On The Run.

4 12 2008

(Let me share with you what I’ve found in the pages of Philippine Star today..It features our very own Photographer On the Run, Ben Chan and the columnist is Tanya T. Lara, I don’t Know if we’re related ha hehe. Well, our friend Ben Chan is the pioneer of PHOTOVENDO here in our country If I’m not mistaken, here it goes…)

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The first time he took a camera and decided he was going to be a photographer, Ben Domingo M. Chan spent the whole day going around the city. He went to Manila Bay, to Luneta, to Nayong Pilipino and all the obligatory places that a novice photographer goes to. By sunset, he was shooting his 42nd frame. He was very pleased that his 36-frame roll of film had extras. Then it dawned on him: maybe something was wrong. He opened the camera carefully and found out the film hadn’t spooled properly.

He had been shooting the whole day on one overexposed frame.

The first time he decided to run a full marathon, Ben didn’t have any training either. He was going to Los Angeles and found out that the LA Marathon was going to be held around the same time and so he signed up. He arrived in LA on a Saturday and the next day he was going to run 42 kilometers. His uncle said: “Are you sure you can run a marathon?” Ben said: “Yes, of course, it’s just like running four 10K’s in one race.”

Of course it wasn’t!

Ben found this out by the 13th mile. He was in so much pain, he was cramping and walking when not slumped on the ground to rest, and in the last two miles, 70-year-old grannies were waving and running past him on their way to the finish line.

Ben M. Chan (the photographer, not the retailer) may have had disastrous beginnings in both careers, but today he has combined both photography and running so well that he has caught the attention of both worlds.

His second marathon, the 2007 Milo Marathon in Manila, came only five months after his first. He finished in 4:35, an amazing two hours faster than his LA time. And on Dec. 7, he’s running his third — the Singapore Marathon.

As for his photography, Ben spent the next six years doing advertising work for Ad Photo, one of the country’s biggest ad photo agencies, shooting print ads for clients as varied as real estate to restaurants.

“When I started out with Ad Photo, I was still a computer science student in La Salle,” he says. “One of my professors took us for a tour at their studios and I felt like a kid in a chocolate factory. I realized, ‘This is what I want to do.’”

He started out as a production assistant, which is basically on the same rung as a janitor, he jokes. He would prep the cameras, clean the cars they were going to photograph, and hold up the lights. Given Ben’s talent and his openness to experimenting with new equipment and lighting, his work quickly got noticed.

But something was missing — and he realized this when he was showing his portfolio to a magazine editor. The editor asked him, “So, where’s your personal work?”

He had no idea what to say. He didn’t have any. He had been working so hard for the last six years for clients and for his agency — never for himself. So this year, he took the leap: He quit his job.

And that’s when the real fun began.

When he did his first pictorial for a personal project he calls “Runners’ Profiles,” Ben M. Chan (the photographer, not the retailer) felt a whole new world opening up. “When I saw the pictures, I felt like I was set free. It was the first shoot I did where I didn’t stick to the rules, I didn’t have a client or an art director. I didn’t even think of Chai (Patacsil), the runner I was shooting. It was purely me. It was very liberating.”

He’s done eight profiles since and the pictures just keep getting better — that’s because he understands both worlds. He knows a good running form when he sees one and he appreciates the aesthetics a body in motion can create.

He also experiments with new lights while shooting with his trusty Canon 1D Mark 3. His profiles are a way “to test new equipment and styles so that when I use them in my commercial work, I know what works.”

Ben shoots his series at 5 in the morning, yet when you look at the pictures they almost always have that quality of twilight — or very early morning, when the skies are hovering between gray and light.

His profile of Patrick Concepcion, a runner who did the Vancouver Marathon in 1983 in 3:54 and who has since run 240 races of different distances, was shot at high noon in Sucat, but the pictures look like they were done very early in the morning or late at night. This series also shows both the photographer and the runner’s sense of humor. For this shoot, Ben sketched storyboards for Patrick — including one where Patrick is sitting on a toilet bowl and reading.

