Heights Ateneo — The Official Literary and Artistic Publication and Organization of the Ateneo de Manila University
On Benjie Bernal's "New Year's Eve sa Purok Tres"
Tamia Reodica | Oct 9, 2020
Heights' second regular folio explores noise and its various forms. While it can be deafening, distracting, and disruptive, it can also manifest as something good or even nostalgic. This kind of noise is what Benjie Bernal conveys in his photo essay, “New Year's Eve sa Purok Tres.”
After some time into 2020, Bernal was browsing through his library of photographs when he stumbled upon some that he took during New Year’s Eve. It was only then that he realized how vividly they told a story. Stringing together different photographs that weave sentimentality into its technical elements, he immortalizes the narrative of a lively and carefree New Year’s Eve on the streets of Nueva Ecija.
Inspired by the likes of photographers Omar Gonzalez, Matt Day, and Denae and Andrew, Bernal finds value in the idea of documentation for sentimentality and study. Prompted by these artists’ pursuit of documenting daily life, New Year sa Purok Tres came about as he casually photographed the celebration he spent at his mother's home province. His documentation also has a sort of candidness that is reminiscent of photographers Steve Curry and Vivian Maier, who are renowned for the quality of humanness in their work and also influence him. Yet even with the influences that emanate from Bernal’s photographs, his work distinguishes itself as it tells a simple story: this is what it is like to spend New Year’s Eve in Bernal’s very own province—an experience that he can portray uniquely.
While stories such as that of “New Year sa Purok Tres” are open to interpretation, Bernal shares that using technicalities in taking photographs can correlate with how a viewer emotionally responds. With his background in photography, he applies some techniques to express his own emotions and to convey his narrative creatively. For instance, Bernal uses layering through the deliberate framing of the subjects in a way that shows their relationship. One can tell at a single glance that the people in the pictures are part of a close community. Bernal also plays with the way light appears through smoke, as well as shadows to show the presence of people without directly placing them in the photograph.
“New Year sa Purok Tres” thoughtfully captures the jolly noise of a community celebrating New Year’s Eve, a special yet ordinary part of life that lives forever through Bernal’s photo essay. Looking at the pictures, you can hear the festivities—the laughter, the shouts, the fireworks—and the warm welcoming of another year.
To see Bernal’s work in full, among other published works in the Heights 67.2 folio, click here: bit.ly/HeightsTomo67-2
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