Oamaru chef Jomel Bartolome has been recognised in the 2019 Sony Alpha Photography Awards, winning the street/city category. The awards showcase some of the best in Australian and New Zealand photography, and attracted more than 4000 entries. Rebecca Ryan chats to the Northstar chef about his passion for photography – and food.
Q Tell me a little bit about yourself.
I am from Mandaluyong City, Philippines, and I have been moving from country to country for the past eight years. I came to New Zealand in May last year. Like many migrants before me, I am working hard to secure my family’s future in New Zealand.
Q How long have you been interested in photography?
I’ve been doing photography since 2013. I’ve tried different kinds of photography, but the genre that I really enjoyed is street photography. I fell in love with it because I want to capture interesting moments that will be frozen in time.
Q What’s the story behind your award-winning photograph?
I took this photo at an ocean bar in Nadi, Fiji. I went there on my rest day with my camera with the intent of taking photos of people. I remember I took several photos and was waiting for the right elements to make the composition more interesting. The title of my winning photo is also the name of the ocean bar – Cloud 9.
Q What were you expecting when you entered the Sony awards?
I was not really expecting anything when I entered because I know there are a lot good photographers in New Zealand and Australia. What pushed me to enter the competition is I want to show what Filipino street photographers can offer to the world.
Q What brought you to Oamaru?
I work for the Oamaru Licensing Trust as a sous chef at Northstar Restaurant and Bar. I came and worked in Queenstown in May 2018. Chasing the New Zealand dream, I looked for a job to give me a visa in order to bring my family to the country. I was fortunate enough to be hired by head chef Jordon Sandri in Oamaru.
Q How do you balance culinary work and photography?
Let’s face it, if you work in a busy kitchen it will take a toll on your mental and physical health. Street photography involves walking and observing for a long time and I use this hobby to de-stress and as a form of exercise. Most of the time you will see me with my camera at the Oamaru Farmers’ Market, mingling with the locals.
Q What are your ambitions for the future?
I don’t think I would cut it as a professional photographer because I have a bad case of laziness when it comes to editing – I just want to take photos, save them and check them a month later. My dream shoot for the future is to travel to Varanassi in India to do street photography.
Q Do you prefer shooting people or landscapes?
I am more inclined to take photos of people, culture and how they live and I want to travel more and tell more stories through photography. I have been fortunate enough to capture and be a part of things like a boy’s rite of passage in the Cook Islands, preparing lovo in Fiji and celebrating Ramadan with our Muslim brothers in the Middle East.
Q What do you want people to feel when they look at your photography?
I want them to be curious and to be intrigued. I want them to ask questions like ‘what does a lovo taste like?’ after seeing my photos.
Q What are your top tips for aspiring photographers?
I am self-taught and still learning – I have no formal background in regards to photography. My only advice is to stay curious, go out and shoot and to never stop learning.