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Romeo Gacad – Still Going!

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Had an invite from one of the speaker for a photo talk “Beyond Photojournalism”, held earlier this afternoon at Galeri Antara, Pasar Baru, Jakarta. The storm just a few hours before the forum began, almost stopped me from going. Hasn’t been a great weather lately. Must have got to do something with the weather that caused flood in Brisbane, Australia.

Romeo Gacad sent an email to let me know that he was one of the three speakers. The other two were Hermanus Priatna (Antara) and Firman Ichsan (Dewan Kesenian Jakarta). Three of them are seniors in photography. But the star that day, would be Romy. πŸ™‚

First met him in Manila. The first day I arrived in the Philippines, the loco Dennis Sabangan told me to shoot a protest at the University of the Philippines (UP). It was late in the afternoon, and almost dark. I wasnt even sure that I got a good look at him back then. All I know that he’s tall.. and he was a lecturer in the university.

Then I met him again at a party, where everyone had a little booze, but me. I was holding a bottle, but never drank a drop! Just felt like holding the bottle, thats all! hehe.. Might be the booze that allowed me to dance with Fafa Romy. While I was completely sober to understand, it was just another fun nite at the Oarhouse.

And just like any other Pinoy photogs I’ve met, I’ve known, I’ve make friends with and I admired, Romeo Gacad is a great photographer. His works inspired me. The way he can make interesting yet simple pictures, far from boring. As a matter of fact, I stole one or two of his ideas when I still shoot for daily in Tempo News Room (I dont think he mind or care! ;p). Because Romy often made illustrations for economy issues, which was exactly what I was assigned to do, day by day.

Then in 2008, he was officially transferred to Jakarta Bureau by the AFP and made him the Chief Photographer of AFP here. He’s always been the teacher type. Where he gave tips for free, share his thoughts and ideas about photojournalism, and advice you what to do if you come to him and ask for one. Some of my pix on the website were edited by him as well. Since I dont have photo editors anymore. So I sort of look for some, and he’s been a great help. ;p

Romy did a slideshow of his works in Irak, Afghanistan (where he “beat” James Nachtwey, since he was the one who made the cover of TIME with his Afghan man picture on the mountain, and the afternoon sky as the background), and some from Indonesia and Philippines.

But what stroke me the most would be this picture,

MANILA, PHILIPPINES: Connected to a life support machine while fighting for his life, Filipino World War II veteran Bartolome Gacad, 89, wears a protest shirt written 'justice for the Filipino World War II veterans' during his final days at the Veterans Medical Center in suburban Quezon City 02 March 2004. Gacad who fought under the US flag against the Japanese forces as a member of the United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE), died 05 March. The Filipinos under the US colonial administration were drafted into service by US President Franklin Roosevelt July 1941 and promised the same benefits as their American comrades. Five years later the US Senate's Recission Act of 1946 stripped the Filipino WWII veterans of America's 'equal pay for equal risk' policy. (ROMEO GACAD/AFP/Getty Images)

See? This is why I said, some things are more than meets the eye. Because it was just a picture of a sick old man on the bed, but up until he told everyone in that room that it was actually his father, and he shoot the picture when doing a story about the Filipino World War II Veteran back in 2004, we all gasped. Though I can imagine how hard it must have been to do that story, I really not sure what to say.

Romy has been shooting since I was 4 years old, back in 1985!!!! He’s been shooting for 25 years now. TWENTY FIVE YEARS ladies and gentlemen, and still good at it. There are a lot of senior photogs in Indonesia who end up just sitting behind the desk after shooting a little more than a decade. And plenty more young photogs here who whine about them being tired of shooting when they just had as early as 5 years in this press photo thing.

And one thing I noticed and talked briefly to Reuters photog, Beawiharta was about how polite Romy is as a photographer. He shoots with ethic. For example, when he shoot Eid ul Adha. He carefully picked the scenes, so that those who see his pix wont misunderstood it as a plain animal slaughtering. He tried to reveal the essence of the ritual where muslims sacrifice cows or sheep as being told to do in the Quran, to honor the spiritual journey of Abraham and Ismail. To tell you the truth, even us, muslims, barely care that far. Funny how we would try hard to not offend others, and forgot how to not offend ourselves.

Another lesson to learn today. Another inspiring stories and photos. Thanks for sharing, Romy! Enjoy your stay here, make yourself at home. πŸ™‚ -and oh, yes.. you should start learning bahasa! It’s been two years now, man! you have to at least can count to 10! Satu, dua, tiga, empat, lima, enam, tujuh, delapan, sembilan, sepuluh!! horeeeee…

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Written by nickmatulhuda

January 15, 2011 at 11:33 am

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