The Soaring of Little Wing Luna


Second of two parts

The first step is understanding the story. And then it’s finding the places where you think pictures might happen.
Amy Toensing
National Geographic Photographer

It took only two words for first-timer Little Wing Luna to get her US Visa: Bob Dylan. It was her honest and truthful self, as she really wanted to see him playing live in New York summertime last year. 
Her two words got her on that plane on her way to meet the soon-to-be Nobel Prize for Literature. With tattooed wings in her already ink-clad body, she was really destined to fly—literally and figuratively.
A Teenager Waiting for Her Train
As her early years she would volunteer to take photos during family occasions using her camera. She soon attended photography workshops of photojournalists Luis Liwanag and Alex Baluyut and would became part of Photojournalists’ Center of the Philippines and now works in documenting activities of a government agency.

As many as the bright lights that glitter its most famous skyline, New York has more than a thousand stories to tell for Luna. And to be an effective photographer and convey her message, she would engage her audience by immersing herself, often asking questions or simply by making them smile.

She opted for the gorier subways, as there was more beneath the main pavements and blind alleys above. Down under you meet the rest of humanity—the struggling, the desperate and the live-for-today being transported to various far points of destinations to and from the city. Such as in the case of A Teenager Waiting for Her Train while Listening to Her Music. Unmindful of her chaotic surroundings marked by spontaneous litter and serious graffiti, her innocence is flanked by silence as evident in her plugged in music.
Everything has Shape, Texture, and Emotions
Luna opted for black and white photography, which is as old a medium as New York itself: “The streets are so amusing to me--every scene, every character, everything with textures, forms, breaths life. It’s sometimes cool to document them with all honesty. In the street, the mundane becomes surreal,” she explains.

One would wonder how long it took for Luna to imbibe the rhythm of these moments that passed by underneath. Reflecting on this kind of personality, can one really decipher if a photograph was taken by a woman? In A Woman with Heavy Load Riding a Train one could as the viewer is quite disturbed to how the lady is burdened by how her bags defines her individuality.

Everything has Shape, Texture and Emotions is a study of contrasts: leopard dress with velvet boots against metal stairs and cemented paths--all unified for one brief captured instance in a frame. 
It was the great Henri Cartier Bresson who defined what he describes as the decisive moment when the photographer’s eye, mind and heart come into focus together on an image compelling enough to inspire the click of a shutter. Photography is mostly about what and how the subjects are going through or the about to action.

If You See Something, Say Something
If You See Something, Say Something, is both uncanny and riveting. It freezes the moment where one descends to the uncertainty of the stairs. Not revealing the face, it is the identity of every man that she could not conceal from the experience.
Favoring musicians Luna could not resist the Purple Haze guitarist in Jimi Hendrix Live in a Subway from her prying yet prowling lens. One can even hear his guitar riff fretting from a far through this image.
Jimi Hendrix Live in a Subway
In time, by the opening and closing of cables Luna has been assured by people’s vibe as patterns of gestures, by the cadence of commuters footsteps, even how their bodies behave alighting and descending the stairs, how fatigue and weariness that takes the shape of their seats. Passengers on Board the Train is one such beautiful instance.
While Santos’ titles are irrelevant assigning only numbers to them, Luna can be as literal as to how she titles her images. Luna is the kind of storyteller unraveling the mystery of the everyday, the familiar in these remotest of places.

“Not really, to be honest. I just want to document the things i see and experienced. Having a cam with me is like carrying my cigs in my bag. I never ever leave home without it,” she adds.

If You Make it Here, You Make it Anywhere
Santos and Luna first foray was Chasing Quotidian three years ago in vMeme Contemporary Art Gallery in Quezon City. Showing their strong feminist perspectives, it was a well-accepted exhibit and affirmation of their passion for their art.

“I really don’t limit myself in photography. I shoot everything and anything; I experiment with my styles, angles, and perspectives. For me photography must be free from all limitations, be spontaneous and unexpected,” she says.  
Passengers on Board

Luna who currently documents various programs for a government agency photography is more like responsibility. Every minute an action happens and one must be ready to shutter and not leave tables perturbed.  One must live to fight another day. Yet Luna still leave something for the viewer Movie Series on Subway Walls.

Luna believes everybody has its own style, the same way as you tell your story as you take your shots: “I got a lot. I guess. I looked at their photos and I’m amazed always, but I believe everybody has its own style. It’s like telling a story, the way you tell your story is the same as taking your shots.”

Notice how none of the New York landmarks were seen in this exhibit, which was a giveaway and we could marvel at them. However Santos and Luna have captured New York the hard way and in a less postcard pretty manner. Some may not be please. Other may opt to call it pure talent. Enough said.

Note: Much has happened since viewing the exhibition on a Thanksgiving last year. From writing before and now Trump and Duterte presidencies all while basking in the scorching heat of May. At any rate be it in New York or in Manila, both Santos and Luna can be found shooting in the streets. In fact Luna was recently named among eight Filipinas for the International Photography Awards.

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