Rita Marie is one of Manila's on-the-rise editorial photographers with talent that has reached as far as Toronto, Ontario, and even New York City. She didn't begin her early career as a photographer but discovered her love for it a little later on. While on the verge of getting her name on the industry map, Rita presses on with what she does best, creating art out of frozen frames from life. To Rita, photography isn't just a medium that sells products or magazines, it's somewhat like her soul's very own pen and with it she writes about the beauty she observes around her.
Rita currently has an ongoing mixed media and photography exhibit entitled "Lucid Dreaming" at A Space gallery in Greenbelt, Makati and the compositions she continues to create like the ones seen there never cease to inspire.
1. How old were you when your love for photography began?
"In school, I was always the girl with the camera. This was during my teen years, I photographed not for the art but to capture memories. Not a day went by when I did not have my green advantix camera with me. Until this day, I have tons of throwback photos my batch mates would probably be nostalgic to see again."
2. At what point in your photography journey did you know that this could be your passion to pursue? "It came as a late and slow realization that I wanted to actively pursue this passion because growing up, there was a stigma of financial lackluster associated with artists. But while studying marketing, I found myself highly interested in was the visual images of advertising. Though officially speaking, it was when I was hired as a varsity photographer for the Lions of York University in Toronto that I had an 'Aha!' moment. I got paid to photograph games and sport events and it was a great feeling to just have financial rewards for pursuing my passion."
In Toronto, a city embedded in Rita's heart, she made many model friends as an amateur photographer.
3. Before becoming a photographer what other jobs did you have and where have you worked?
"In between pursuing my passion, I worked as a Digital Marketing Specialist for ABS-CBN's Choose Philippines and before that with Marco Vincent Dive Resort. As a photographer, though, I've worked with a wide range of clients in and outside of the Philippines. Currently, I am the founder and artistic director of RitzMarie Creative Studio."
4. How do you know Pia Wurtzbach as a friend and what is working with her like as a photographer?
"Pia and I have common friends, but I first met her in person at one of the studios in ABS-CBN during her first try at competing for Binibining Pilipinas. It's always a joy working with Pia but what I enjoyed most about working with her throughout the years was being a witness of her transformation."
"We started at the bottom, we couldn't even find collaborators for photo shoots, so we would shoot, just the two of us, at my place."
"She would do her own makeup and bring her clothes and accessories and I would give some input styling. We made do with whatever we had. I saw her become more confident in her skin as she matured and more beautiful as well."
5. What spurred your work for your exhibit "Lucid Dreaming" and what was your approach or concept behind the process of graphically treating photos you took?
"It was spurred by the need to communicate my inner world and was actually quite a therapeutic process. I wanted to tell a tale of a person going through phases in life. When you view the exhibit as a whole, you might be able to tell that there are phases of trials, madness, solitude, healing, acceptance, and more. I wanted to create a relatable show wherein the viewer sees fragments of themselves when they see the art and read the titles."
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6. Name one person who you feel has mentored or motivated you the most in what you do best and how were they able to do that? "I would be uneasy naming just one mentor because so many people helped me to get to where I am in my career today, they know who they are and how grateful I am towards them. But one person who has motivated me so much, though he passed away already, is my grandpa Jolly. At a very early age he was the first man that made me feel what it's like to feel and understand beauty and love. Photography was his hobby and I was his forever muse, I still have the Polaroids he took of me as a child. He was a great gentleman and I believe he is smiling down from the high heavens right now, very proud of every accomplishment, no matter how big or small."
7. How many pieces in your Lucid Dreaming collection have Pia in them and what are their titles and the reasons behind them?
"There are two pieces with Pia in the exhibit. One is called 'Dear Unlocked Skies, Continue Revealing Unimaginable Treasures' because being a witness to her journey made me marvel at the blessings the high heavens can pour down on us, even though sometimes we question if it is possible. Here's a small backstory behind that photo, I actually took that after Pia lost during her second competition, when she didn't even place."
DEAR UNLOCKED SKIES, CONTINUE REVEALING UNIMAGINABLE TREASURES, 11” x 13”, 2017, Print on Fine Art Canvas (Mixed Graphic Media, price upon request, email@example.com)
"After she lost, she asked me, 'Rita, would you still take my photo?' I said, 'Of course, we're friends first and foremost.' She gained some weight then and you could see she was uneasy, but that did not mean she was less beautiful. If anything, the sadness of what she was going through translated into her eyes and made the photo more potent."
DEAR UNLOCKED SKIES, CONTINUE BREATHING LIGHT INTO OUR SOULS, 11” x 13”, 2017, Print on Fine Art Canvas (Mixed Graphic Media, price upon request, firstname.lastname@example.org)
"The other piece part of the series is called 'Dear Unlocked Skies, Continue Breathing Light Into Our Souls' because though we were both going through something dark at that time, we remained hopeful for miracles to work in our lives. Many times, it's not just the air we breathe that keeps us alive, its the light in our souls that give us life."
8. What are the pros and challenges of being an editorial photographer in the Philippines?
"The challenges are innumerable! (Laughs) But the main challenge, though it's sometimes taboo to discuss, is how little artists are getting compensated, financially speaking. The pros of being a creative in the Philippines is that the arts industry is growing at a significant rate, and there are so many talented individuals with great energy that are willing to collaborate."
9. What is your personal mantra, verse, or quote for life?
"Currently, it's always direct your growth towards the divine. There will always be light and shadow in this world, but if you constantly remind yourself that there is a divine entity always at play, everything will be purposeful."
10. Being one of the few photographers who can build a marketing plan, do her own editing and digital graphics, and write beautifully all at the same time where do you see yourself in five years time?
"I gave up on that question long ago! Because five years ago, I never would have imagined myself where I am now. I just choose to live by the verse 'For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.' (Jeremiah 29:11) I choose to have faith that His plans are much better than I could ever fathom."
Rita's photo and mixed media exhibit "Lucid Dreaming" opened on April 20, 2017 and pieces from the collection are being shown and sold at A Space Gallery, Greenbelt, Makati, near LPL Mansion 'til May 20.
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Photos by the author and from: Instagram.com/ritzmarie, see more of RitaMarie's photography at her site here