Everyday, we encounter bits and pieces of the island through the eyes of several Bahrain-based photographers. However, one that caught our eye are the works of Filipino photographer, Ria Kristina Torrente.
Just recently, we had the chance to interview Ria – scroll down to know more…
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am Ria. I first got hooked into photography when I encountered a red Holga while I was passing by a bookshop in Manila many moons ago. I got obsessed with collecting toy film cameras. Then I switched to digital photography a few years later when I started feeling that I wanted to spend more time taking pictures. I am a self-taught photographer but over the years I’ve joined several technical and visual storytelling workshops. I ditched a non-creative corporate job back home and went to Bahrain in 2017 to pursue full-time photography.
What does photography mean to you? What drew you to take photos?
Photography has evolved its meaning for me over the years but what has remained consistent is that images and words both go together in my personal practice. It’s introspective. I put my vulnerability and emotions in my process.
Now, I’m at a period where it’s all about resistance — we live in a time where we produce and consume a lot of photographs everyday, fake news is everywhere and your photographs could be used differently from its original intended context and purpose, that’s why I work in narratives whether it’s from a different body of work they are all connected into a larger story. I document where I currently exist that’s why looking within myself asking what is my current truth, and observing my environment and what resonates to me whether it’s just an empty space, a shadow or just footprints in the sand it means something to me the moment I capture it.
You have traveled to a lot of places and took many photographs during your course of work. Which photo do you most identify yourself with?
I am fortunate that I’m able to practice my passion as a profession. I greatly appreciate and value the work I produce in the company where I’m hired at. But I always identify more with my personal works because it’s mine and it challenges me to explore more ways to improve my craft and expression, and it excites me as to where it can take me further.
How important is it for photographers/artists to “connect” with their subjects?
Photography, they say, is a solitary practice or profession. For the longest time, I used to take pictures of places devoid of human presence because I feel I am taking away something from the person if I just take their portraits and then I’m never going to meet them again, but gradually I learned along the way.
As I developed my style, I begin to understand that it’s just a matter of spending time to get to know the person or people whose photo you want to take. Even for just a few minutes. When I used to work in the studio, I don’t talk to my subjects I just direct them their poses. But I found out if you ask them something personal like what are they thinking at the moment or what makes them happy then I’m able to bring meaning into the portrait because I know what their state of mind was when I took the photograph. I learned further more how to connect with my subjects and get their personal stories when I took a documentary photography workshop.
How has technology changed your artistic process?
I’m not so much obsessed with gears and I’m not into getting that perfect photo where you strictly follow the rules. As long as I’m able to tell my stories clearly and feel happy with the photo I’ve taken then I’m good. Unless if it’s for client-related requirements, it’s a different matter I have to take into consideration a lot of things.
My personal photographs represent my identity, who I am, my process, style and intention. Most of my photos are black and white, gritty and sometimes blurry with an unusual composition.
A majority of the images you share are in black and white – is there a reason behind this?
I’ve been doing black and white photography for over four years now. It all started as an exercise taking photos on my phone when I used to go to the office from my apartment to and fro back home. I turned one photo into black and white and played with the highlights and contrasts. I found all the strong shadows and light interesting.
What advice would you give to those who want to pursue photography?
Photography can only take you as far as to where you want to go. I think this applies to any goal you want to achieve. There are a lot of learning opportunities out there now more than ever where you can improve your visual language and how to create visual narratives in photography.
It’s difficult to produce original work these days but one secret is to learn the different works of other photographers both masters and contemporaries – how do they see the world? What resonates to you? Learn how to avoid stereotypes, cliches and repetitions.
Build your identity and then you can own your voice. Learn the rules then break them. Just shoot everyday, collect them, study them, you don’t need to post them right away. Self-doubt will never go away that’s why it’s important to have a mentor or be a part of a community with like-minded individuals where you can exchange constructive feedback on how to approach your shoot or any lens-based visual projects that you’re making.