Enzo Santos, 18 years old and photographer
My name is Enzo Santos, a usual struggling teenager with huge dreams and aspirations. I’m 18 years old, and I live in Manila, the Philippines. On the other side of the world for you. I’m paving my way towards the fashion industry as an aspiring fashion photographer. With huge dreams, I mean really huge. Once in the future, I would love to work on major fashion weeks in London, New York or Paris. Despite different hindrances, it’s funny that I always manage to find an alternative way to pursue my ultimate goal. Pursuing art brings a lot of risks in a third-world country like the Philippines. You either succeed, or you don’t. Soon I’m going to enter college for four years. I’m planning to work on my craft in order to work internationally in the future.
Growing up in Manila
The Philippines is a so-called third-world country. Manila, the capital, is exciting, tough and surreal. Beautiful, but hard to live in. The city is filled with many beautiful spots with a lot of streets. You don’t know what to expect around the corner when walking through those streets. Children playing in the streets, food vendors and noisy, wet markets. Just people living their lives. The Filipino culture is alive wherever you go. Growing up here is like growing up with a friend. Houses grew with me, and the streets are constantly improving. I can’t put into words how grateful I am for being part of this society. But I want to see more of the world, so I have to dream big.
I want my family to live a good life
I grew up having no father. Only my mother and two younger sisters. My parents got divorced when I was only three years old. Because I’m the eldest, I’m pressuring myself to be successful. I want to have a good life for them. My mother never pushed me on any decision, and I’m so grateful for what. We build up a connection where she trusts me a lot because I’m an independent person. I love to work on my career. Even though it’s financially hard, we never give up on life. My mother runs a baking business while working at a company. She is surreal because she has the power, mindset and heart of a true father and mother figure. My siblings are currently studying. One in high school and one in primary school.
A camera was way too expensive
Back in 2017, I used to make vlogs on YouTube with my phone camera. I did not have a professional camera back then. I’ve always wanted to pursue my dream in content creation. But how do you do this without proper gear? There was this voice inside my head telling me that content creation will not be an option for me. I’ve been asking my mother to buy me a proper camera for over three years, without success. I’m from a middle-class family, and a decent camera simply was way too expensive. Later, in 2019, I was finally able to get my first camera. I had been manifesting and praying a lot for this. I did save up money to buy one, but it was only enough for half of the amount I needed. Luckily, my mother filled the remaining amount. I’m so grateful for what she did. Since then, the camera has never left my side. I’m not wasting any single time.
Expanding my network
I’ve always loved to tell stories through video. I’ve learned some storytelling skills myself, and now I inject those into my pictures. After school was over, I would walk a lot around the streets of Manila and capture some moments. Basically, street photography. This is the first genre I’ve experimented with. My network of creatives in the industry has expanded since. This is how I came in contact with the fashion genre of photography. For over a year, I’m active in this branch and done many projects and events. Photography is the art form I feel is working well for me. I think this medium will take me to the goals I’m dreaming of.
Always looking for new artists
There are a lot of individuals in the field who inspire me a lot. I can’t name each and everyone because there are hundreds of artists, photographers and models I follow. I always look for new artists every day. Because looking at the works of my fellow artists works inspiring for me. To name a few, I really appreciate Steven Meisel, Nick Knight and Tim Walker. Their works talk to me because their subjects are what art is all about. The vision of an artist, how they look at a certain moment and how they approach art. I think that is what really matters. No one can ever take this skill from you. You develop these things on your own.
Tons of challenges
Honestly, I’m facing quite a few but really tough challenges right now. First, I’m battling my inner demons. Even though I’m 18 years old, I feel like I’m wasting my time. Always overthinking my future. At night, I can’t fall asleep. Drowning in my own thoughts. I also overthink my craft a lot because my resources can’t keep up with my ideas. Also, there are financial obstacles. I can’t afford to rent a photo studio constantly or pay my models. Then there’s the set props, my wardrobe and new camera gear. The majority won’t pay for the right amount of creative work. Lately, the COVID-19 situation in my country restricts my plans as well. Freelance individuals like me face the consequences of this. Events are down, and we can’t set up a decent shoot in public locations. It’s a tough time for me.
Peace in the middle of chaos
In the meantime, I keep shooting my pictures in the streets of Manila. The photo I’m the proudest of is of a man sleeping in a chair on a sidewalk. This was in front of a closed establishment on a hot afternoon in 2019. It was around 1PM when we were experimenting in the streets. Around the man were a lot of noisy cars and people walking. It’s like peace in the middle of chaos. The mood on this photo hits hard for me, too, because it talks to the viewer in its own way. The natural contrast, the idea, story and details. The form of the man while sleeping is just so perfect for me. It reminds me of how and where I started. If only I could find the man in the photo again to give him a print copy of this photo.
Improving my fashion sense
If you want to become a photographer in the fashion scene, you need to know your clothing. Over the last year, I’ve been improving my fashion sense. I go to thrift stores and buy clothes of which I think: I can wear this anywhere. I’m a student, so I have to be smart with my money. My style consists of earthy tones and blacks. I’m not a huge fan of prints. That’s why most of my clothes are plain. It’s so hot in the Philippines, so you can’t always wear clothes with layers. So it’s hard for me to figure out my own style. I aim for Parisian outfit styles. They’re so classy and chic to look at. Let’s see what the future might bring.
Written by Lars Meijer