Monday, November 02, 2015

Head/Heart: October 2015.

This month, more than ever, I've felt the consequences from a year of tackling everything head-on. Beyond the little frame that is our life depicted on Instagram, Facebook and even this blog space, I have felt frustrated, bitter, burnt out, sad, and at times, angry. A unique kind of exhaustion came over me—not the kind of exhaustion that can be remedied by extra sleep (although that can certainly help), but the kind that weighs on you the moment you wake up, and continues to eat away at you even when you go to bed. The heavier kind of sorrow that sometimes comes with no clear warning or reason, nothing heralding its arrival. This leads people with depression & anxiety, like me, to go a few steps backwards and I went from managing my mental state well to not at all in a very short period of time.

The unexpected arrival of these emotions have left me lost and confused. As a yogi, I have learnt to step back and observe, to be a witness to my own reactions, emotions and thoughts so that I may be mindful of my subsequent actions—but even as I did this, I found myself more and more bewildered. Still I kept trying to figure out what was wrong, why I was feeling this way—I'd had a great year after all, and yes, I may barely have anything left to give, but life is pretty good. As the feeling lingered, I began to lose hope that this, too, would pass. It's also hard to fix a problem when you're not even entirely sure what the problem is—so you bury it and internalise it and overthink it until you're so confused and exhausted from the thinking and you feel ridiculous so you don't share it with anybody else because you're not even sure they'll love you after (I sure as Hell wasn't loving myself).

Just the other day I realised: I was beating myself up for it all, and it was making me feel worse. Rather than accepting it, I was resisting it, hanging onto some notion of how things “should” be. I've always had high expectations of myself, and although I have become more of a friend to myself than I ever have before, I've been punishing myself for not having figured it all out. I kept thinking that because I had been managing myself so well over the last couple of years, that I wouldn't fall into bad, lengthy slumps like this any more—I was wrong, but I was also unforgiving of myself.

Recently I've been presented with so many different opportunities and paths I could take in the future. I am being pulled in all sorts of directions, wishing I could fit everything I ever want to do on this planet in this lifetime; biding my time and waiting, waiting, holding on with faith that I'll figure it out and letting myself be guided by the forever-present (perhaps not always obvious) signs of the things I am supposed to do. I have known myself deeply and for long enough now to know what my soul needs; what it yearns for—but as the new year looms ahead, I am struck by an unfamiliar sense of vagueness and indecision. There are three lessons in one here: I am still being schooled in going with the flow even when the flow may be stuck behind a rock or when I don't know where it's taking me; I am being taught not to try and do everything for everyone, the world and myself all in one day; and that the answer, as always, will be revealed to me when I am not looking for it, when I least expect it, only when I am truly listening, and only when I am ready for it.

As I was writing this post, fellow yogi & photographer Tahl Rinsky just happened to post this on Instagram: “The only thing we are bound to is change. If you're feeling stuck and can't seem to find the way out look again, it might actually be you blocking the exit.” How apt, and how true.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Head/Heart: September 2015.

I had every intention of slowing down in September. No more teacher training weekends and you'd think my weeks would have been freer, but really that freedom just led to me saying yes to more shoots (oops). It's not such a bad thing, and certainly a great way to save more before two big trips, but life has certainly been full.

In between the fullness, however, I create space. Space to spend afternoons meandering beautiful botanical gardens in full spring bloom; space to laugh with friends over good food; space to lie down on the grass with Martin, our eyes closed, mumbling to each other about life as we soak it all up, savouring the minutes without obligation, simply resting in the comfort and gratitude of each other's company. Short moments of relaxation many times is plenty enough to remind you how accessible your own happiness is—it isn't something that exists only in the future, or in some distant place far away from everything and everyone you know. It's something all of us can reach for right now, if we really want to.

Thursday, October 01, 2015


On Saturday I spent an afternoon at the beach with my beautiful and talented friend, Sophia Mary Mac. I couldn't have asked for a better afternoon—even the 30 minutes of heavy rain we had at the start didn't dampen our spirits, and Sophia was so easy to shoot with, rarely needing direction (maybe huddling under a single umbrella in the rain was a very critical pre-shoot bonding experience).

It's been a long time since I've done a shoot like this, where it's just me, my camera and a friend (...and maybe some distracted surfers, wedding ceremony guests and the occasional passerby spectating). It reminded me all the more how much I love photographing people. It's not something I feel one can do well and do rushed—you both have to feel comfortable, confident and open to each other. It takes a little bit of guidance, mindfulness and intuition.

To capture a side of someone that may not always be seen; to create a space for them to completely let go in front of you, is to make a unique connection with them. To photograph another person is to try and tell the unique story of who they are in that very moment, knowing that they will never be that same person twice; their impermanent being permanently captured in the frame. That, to me, is the most precious part of being a photographer.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Head/Heart: August 2015.

I came out of a full and fast July into an even fuller August. I spent most of it alone, with Martin being in Sydney for two weeks: the longest I've ever been at home by myself. I knew there was a lesson there, in my being completely alone in one of the busiest fortnights of my year: I balanced my final month of yoga teacher training (with 2 exams and an assignment), 7 unexpected shoots, and my day job all at once. It was a pretty unique fortnight, one I handled surprisingly well.

