Do What You LovE
Love What You Do
Time flies. Live every day like it’s your birthday.
Let me take care of the rest.
Alvin Lumanlan: Husband, Dad, Friend, Colleague & Experience Photographer
“Your work inspires me and reminds me to not take what I am passionate about for granted.”
- Kurt, a former work colleague who initially thought I was crazy and is now one of my biggest advocates
Hi, I’m Alvin, husband, father, biker, maker, and lover of cheeseburgers, coffee and Leica cameras.
I’m a true believer that time is our greatest asset. Time is valuable, personally, professionally, no matter how you cut it.
I value my time, as I definitely do yours.
Whether we are spending time together for a personal portrait session, I’m shooting a project for your business or doing my best to melt into the background during one of my day-in-a-life sessions, I’m doing what I love and likely joining you for something you love to do, surrounded by a community with that shared passion or even with the very people you love most.
My journey with photography while self-taught, has been life long, yet my pursuit of formally sharing with others is fairly new. I still remember all those days hijacking my dad’s old Canon AE-1 film camera, which lies on my desk, my very first own Canon film point and shoot (Snappy 50 I think) which I took on school field trips in the third grade. When photographing a cool helicopter during one trip, we got news the following week that it had crashed… try reconciling that as a third grader (cool or not cool)?! I remember my younger sister getting one of those disc cameras, so cool, until we found out it really wasn’t (who invented those things)!
My career and adult life has been one spent in advertising, playing the part not to dissimilar to Don Draper. I got my start in the Big Apple, came out to the Bay Area during the dot-com boom (the first one), witnessed the dot-bust. Along the way I helped to lead multi-million dollar brand campaigns, been a part of management teams, fell into technology, worked alongside the most awesome and creative people in the ad biz developing product, content strategies and equity-based compensation models for start-up clients. Yet here I am.
That damn Leica camera.
Do you remember when photography wasn’t about selfies? Wasn’t about Instagram likes? Wasn’t a transaction? I grew up shooting film, where you had 24 or 36 shots, had to pay for processing, wait a week to find out if anything was any good (or even exposed correctly). When the first Canon elf pocket cameras came out, I was over-the-moon for it’s go anywhere form-factor and ease of use. I must have had at least three different models as sensor size progressed from 3.0MB and onwards! Yet, that was the beginning of the end (thankfully temporary), of my love of photography. The iPhone brought with it amazing power and continues to do that, but it furthered the transactional nature of photography, the commoditization. Then came the megapixel arms race amongst camera manufacturers. And more features. More features meant more buttons, more menus… something that had been so simple with film, morphed into an HP scientific calculator playing the part of a paint brush (yes, I am dating myself, but at least I have asian genes going for me).
Back to Leica…
Leica has both many lovers and many haters, which I honestly can understand. But for me, it’s the right tool and critical to where I find myself today.
A few years ago a friend plopped a Leica M9, I think a 7 year old digital camera at the time (ancient by digital terms) and told me to “go shoot.” That was the beginning to the end. What looked like an old film camera, was digital. But the M9 is rangefinder camera with a separate optical viewfinder so that you’re not seeing exactly through the lens, unlike a DSLR. It also didn’t have autofocus or a bunch of extraneous features. Just an aperture dial on the lens, shutter speed dial on top, and with a button click away one could set the ISO, really all you need to make pictures… just like old film cameras.
Unsurprisingly, those first few snapshots were terrible. I left the cover on the lens (so black), I didn’t have anything in focus, let alone exposed right. What it did was force me to remember the craft of photography… depth of field, composition, thinking about my settings. No longer was a computer (auto mode) dictating the photograph. For good or for terrible, it was all up to me. And when I hit it… content, composition, lighting… oh my. The legendary Leica glass. Wow. I was hooked.
So why is family and people photography so prominently featured on my site? Plain & simple, the other key component to my photographic journey is my daughter, Carys. It’s not a unique story, but I think its convergence with discovering Leica, a renewal of the craft of photography and my genuine caring for people led me to today. Quite simply, I want to be able to do for your family, what I do for mine.
My parents are from the Philippines, having migrated to New Jersey after my mother graduated nursing school, and my father promptly followed for love. Growing up as one of the few minority kids in a white affluent suburb of Manhattan provided a unique perspective. Thankfully I consider myself to have higher than average emotional & social intelligence, with a high degree for empathy, which coincidentally came in handy for those decades in the ad biz as an account guy. But growing up as a fairly sociable, introverted extrovert - I pretty much got along with most. I saw what others possibly didn’t see in the awkward kids, the insecurities in the “confident kids” and as a result, probably have the widest set of friends and never fell into one particular social click. It’s with this backdrop I approach photographing people - I see the good in people, even when they might be reluctant to let it shine. Everyone has it. And the best photographs, particularly portraits, are when it comes out.
But the reality is, trying to become a photographer today is a bit masochistic. For the most part, it’s undervalued, its become commoditized and everyone has a camera. While the camera doesn’t make the photographer, people seem to forget that when they shop for a photographer - let alone try to sit across the table and swap shoes. Regardless of talent level, it absolutely kills me to think about what some photographers are charging. Capital expenses, software expenses, post-processing & editing time, insurance… forget about actual intellectual property and skill. As I’ve tried to build a foundation around my own photography business, I think about how many sessions I’d need to shoot to make this whole thing sustainable. When I replicate that against some of what I see in the business today, I completely understand why there is so much uninspired and even terrible work out there. The reality is it’s what the market is willing to pay. I’m here to say that I’m not going down that path. And I understand that the majority of folks aren’t going to be my customers, but that’s ok… I think I’m having a bit of a Jerry McGuire moment.
We’re in this together. That is the core to my approach, having a real connection and healthy respect for the process, where our lives and stories converge. While Leica produces arguably the best photographic tools in the business, it’s their simplicity, their ability to strip down to the essentials, that allows the camera to be an extension of me, thereby allowing me to put forward my best creative self. Don’t get me wrong, I have taken plenty of terrible photos with my Leicas, but when I fall into that zone, that process, the potential for awesome is there. It’s a runner’s high, like carving single track, that first powder run. Serendipity. And as far as process goes, I have it covered, so you can just come along for the ride. It’s also why I call myself an “experience” photographer. Aside from taking elements from documentary and lifestyle, I truly believe that you’re not buying photos from me, you’re buying into the process, the larger experience and welcoming me into the start of a relationship. One that I greatly respect.
Because, life’s short. I want you to live every day like it’s your birthday. And let me take care of the rest.