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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, November 9, 2018
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with Carlos Antonio L. Leonardia
OPINIONS

Photographing MassKara

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In today’s world where almost everyone can claim to be a photographer because most people have very powerful and capable phone cameras in their pockets, one has to wonder what value serious and dedicated photographers bring to the table, especially during large-scale and heavily photographed/selfied events like the recently concluded MassKara festival.

Those of us who follow photography-centric social media feeds like Instagram would probably think that with all the images people all over the world are taking and sharing, there is no longer a need for real photographs, the type that can be printed, framed, and hung on walls or published in glossy magazines. Being inundated with all sorts of photos, from the mostly terrible to the sometimes sublime, on our social media feeds everyday, can make us think that photography is easy and less appreciative of it.

The mistake is in thinking that producing good quality photos is now easy because of the ubiquity of “photographs” in our daily lives. But those who take the time to look closer the low res snapshots meant for social media consumption will see that print-worthy photographs are still as difficult to find as they were before the camera phone boom that made taking snapshots easy for millions.

This lack of appreciation of the difference between a social media snapshot and a print-worthy photograph is probably the reason why MassKara dance groups have been very antagonistic towards photographers during the street dance parade and contest despite the designation of a “Photographers Lane” by the festival organizers who hold an official festival photo contest annually as part of their strategy to come up with a viable source of fresh MassKara photographs to promote the festival.

It is probable that dance groups and their bouncers arrogantly think that there are enough MassKara themed selfies and snapshots out there so despite the existence of a SMFO sanctioned area for photographers, there are multiple confirmed reports of their bouncers deliberately pushing, shoving, harassing and blocking photographers in the area that was supposedly reserved for authorized photography.

This rude and antagonistic behavior towards photographers who paid the P1,000 photo contest registration fee for access to a photographer friendly area more than the chance to enter and win the contest, is an embarrassing failure for contest organizers who promised something they were unable to deliver due to the lack of coordination between the different groups involved.

Everybody lost when dance groups wasted unnecessary time and effort on preventing authorized photographers from taking photos in the photographer’s lane because they failed to understand the importance and goals of the photo contest. Harassed photographers who paid good money for access couldn’t take good photos and the SMFO will be deprived of quality submissions for the photo contest and end up with less photos of the festival to use for promoting it.

After so many reports of harrowing experiences with arrogant dance group bouncers, participating photographers will probably regret paying P1000 for access that was not granted and worse, blatantly denied by rude and arrogant zealots. Additionally, SMFO will probably rue spending contest prize money for rights to use hurried snapshots of the street dance if they knew they could’ve gotten thoughtfully composed photographs had the photographers lane been respected and enforced.

Photographers who have been to other festivals and contests are finding it increasingly difficult to understand why Bacolod treats photographers differently. Most of the feedback the officers of the CCN received compared the way MassKara treated photographers to their positive experiences in Iloilo’s Dinagyang and Cebu’s Sinulog. MassKara may be one of the top 3 festivals in the country, especially in terms of photography, but that cannot be sustainable if it continues to treat photographers badly.

My friends who recently went to the Pintaflores festival of San Carlos after shooting MassKara, commented on how greatly their photographic experiences differed and had a lot of things to say about how Bacolod could and should do better.

If you come to think of it, even if a hundred thousand camera phones took millions of photos of the MassKara street dancing competition, 99 percent of those photos are only good for personal use on social media. The SMFO won’t get any photos worthy of printing or using as advertising or promotional material for future festivals unless it works with photographers who know what they are doing and are allowed to do what they do best. The potential to gather such photos are the reason why the organizers hold a photo contest every year.

When photographers cannot take proper photos because they are constantly being harassed or don’t know where they are actually allowed to shoot, they won’t be able to produce quality photos. SMFO, or whoever is organizing the next MassKara festivals, have to decide if they want to have photographers in the festival or if they’re going to let the dance groups reign supreme over the streets.

If they still want to involve photographers, then they will have to find a way to fix the current way system that is not working or consider a new system that will allow everybody: dancers, their bouncers, the security and crowd control, spectators, and photographers to be able to play their role in the continuous improvement and promotion of the festival that has become the pride of Bacolod City.*  

Follow on Twitter: @bindadu
Email:mail@carloleonardia.com

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