Exploring Photography: Rick Rocamora

Rick Rocamora kicks off a new chapter in our coveted Exploring Photography series – photographer profile.

After leaving his career selling pharmaceuticals to become a photographer in 1990, he was guided by the advice and encouragement from some of the world’s most influential photographers from Eli Reed and Ed Kashi to Gordon Parks. Now he is a mentor to a new generation of Filipino photographers both in Manila and his native country’s far flung diaspora.

Rick Rockamora | Photographer Profile | Exploring Photography

Rocamora now resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and reaches out to his following through social media, offering critiques and suggesting work to study. Astonishingly, the result of that relationship has led to a new exhibition in the Philippines called, ‘Unscripted… Unpredictable’, taking place at the Vargas Museum at the University of the Philippines.
Orchestrated by Rocamora, the exhibition will showcase a number of Manila-based photographers and expats working in the Middle East, Europe and United States. One of them, Xyza Cruz Bacani, has gone from being a nanny in Hong Kong to receiving a Magnum Foundation Human Rights fellowship.

Xyza-Cruz-Bacani | Rick Rockamora

Photography by Xyza Cruz Bacani

After an attempt to mount a show of their work in 2012, this time Rocamora reached out through websites and blogs and shared with them work by people like Saul Leiter and others. In the lead up the exhibition, he enlisted a collective of street photographers in Manila and solicited more names for a possible show. In the end, he selected 16 photographers for the show, which consists of 40 30-by-40 prints.

“This is the first time street photography is being exhibited in a museum here,” he said. “Before, they would show it in cafes or galleries, but not in the Vargas, which is one of the best venues. I did my best to make sure that this exhibit becomes a good example.”

Rick Rocamora has often returned to the Philippines in recent years to support and work on a variety of projects on poverty, detention centers and other topics.

Rick Rocamora detention centre

“The biggest industry in the Philippines is overseas workers,” said Mr. Rocamora, 68, who himself moved to the United States in 1972. “They are everywhere, and travel all over. I think what happens with the availability of digital cameras is they record not only themselves and their lives but the cities they are visiting. They are sharing the places they see and the people they meet through their camera.”

In his own work, he has documented the life of a young woman on the streets of Manila, helping her land a college scholarship (she is now a junior). Closer to home, he documented Muslims after Sept. 11, 2001, and a project on Filipino World War II veterans who fought for the United States but did not get the citizenship and veterans benefits they had expected for their sacrifice.

Rick Rocamora | Photographer Profile| Exploring Photography