

Badjao children swim on the shore in Dumaguete City, Philippines. The Badjoa fish to survive and navigate the archipelago in small outrigger boats, much as their ancestors have done through the centuries.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Hersley Ven Casero

A woman checks the freshness and quality of eggs by holding them up to daylight at the public market in Dumaguete City.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Hersley Ven Casero

A city worker is framed by a passing pedicab, a motorized tricycle that serves as a main form of public transportation in Dumaguete City and other provincial towns in the Philippines.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Alma Zosan Alcoran

The public market bustles on a rainy morning in Dumaguete City, Philippines.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Alma Zosan Alcoran

Evening traffic streams down the main street of Dumaguete City, the capital of Negros Oriental province in the Central Visayan Islands of the Philippines.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Hersley Ven Casero

My daughter, Luisa Sinco, is illuminated by flashlights during a night outing on the beach in Dumaguete City.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Hersley Ven Casero

A Badjao fisherman prepares supper over a fire on the bow of his outrigger boat. The Badjao are known as "gypsies of the sea" and ply the waters of the Philippines to support their subsistence lifestyle.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

A butcher hangs fresh meat as he opens for business to early morning buyers.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

A fisherman naps as he waits to sell his catch at the Dumaguete City public market.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

A meager catch of fish is laid out on a wall fronting the sea in Dumaguete City.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Clamdiggers scour the tidal flats of Dumaguete City as distant storm clouds glow in the late afternoon light.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

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Time off to teach a passion

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Four years ago, The Times generously donated some used equipment to Foundation University, a nonprofit college in the Philippines founded by my grandfather.  The gift included a pair of well-worn Canon EOS 1Ds, a 28-70mm zoom, a 70-200mm zoom and two strobes. These hand-me-downs proved to be a godsend to the school, located in the provincial town of Dumaguete City, where decent camera equipment doesn’t come easy.

Hersley Ven Casero, then 21 and working toward a bachelor’s degree in marketing, dove in immediately when the cameras arrived. Through the lens, he found another way to express his love of art.

Since 2006, I have visited the Philippines each year to see my family and attend to business. I also make it a point to mentor students like Hersley, who hunger for expression through visual imagery.  It’s been 40 years since my family left the Philippines. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the immense inequities between rich and poor that exist there.  I want to help bridge that chasm with photography — an innately democratic art form that can change the way we see our lives.

I’ve taught Hersley technique and execution. He knows F stops, shutter speeds, composition and light. He understands how the machine works. This year, we talked about imagination and vision.  “I put my heart into every picture I take,” Hersley told me. “It’s about passion — the challenge to freeze moments in time.  That slice of reality probably won’t happen again. And that’s the image I want to share.”

Pleased by the eager response of the students and the results they have produced, the university scraped together funds to supplement the donated equipment with a pair of Canon Rebels.

Hersley’s photography is winning him recognition. He recently outshined 850 other photographers to gain free admission to an upcoming five-day photography gathering in Malaysia called CreativeAsia.  Meantime, he posts pictures on, and recently received inquiries from Stern, the German newsmagazine, about his images.

For now, Hersley is paying the favor forward with a series of summer workshops for Dumaguete’s youth. He teaches the basics and hopes to find diamonds in the rough — like Alma Zosa Alcoran, whose work is included here.

Why take time off to teach photography to kids far away? I could be kicking back with a cold beer. But sometimes, the answers don’t always come from your head — but from your heart. My heart tells me that photography must survive as an important form of communication and understanding.

The photo gallery is a  cooperative project between me and a couple of talented young students. Dedicating vacation time to teach photography puts life in perspective and helps bridge gaps in age, experience and understanding.

1 Comment

  1. August 24, 2010, 9:27 pm

    Taking pictures for me is not just an art, just like Hersley said and who is a good friend of mine, you put your heart in it, in every picture you take. Ever since I love Hersley’s pictures he knows how to capture the right moment. Keep it up Hersley we are proud of you.

    By: Kathlyn N. Ybañez

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