Jojo Mamangun, Former Ballet Philippines dancer, shoots Filipino indigenous peoples

Jojo Mamangun, Former Ballet Philippines dancer, shoots Filipino indigenous peoples
By Walter Ang
May 2013

"When I was younger, I didn't have the means to shoot as much as I wanted," says former Ballet Philippines dancer Jojo Mamangun. "I didn't have the time nor resources for photography. A roll of 36 exposures cost a whole day's meal for me. My previous career was my priority back then. Sometimes, I was only able to hold my camera only for cleaning once a month!"

Mamangun had always been inspired by beautiful pictures and was curious to know how they were created. While attending Philippine High School for the Arts, he learned the basics from his father.

"He used to be a serious hobbyist. I would look at old slides my father took from his trips. He taught me about aperture, shutter speed and film ASA (American Standards Association). It was still called ASA at that time and not ISO (International Standards Organization)," he says laughing.

"Unlike now where digital cameras let you check your work instantly, I wasted a lot of film from developing mistakes and photo paper from printing mistakes, but that's how you learn."

Mamangun also learned from photographers. "Doddie Campos taught me about push processing films, which was essential since I was into shooting stage performances."

During his time in BP, the late Noordin Jumalon (dancer, choreographer, and Cultural Center of the Philippines Dance School's dean) also shared tips and knowledge.

"He was an avid photographer. I would also hang out at the CCP Visual Arts darkroom with other photographers."

Head shots
After BP, Mamangun continued to work on his photography skills in Hong Kong. He'd been based there for several years with wife and also former BP dancer Kris Belle Paclibar when she was cast in a Cirque du Soleil show at the Venetian Hotel. While there, he assisted established photographers such as David Hartung.

Now that he's back in Manila, Mamangun has been holding head shot sessions. "I used to be asked by my colleagues if I could shoot their head shots. For those of us in the entertainment industry, head shots are our passport to jobs and projects. Most of the time, it's the first thing casting directors would see. It's an important investment."

His background as a performer influences his work. "Any photog can make a good photo with a simple camera but understanding the qualities of light (and not just lighting equipment) transforms a good photograph into a great photograph."

"It's easier to direct and interact with actors and dancers since we speak the same language. I try to help the subject discover what look works best. It's not the same as portrait shots, which I also love doing, because some portraits are not the best ones for a head shot."

Mamangun's head shot clients have reported to him that his work has been seen by different casting directors and directors from different cities around the world.

Filipino indigenous people 
Though Mamangun does all manner of photography such as commercial product shoots, landscapes and cityscapes, his passions are dance (obviously) and portraiture.

He has an ongoing personal project called "I.P. Portraits," a series of portraits of Filipino Indigenous Peoples.

The idea came about when he tried looking for photos of indigenous peoples. "I found them outdated. It's high time we 'documented' our indigenous peoples before they become completely forgotten."

"I really wanted to give something back. It's not something big. For this project, I gave out prints to everyone I photographed. It's a newfound joy for me. Seeing their faces light up when they see their photos on print is priceless. I don't have a sponsor but it would be nice to have a mobile printer with an endless supply of ink and photo paper so I can continue this project."

Prints from I.P. Portraits project are available for purchase. Proceeds fund future shoot sessions. Contact 09196970466 or visit jojomamangun.com.