Years ago being alone with my own thoughts for any period of time would be pretty anxiety-inducing. This time, I cherished it, and in a fortnight so full it was probably just what I needed. I savoured the silence and the stillness, but more than that, I was able to remind myself how truly capable I was; how truly strong and calm I could be. I was given an opportunity to meet any and all adversity from the position of a witness: simply observing what came without getting caught up in the mental drama of the thing. Besides—I was probably too busy to even be stressed.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

How a conversation can save a life.

Up until November last year, I hadn't told anybody else this story: the story of how a conversation saved my life. Not even my parents knew this story, so know that I don't share this with you lightly.

How a single sentence changed my life

Not long ago, I posted some portraits of my friend Leigh, reconnecting with her for the first time since high school. It was during high school that Leigh's story intersected with mine: in November 2004, her older brother took his own life. Maybe a week or so later, her parents came to the school to talk to our entire year level about Ben, depression and suicide as part of a small memorial service. I cried the whole time: I didn't know Ben, and I wasn't particularly close to Leigh, but it really hit home. I had struggled and struggled through a lot of mental anguish, feeling isolated in my battle and in a lot of pain. This was before a time where R U OK? Day existed, before social media, before reading blogs that would later help me to know I was not alone. Stigma and misunderstanding surrounded the very taboo topic of mental illness more so than it does today.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Photography Basics Workshop: Brisbane.

Some of you will know that I've been dithering over whether or not to run a photography workshop over the last few months. Well, intentions and dreams became reality and now I'm super pleased to be running a photography workshop with Work-Shop Brisbane on Saturday, the 17th October!

This workshop will be perfect for aspiring amateurs and serious enthusiasts who have all the gear but haven't yet been able to take it to the next level. If you or somebody you know would love to brush up on their skills and knowledge with the camera, join us!

For more info including ticket prices, location and what the day will cover, be sure to check out the workshop page. If you have any questions, feel free to give me a shout via email or on any of my social media channels.

Featured in the photo above: my friend Joe, taking photos at Bondi Beach earlier this year.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Head/Heart: July 2015.

The last half of the year kicked off with our yoga teacher training retreat, which I briefly touched on in my last post. The next time I write, I'll most likely have graduated and the next chapter of my yoga journey will begin. I feel like I've packed a lot into this year—everything has been go, go, go and I'm tumbling through every week with the momentum of the last. At times it seems out of control, but that's why I make conscious efforts to introduce little pauses, little breaths in my day, week and month. Even if it's just an hour to myself at lunch, 15 minutes to stare at the clouds, spending the hour I drive to work in complete silence, and even writing this blog—there's always little opportunities to step on the brakes before hurtling into the rest of life, carrying us away day by day.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

A summer back home.

You don't need to be a photographer to know how easy it is for life to move on and for our personal photos to sit buried in our hard drives never to be seen again, so I'm relieved I can finally share some of these, because they're important to me. These photos are from our time going back home to The Philippines in late December (2014—yes, better late than never).

Since leaving The Philippines in 1996 we've only been back home to visit in 2004, 2011, and now in 2014. Every moment I get with both of my (very large) extended families is a deeply cherished one. Years usually pass between our visits and thankfully we can all stay in touch through the Internet now, but there was once a time when all we'd really get were very brief phone calls every so often. We have about 45 family members on my mother's side and about 70 on my father's, so that's a lot of stuff to miss out on.

I never forget my parents' incredible sacrifice—to spend years away from their own siblings, moving to countries they have no idea about at all (and at the time, there was no Googling it), not being able to be home for when illness arrives and steals more moments away from the already limited time we all have. My gratitude for that runs so deep, it permeates everything I do in my daily life: the one that I would not have had it not been for their choices.

After Christmas it was my mother's family's turn to have us. One sunny day, knowing that the monsoon was near, we spontaneously decided to go to a little island called Atulayan, not far from our hometown of Naga. This was just another one of those times where, despite the passing years and sometimes feeling as if you're meeting each other anew every time, we fall into a rhythm. The rhythm and familiarity that only comes from being with blood; from being home.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Head/Heart: June 2015.

June was finally my chance to slow down, to take it all in, and to integrate everything I had experienced from the first few months of the year. I didn't spend every single spare day doing nothing, but rather, I used it for all that I needed it for: the warmth of human connections, a lot of yoga, meditation and self-healing.

Monday, June 29, 2015


There's been a common theme for me this year, and it's that of old connections becoming new ones; where social media has actually contributed to a proper connection with someone IRL. Up until Friday, I hadn't seen Leigh in 8 years. I had volunteered to shoot a launch event for Headspace Tweed Heads where Leigh works and rather than driving all the way back to Brisbane, I stayed the night. We talked plenty in the morning before we both had to leave, but I couldn't go before gathering the courage to ask if we could take some quick photos—I have absolutely no regrets.