How did he convince this vice president of Condura to drop his pants? “I was willing to do it,” says Patrick. “I wanted the life of a runner projected in pictures. Just like when I’m on the toilet in real life, I actually read Running magazine. The shoot’s concept was about everyday experiences I have as a runner. And Ben is a wizard with his camera. His passion for both photography and running is very contagious. The 13 hours of shooting went by so quickly.”

Their conversation before the shoot also brought out the runner’s quirks, like Patrick never allows his househelp to clean his muddy running shoes. Instead he cleans them himself when he’s taking a bath — so Ben shot him in the shower. And to show how much Patrick loves his shoes, Ben shot him in bed spooning his shoe — while his wife Mabu Concepcion is in the background reading by the light of a bedside lamp.

Ben Chan (the photographer, not the retailer) is behind the blog “photographerontherun.com.”

Obviously, the name is culled from his love of running and photography. But it is also quite literal. He has shot many times in Makati — always without a permit, which results in him, his subject and his assistants running away from security guards.

The last one was when he did a pictorial with Wayne Plymale, an American who recently spent 10 days of vacation in Manila (to run two races and to meet friends who are also runners and bloggers). Wayne has run 60,050 miles in his life, which is equivalent to going around the circumference of the earth three times.

Ben had always wanted to shoot in the Ayala Underpass and he found in Wayne a willing conspirator. He instructed the runner: “When you walk past the security guard,turn around and start running toward me.” As soon as Ben’s assistant turned on the light behind Wayne and Ben started clicking his camera, the security guard started yelling: “Hoy! Ano yan?”

And the small group of permit-less bandits was on the run.

Sometimes, Ben chooses his locations simply to show runners that there are amazing places in the metropolis that they can explore. For coach Joar Calvadores, Ben took the pictorial to Sierra Madre, which he uses on his personal LSD (long, slow distance) runs. On this winding stretch of highway, the only cars you’ll see are Porsches and Ferraris and big bikes going at 200 kilometers per hour. Apparently, this is the only nearly deserted highway where guys with fast cars can do hairpins without worrying about pedestrians and traffic.

“For this shoot, the lighting was different again,” says Ben. “I wanted aggressive lighting and to play with the highlights. Parang galit ang mga muscles.”

A former UST varsity track star, Joar ran on the highway with an assistant of Ben lighting the scene from behind — and in one picture with a goat watching stoically.

The popularity of the series has some people asking Ben if he could take their pictures for a fee. Ben says this is his personal project, but if your story interested him enough, he might do it. One such lady whose story caught his attention was Kim O’Connell. She ran her first marathon at 50, and now at 60, she’s also doing the Singapore Marathon in December. “I want pictures of me running to show my grandchildren…while I still can,” she wrote Ben.

Once, he received an e-mail from a girl who was a fan of his work and wanted to gift her boyfriend with a pictorial with Ben. She had a small budget — would he do it? It turned out the boyfriend was Joemar Paras, who belonged to the group Happy Feet, which Ben moderates. The result: An anniversary gift of a very dramatic pictorial in Intramuros.

When Ben Chan (the photographer, not the retailer) ran the LA Marathon, he excitedly ordered pictures of himself — and was shocked out of his singlet that they cost $30 each. Since then he dreamed of doing what they do in races abroad — to take photos during the race that runners can order and download online — but at affordable prices. He has done just that with photovendo.ph, a site where runners can download photos for only P100 each.

“Triathletes, by the nature of their sport, can afford high prices, but not runners,” says Ben. “I wanted even the most ordinary runner to be able to afford and easily download their pictures.”

For all the success of his Runners Profiles and his start-up business, Ben admits that he is just trying to please his parents. His mother Cres was a be-medalled 100 and 200-meter sprinter during her high school days in Bicol and got through college on an athletic scholarship, while his father Domingo was a painter.

In the process of trying to please them, Ben found two worlds that are all his.

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