Spotlight : Photographer Nico Sepe in Sri Lanka

In Culture, Photography, Pinoy Photographers on June 18, 2008 by ayshey Tagged: , ,

Nico Sepe is a Pinoy photographer currently based in Sri Lanka with his wife Maeve and kids Lucas and Olivia. Please check the nico sepe galleries at /

When I first started taking pictures with a Nikon film camera, Nico was one of my first critics. He did not believe in sugarcoating his words when he looked at my first attempts at picture-making. But one learns and becomes challenged to do better. I emailed Nico to ask him how he was doing and this is also a way to thank him for being there when I was first starting out with a camera.

Tate Gallery,London

Robert Frank Show, Tate Gallery, London. Photo by Nico Sepe

Kat: What do you think of Robert Frank’s : “It is always the instantaneous reaction to oneself that produces a photograph.” Do you agree?

Nico: I do. It’s an instant reaction to what you saw and how it affected you and at the same time you’ll also think how you’re going to compose and present it. Everything should come together at that fraction of a second and space in time. Instantaneous behaviour talaga ang photography, even if you’re trying to conceptualize a documentary or a photoessay. Still, you can’t predict your pictures, unless mag-drawing ka. That’s why if you haven’t been shooting for a long time you tend to get cranky or “kinakalawang”. And sometimes you even find it hard even just to take a picture. You’ll just realize that it should have been a good picture, but its gone because you didn’t react instantaneously. Even with the whole fiddling of the camera, if you haven’t been using it for a long time you become a stranger to it so what happens is if you see a picture opportunity you can’t react instantly. That’s why photographers like Josef Koudelka or Garry Winogrand –they always shoot, whatever, whenever but its not just clicking. Your picture should always carry your philosophy behind it, whatever it is so it’s not just a slice of an image.

Kat: They say you are a good cook. What food do you like cooking? In short, ano niluluto mo dyan sa Sri Lanka?

Nico: I’m based in Sri Lanka at the moment, so Sri Lankan ang tune ng cooking ko ngayon. Depende siguro sa available ingredients ang pagluluto especially here, sometimes you’re thinking of cooking something but the ingredients are not available so i try to work on whats available same as in the UK, anyway any-tarian naman kami e’.

Kat: : Any-tarian? Oh, like vegetarian kung veg …hahahaha…

Nico: YUP!

Kat: In your recent exhibit in Plymouth, UK you said the light is different from what you are used to in the Philippines. Kung iba ang ilaw sa England, iba rin ba ang pagkuha ng litrato ?
Nico: Not the style kasi embedded na yun, yun lang pagbasa ng ilaw instead of f16 at 250 usually its f8 at 60 or lower. Maiiba ang composition but the act of shooting, the behaviour is the same.
But one thing that’s different in the UK is, you can’t just take a picture of somebody. Baka mademanda ka. So I guess that’s the only adjustment as far as my shooting is concerned, pero wala pa ring bawal-bawal…
Kat: Digital ka na ba or Leica film ka pa rin?

Nico: Leica pa rin kasi I want to see the actual material (negative) as much as possible not like when your pictures are in the cd and you need a computer to open it, but i’m also using the digital Leica because it has a different application. I’m going to use film until they stop producing it.

Kat: Yes. That sounds a lot like you Nico…Hahaha. So what Leica digital camera are you using?

Nico: I’m using the Digilux 2, dapat ngang mag-upgrade because its only 5+ MP but everything’s expensive. I still like the feel of it, it’s so close to a manual film rangefinder, the handling. I’ll work my way to M8 soon para hindi naman masayang yung lenses ko if ever ma phase- out ang films, wag naman sana!

Kat: May report si Micheal Kamber ng New York Times on the M8. Eto yung link:,_Iraq/Page_1.html

Kat: Sri Lanka seems to be an exciting place for a documentary photographer like you. Ano yung mga projects na nakikita mo dyan na gusto mong gawin? O meron ka na bang ginagawa dyan na pwede mong ikwento dito? What’s the light like over there?

Nico: It is very exciting indeed, but with all the excitement you need time to dwell on it. E , as you know my profession is still a photographer but my career is a full-time Dad, so that’s what’s taking my time 24-7. But I’m still shooting dahil mahirap na ngang kalawangin, so far I’m just doing a general Sri Lanka thing, mga bago sa mata. Although its been done several times I’d still like to do the conflict and the Tamil tigers but so far its been very hard to get access and also if I pursue on this it might jeopardize our stay here that’s why I’m thinking of a different route. The light here is the same as in the Philippines, pareho reading sa metro.

Kat: What’s it like to be a Pinoy photographer in Sri Lanka? Have you gone out to meet the local photogs? How do the folks on the street look at you ? Kwento ka nga ng isang incident sa paggala mo dyan?

Nico: Ok,dito walang hazzle sa daan, malumanay ang mga tao ( maybe because of their religion ) but in some places like touristy spots meron ding mga amuyong!They always suspect me as Japanese (hanggang ngayon ).Yup I’ve had some encounters with local photogs but they are not welcoming and warm as Pinoys, tayo lang talaga ganun.Medyo threatened agad sila sa presence mo, they’ll ask right away, what are you doing here? how long? whose your contact. Because within themselves they also have groupings, me mga “showbiz” din. I’ve tried showing my works with a travel magazine, they love it and promised me an assignment but mukhang na-sistema because they didn’t call back anymore, oh well…

Kat: Ano naman ang paborito mong photo book in the last 5 years? Kung wala, sino ang paborito mong photographer in the last 5 years bukod sa sarili mo ha…:)

Nico:: Maraming magaling ngayon, pero I can say medyo madali na rin kasi pagkuha ngayon. Isipin mo yung dating pagkahirap-hirap makunan na available light (especially night photography) e’ sisiw sa digital, all you need is more imagination. I still respect the works of traditional photographers, you know who they are…
Kat: So it’s still Bresson, Salgado, Koudelka, etc. Salamat sa pagsagot sa mga tanong, Nico.
Nico: Good luck to your blog and thanks for inviting me, sino pa andun?
Kat: Ikaw ang una sa Pinoy Photographers section!

Nico: Basta life goes on for me and still shooting !


One Response to “Spotlight : Photographer Nico Sepe in Sri Lanka”

  1. Hello there stranger guess what I found hahaaa – hope you are well my friend – have you booked your tickets for July yet? I’m not sure how often you read this – but send me a text when you do – just interested – look fwd to seeing you soon !!!!!!!!

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