Noel Ubaldo comes from a humble family of barbers in Angono, Rizal. He took an architecture degree at the Central Colleges of the Philippines but started working early. Blessed with an artistic eye, he started painting in his elementary years under his relative’s wing, the late Vicente “Tete” Reyes, who was mentored by Carlos “Botong” Francisco, a Philippine National Artist from Angono.
Humbly, Noel admits to being just the typical visual artist back then, and he found it difficult to sustain inspiration when his unsold artworks were his only fortune. Expanding his vision, he decided to take up photography, wondering if he could earn from it.
In 2010 he bought his first entry-level digital camera (Nikon D3000) and fumbled as a beginner. Workshops were too expensive for him, so he resorted to Google and Youtube for tutorials and pushed himself in this field as a self-taught artist. When he got married and moved to Mangaldan, Pangasinan, things changed for him.
“I became attached to the place, from sand to seas, to its people, and almost everything. That was when my visions changed when it comes to earning in photography. I started shooting people, street scenes, and other ‘human interest’ subjects that I see in the province,” he explains.
The next year, he heard about the Pangasinan Photographers Club through the Internet and joined the circle. His knowledge in photography was instantly given a boost. He admits the camaraderie and friendship among them made him feel he wasn’t a stranger to this town. At present, he is now the president of the said club.
He finds as his source of inspiration his mentors Edwin Loyola (whom he met in 2012) and the other two pillars of his club, Noli Gabilo and Raymund Sto. Domingo of the Camera Club of the Philippines. He also looks up to Maricris Carlos for her style in post-processing images.
“Since meeting them, my understanding in taking photographs evolved, turning ordinary subjects to works of art, getting out of the box, breaking the rules, and most importantly, putting your heart into your images. My skills have improved a lot,” he says.
He calls his works “paintography,” with a personal twist. As a painter, he likes transforming his images into dark tonal paintings. Most of his subjects revolve around life – street photography, people, conceptual, and still life.
“My subjects are just extensions of me being a visual artist. I like human emotions. I always want to be part of their smiles, sadness, struggles – making photographs come alive,” he muses. “A photograph that needs no title is an effective photograph for me. Just by looking at the image you feel its message. Giving life to every image is hard to do; we have to be aware and observant in all the things that surround us. Good photograph can be taken anytime and anywhere, so regardless of the mood, we have to be always prepared.”
Understandably, Noel’s images are tinged with brown tones, seemingly stroked by fine tip brushes with precision, illuminated with tonal lighting to set the mood and atmosphere. But here is where his photography stretches his vision: his compositions are subtle but dramatic, turning a fine photograph into the finest art form. Immersed in his masterpiece, you forget his image evolves from a camera capture. Emotion his subject is a must.
His recognition in this field quickly increases over the years including Photographer of the Year in 2012 and again this year in Pangasinan Photographers Club, first place in the FPPF Photoworld Cup 2013 with the theme “Women at Work,” finalist in the “Ten Photos to Shake the World” in 2012, and inclusions in some photo exhibits in the province.
He wants to have a solo exhibit someday where he can share his works and all the characters behind every single image he presents. For him, regardless of the field in photography, the privilege of documenting events and scenes to showcase to the world is the best thing for him.
“I always maximize everything I have. Expensive gears do not guarantee of producing extraordinary images,” he firmly says. “It’s always in the eye and knowledge of the photographer. I always push my creativity beyond its limit. Study and practice are the right combination. Every time we go out and shoot, especially if the subject focuses on the less fortunate people, let’s be responsible enough to talk to them first and get their attention. From there we can create award-winning portraits. After shooting, give them something in return; it’s their reward for the wonderful images they gave us. The only thing that we can create good images is to love doing it. Believe in what you do, do what you believe in.”
For this 36 year-old guy, photography is an extension of what he is, and what makes him alive as an artist, and that it didn’t matter if you started too late or at a young age.
“Before I was just a nobody; not many people appreciated me until I shared my photography to the world. In a digital era where all software and gears line up, limiting my skills is not an option. Photography gives me second chance to showcase my arts to others. It’s not just my passion but my soul as well. I have lots of struggles in life, many times rejected due to my educational attainment. But it doesn’t stop me from dreaming that one day my art, my passion will be recognized and appreciated by many,”
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