Profile

At Maculangan (b. 1965; Butuan City, Agusan del Norte) is one of the most respected commercial and documentary photographers in the Philippines. Despite this, he prefers to be described as a visual artist. He traces his artistic sensibilities to his grandfather, a logger and craftsman, who could duplicate whatever a client asked of him. At moved to Metro Manila when he was in 5th grade. He learned to draw in high school by copying different comics he’d been reading. He graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Painting from the University of Sto. Tomas.

 

His foray into photography began with a growing interest in films. He took up a course in cinematography by the Mowelfund Film Institute—here he cemented most of his longstanding relationships in the industry. Merging this experience with his background in drawing and painting, At began working in production design in the early 1990s. Being an excellent draftsman made it easy for him to visualize the spaces he had to work with and gave him an advantage in translating his ideas into art direction for different projects.

 

Maculangan admits that it was difficult to make money in the film industry. He moved to Italy, where he lived for 15 years, to try his hand at other possibilities and explore his other interests. He spent a year as a local full-timer for Ananda Marga, where he gave up his vices, assisted monks, and eventually deepened his spiritual beliefs. He would often go mountain climbing and began painting again—experimenting with mixed media, found objects, and performance.

 

When he left Ananda Marga, he began focusing on his art again. He would paint in Italy, then exhibit in the Philippines. This put a financial strain on Maculangan and he eventually considered work outside of art to survive. He came across a metal factory in Italy that he describes as “very cinematic”. Upon deciding to work there, At chose to view this as a performance instead of mere labor. He entitled his stay at the metal factory Life is Performance. He spent the six months cleaning engines for the factory. It was important that he worked hard to earn an honest salary. While Life is Performance was never broadcasted, At photographed, recorded, and documented his work in notebooks. He says “This is something between me and what I do in my life. I don’t need to prove to anyone else that I am doing something.” Maculangan adds that society today often asks you to prove that you are an artist by exhibiting and ceaselessly creating paintings or sculptures. He argues that art can be created without an audience—that artists can regard themselves as such without some sort of validation.

The back and forth between Italy and the Philippines later became more difficult for At and he decided to settle in his home country. Upon returning, At met with filmmaker-photographer and good friend, Bahag Atrero, who had already been working for magazines and introduced At to his clients. At has since worked for Elle Decor, Town and Country, Metro, Arts of Asia amongst many others.

 

As print media shifted to digital, At’s knack for recording and documentation allowed him to stay relevant as he founded Pioneer Studios with Katya Guerrero—where they offer photography services to different artists, galleries, cultural institutions, and collectors. The transition came naturally to the two as they were already working in arts and culture. Coming from visual arts gave them an edge as they understand what artists and art institutions need from such a service and why it is so important. Since opening the studio in 2008, much of At’s photography has focused on documentation. In doing so, he feels as though he’s been able to bring back his personality into his work. He says “it’s the point of view that matters—how you process the ideas in your mind [and transform them into photographs].”

 

Archiving has always been a strong undercurrent in At’s work. He keeps journals where he writes down his daily activities and does a lot of sketching. He also very much sees text as visual—his paintings are often interspersed with words or letterforms and he sees this as a kind of abstraction. When he picked up a camera, he saw it as a tool to document life and brought it with him wherever he went. Photography became a part of his life while his practice in visual arts enabled him to differentiate himself from other photographers.

 

 

References:

 

Ang, Raymond. “At Maculangan.” Philippine Star, February 17, 2016.

 

Kusain, Johanie. “IN PHOTOS: ARMM opens first Bangsamoro Museum.” Rappler, February 6, 2019.

 

Maculangan, Anthony. Curriculum Vitae.

 

Tan, Yuri Ysabel. Researcher’s interview, 7 February 2019, Pioneer Studios, Mandaluyong, Metro Manila.

 

Tan, Yuri Ysabel. Researcher’s interview, 26 April 2019, Pioneer Studios, Mandaluyong, Metro Manila.