Miguel’s Carnival

Interview by Anya Lansangan (Men’s Zone Magazine, December 2004)

With a rich environment such as the carnival as a backdrop,freelance photographer Miguel Nacianceno explores different themes such as nostalgia, beauty, and, ultimately, emotional authenticity in his first exhibit, Carnival Photography.

Anya Lansangan: When were these photos taken?

Miguel Nacianceno: These photographs were taken within a couple of days in December 2002. They were shot in the two carnivals along Roxas Boulevard. One was Boom Land and I can’t remember the other. Most probably Star City. I was originally looking for the older, less polished carnivals. I wanted grittier photos ala Susan Meiselas’ Carnival Strippers. I couldn’t find them within Metro Manila, and I later found out that it was a dying industry and this older sort of carnivals could be found in the provinces.

AL: How did you come upon these scenes?

MN: As soon as I stepped into the carnival and saw the polished-ness, the manufactured-ness of the whole place, I knew I had a somewhat different theme going and it had a touch of being surreal to it. The place was created to really make you feel happy. And then I found these huge broken fiber glass figures in their backyard. I didn’t mind that at all, and I started shooting.

AL: Have you always intended to do a series of photos on carnival scenes?

MN: On a very basic and obvious level, carnivals are visually interesting. But I felt (along with numerous photographers before me) that there was more to carnivals than what we see on the surface. There’s subtext there that is even accentuated by the whole environment of the carnival. The surreal and manufactured place served as backdrops to real human emotion. Since carnivals almost always pack up and build some place else, I also feel like capturing that bit of transient quality to the place. The thought that so many other ideas, aside from mine, can be read into these images, I think, drew me to photograph this subject. And aside from that, there’s something about carnivals that affect our memories. Almost all of us encountered carnivals when we were kids. I never got to photograph Fiesta Carnival in Cubao, and now a supermarket sits on where it used to be. Anyway, nostalgia on my part is one other reason for working on this project, as with most of my personal work.

AL: Do you feel that you have a story and then find the pictures that will tell it, or do you just the pictures and then find the story to tell?

MN: It’s not so much a narrative but more like a theme. And this theme is an emotional connection that I make with a certain subject. Instinctively, my photograph is a product of the emotional resonance that occurs when seeing a certain subject. With regard to the process, often enough, I find a subject that I take pictures of, and later find a theme that strings them together. So I shoot instinctively and rationalize later. That is the case, more often than not. Lately though, as I’ve had the chance to work on several other personal projects after Carnival series, I’ve been finding out that these newer photos can still be linked thematically to Carnival. These themes include memory, authenticity, and beauty among many. I guess I haven’t worked them all out of my system and I find that these themes find their way into my other personal projects.

AL: Describe the process of finding the pictures, of finding the story you wanted to tell.

MN: I guess this question is about the actual physical process of taking the photograph. Well, even as I say that I instinctively shoot, I also can say that I prepare for it. In the case of Carnival, I prepared by going to the carnival at a certain time when I felt that the light would hit my subjects in such away that helps convey my themes best. That’s a technical process that all photographers know and do. Even if you shoot instinctively and emotionally, you don’t stop preparing like that.

AL: For many people, pictures serve as chronicles, as keepers of memories – what do you want to people to remember from these pictures?

MN: Since nostalgia is a theme I explore in this series, I hope that when people look at my photographs, they are reminded of a time when they felt what I felt what I took these photos. That’s pretty vague isn’t it? Anyway, even as I want to impose certain themes and emotions, I also know enough to realize that I might not be able to completely impart the exact same feelings. I don’t mind people reading other themes into my photographs. I don’t want to make that sort of inflexible imposition on my viewers and on my photographs.

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