24 soulful black and white portraits of strangers in Manila

(Instagram/ larrymonseratepiojo)


We cross paths with strangers everyday: during our morning commute, inside the office elevator, at the mall on our way home. These strangers’ faces become familiar to us—the security guard at the lobby, the child who sells flowers on the street corner, the cigarette vendor near the train station—yet we rarely give them a thought. Larry Monserate Piojo‘s black-and-white photos capture the beauty of the strange and the familiar.


When did you discover your passion for photography?

It was because of Steve McCurry. Not that I know Steve McCurry personally, but it was an episode of the National Geographic channel back in 2004 that really ignited my passion for photography. I was watching this particular Nat Geo episode with Steve McCurry, “Search for the Afghan Girl,” the girl whom he photographed in 1984 and made it to the cover of National Geographic Magazine in 1985 and has been popularly known only as the Afghan Girl. And as I watched, I discovered how a simple photograph, a simple portrait can touch the world over. And how one portrait can tell the entire story of the place, the people, the events, the sufferings, the sacrifices and everything in between. After that, I found myself digging books and magazines about iconic photographs in bookstores almost every day to inspire me over and over again.


What makes a good photo?

It’s not entirely just about the color, the exposure, the gear, and the story. Often these factors should come together to make a beautiful photograph and make an image that is pleasing to the eyes. But for me, what really makes a good photograph is anything that is able to communicate well to the audience and inspire them one way or another. Set aside technicalities and focus on the story and how it will impact the viewers. If you look at a photograph and it sends shivers to your head down to your spine or pinches your heart or blows your soul away, that’s a good photograph.


How do you choose which subjects, particularly people, to photograph?

For portraits, I normally look for someone who stands out. Someone with strong character and a story to tell. For street scenes, I look for shadows, for good light and most of the time play the waiting game.


Why do you shoot in black and white?

Timeless and dramatic, that’s how most people think about a black and white photographs, and I totally agree. And I think 90% of my photographs are in black and white. I choose them to be in black and white because I feel like most of my photographs are able to communicate well and are stronger if in black and white. It’s all about presentation, story-telling, context, and style. If a message comes across perfectly in colors, then take colored photographs.


A photo posted by Larry Monserate Piojo (@larrymonseratepiojo) on

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