Danabelle Gutierrez: Citizen of the World
“I don’t think I’ll ever see myself as not being a photographer or a writer. I think these two art mediums have been deeply ingrained in me from when I was very young, that it’s hard to separate myself from them now.”
Love of photography
“I started photography because my biggest frustration in life is not knowing how to draw or paint. I picked up a camera because I wanted to make images.”
When she was 10 years old in Cairo, her mom gave her a point and shoot camera and she started taking pictures of everything which of course turned out looking like crap. Her dad mildly scolded her about it, so she stopped. She rediscovered photography, a few years and two countries later. “We were in Muscat where I dropped out of my junior year in high school and I was pretty much bored out of my wits. My mom came home with some distance learning brochures. I think it was Keystone Learning or something. I can’t remember the name of the school. But anyway, the two courses that caught my eye were bartending and photography.”
After she got herself enrolled in the photography course. Then, she was suddenly thrust into a world of images. “My dad, who by now was very supportive of my photographic endeavors, came home with some brochures of international photography contests and exhibits held by Polaroid or Kodak. I have no idea where he got them from and I’ve even forgotten what the participants names were, but what I remember were the works that stood out to me.”
“One was a series done by a woman that took a simple disposable waterproof camera sealed it in a ziplock bag with water and took it to the park and took pictures of her nephew.The other was a sepia image of a young girl that was highly distorted and elongated pushing a hula hoop on the ground. Finally, there was a black and white image of a pregnant woman in the bathtub that was cropped very closely that you can only see half of her.”
Looking back, she likes to believe that those images were what shaped her and remain the influences of why she strives to be at her best. As an artist, she strives to be creative enough to utilize whatever is available in a way that’s simple, but effective; to create art that is avant garde and open for interpretation; and, to create art that matters to me personally.
“Whether I’ve succeeded in actually doing those three is another question altogether.”
As an artist, photography is my medium to convey the images in my mind. As a human being, it is a tool for remembering a place, a person, or a feeling. “I don’t think I’m well-established enough to actually say that I have a specialization. The work that pays the bills are mainly private photography tutorials and portraiture and my style is clean, simple, and basic. I’m not a big fan of retouching images unless it is extremely necessary. I like getting the image as perfect as possible on camera.”
All the Good Men
“I have stepped away from the scene for a few years now. But there is one project that I’m very excited about. I am planning a coffee table book with images and poetry which will hopefully be done before the end of the year. The book is entitled “I long to be the river”, which is a line from Canyons, the poem that compelled me to start this project.”
She has been living and working in Dubai for the past nine years in various office and administrative work. She has been working as a freelance photographer in Dubai since 2007. She has been taking photographs for over twelve years and she has been writing for nearly as long.
Her most recent accomplishment is completing her first novel entitled All The Good Men. When asked what the novel is about, she jests that “It’s about all the good men in Dubai …Of which there are none.”
In the very few moments that she is not in the office, or taking photographs or writing, she can be seen gallivanting in the streets of Dubai and drinking copious amounts of coffee in various coffee shops.
Bond to the Country
Her life is pretty much an open book. “I don’t really hide anything. But I think the one thing that only my very close friends know is that I’m a very boring person. I’m an introvert. And people think that it’s impossible, because I’m outspoken and outgoing, but at my core, I am happiest when I’m at home, reading or just doing nothing.”
“As sad and shameful as it may seem, I feel no real affinity or loyalty to the Philippines. My only bond to the country is my passport, as well as my love for the food and the language.”
“I have to be completely honest; I’ve never really considered myself as an OFW. My parents were OFWs and they just brought me with them for the ride. Perhaps it’s because my idea of an OFW is where an individual works solely for the purpose of sending money back home to the Philippines or where their long term goal is to be able to go back to the Philippines and set something up for themselves. I have no such goals.”
“I think I’m more a citizen of the world in this regard. I left the Philippines when I was 7 years old and I’ve been moving from country to country since then.” She spent her childhood in Manila, Cairo, Vienna, and Muscat. “I went back to the Philippines for two years in the early turn of the millennium, but that was it. I haven’t even gone back since I left in 2002.”
“I’ve been traveling all my life, I think settling down is what I need to start planning for. At 29, she has come a long way but still, has a long way to go. “Always be humble. Do good work. Good work will always, always, always speak for itself.”
Just Another Brick on the Wall
Right now, she believes that she’s a pretty much just another brick in the wall. “Nothing sets me apart from anyone. I’m just another face in the crowd. And though, there is that desire somewhere in me, where I want to make something that’s truly beautiful and something that stands out, another part of me just wants to remain an unknown with the freedom to just be happy and content with what the good Lord has blessed me with.”
“With the whole happiness and contentment part, though, I think I’m pretty successful on most days.”
“But in the future, I do hope to stand out… If I could just muster up enough energy, because honestly for the past two years, I’ve taken a break from photography. In the sense, that I do take photographs that I am asked to or that I am being paid for, but making images that I want or images that make me go “Yeah, that’s it.”, I haven’t done that. “
“But I don’t see this as a bad thing. Everyone should be able to take time off,” she stressed borrowing the the words of the late great Ansel Adams, “When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.”
Currently, images have become somewhat inadequate, but appropriately so, words have started to become clearer and so she has decided to write a book.
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THE BLOGGER. Ulysses Espartero is a journalist, historian and book author who traces his roots from two Philippine jewels – Laguna and Antique. While in Dubai, he enjoyed his expat life documenting the struggles and victories of migrant workers in the Gulf Cooperation Council states. In 2014, he released Precious Gems in a Desert of Gold, the first and only coffee table book about Filipino achievers in the United Arab Emirates. Connect with him on facebook.