Culture Flash


"A good photograph lies not in the shutter speed of the camera or clicks of the aperture. It lies in the beat of our hearts and beauty of our imagination." These are the words of Ruston Banal Jr. in describing the provocative nature of his images.

Born in San Fernando, Pampanga, Ruston graduated magna cum laude at the UP Diliman College of Fine Arts, with a major in Art History and minor in Painting. This "visual anthropologist" and filmmaker is an advocate of culture, heritage, and tradition of the Kapampangans. He started out as an art photographer to some of the country's top visual artists, documenting artworks and objects used for publication materials and biography-portfolio books.

It was his professor in college, Noel El Farol, who taught him how to use the manual SLR and the first critic of his photographs. It also helped him to be interested in photography when his father brought loads of equipment, lenses, and filters from the Middle East.

Ruston is into "visual anthropology," a documentation of subjects/objects, their way of life and how they are affected or influenced in ways, whether by culture, heritage, tradition or belief system.

"My favorite subject is 'people and environment.' These are always attached and work hand in hand. I always believe that people and way of life reflect their environment in the same way an environment is developed and preserved by its inhabitants according to needs/ways, in a symbiotic scheme," he explains.

One of Ruston's major works is an autobiographical book for national artist Napoleon Abueva where he photographed the latter's best sculptures. It was published in 2010 by the Yuchengcos and written by Cid Reyes.

An effective photograph for him is one that can speak and stand by itself regardless of its technical accuracy. "It may have been captured by a camera worth half a million or by the most inexpensive phone camera in a second-hand shop, as long as it does not exploit and demoralize a race, culture or any belief system," he says.

His use of colored pictures varies in depicting culture where colors of the elements are symbolically important to the people. On the other hand, he uses monochromatic atmosphere when the action or movement is dominant and using hues and tones may distract the audience from the message it conveys.

Ruston won third place in the Philippines National Award, part of the Sony World Photography Awards, under Arts & Culture Category for his entry "Kuraldal" (a ritual dance). …

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