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Dubai-based Filipino photographer Donell Gumiran won the silver medal award at the World Photographic Cup (WPC) 2022. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: A haunting black and white picture of a dance ritual by one of the vanishing tribes in Ethiopia; a religious festival in Indian state of Maharashtra taking an ethereal appearance; and a silhouetted figure of a woman looking at a mural of a woman with a pair of eyes staring back at her ...

These photos are among those taken by 48-year old Dubai-based multi-award winning Filipino photographer Donell Gumiran. The storytelling in every shot has gotten the nod of judges at international competitions – the latest of which was a silver medal award from the recently-concluded World Photographic Cup (WPC) 2022, where Gumiran represented Team Philippines.

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As a visual storyteller, Gumiran said his objective when taking photographs is to “connect to the deep humanity” of the subject. Image Credit: Supplied

“Photography is not just about seeing, it’s about feelings,” Gumiran told Gulf News in an exclusive interview after receiving the award.

“Effective photographs have the ability to evoke emotion. The technical aspects of a photograph are secondary. There should be an element of storytelling and a connection with the viewer. It’s all about how you are going to interpret every aspect of your subject and how you deliver the message through your photos,” he added.

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Photography is not just about seeing, it’s about feelings, says Gumiran Image Credit: Supplied

Gumiran won back-to-back silver medals from WPC. His entry this year, titled ‘Link’, depicts the lives of the Arbore tribe in Ethiopia’s southwest region of Omo Valley. Gumiran said he focused on the ancestral and cultural links of the Konso people to one of East Africa’s remaining primitive tribes.

Originally from Iloilo – a province in the Philippines located in the Western Visayas region - Gumiran bested several entries from top photographers around the world, including Portugal, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Austria, Finland, New Zealand, United States and China, among others.

Last year, his entry titled ‘Haldi Festival’ also won Silver Medal. The photo is about people offering prayers to the community deity of shepherds. Gumiran said: “The festival is touted as a harbinger of good fortune. It is celebrated at Pattan Kodoli village in Kolhapur district of Maharashtra, attended by thousands of devotees coming from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra. I was on the top view of the scene. I used a slow shutter speed to give more sense of movement of the event.”

‘Preserving memories’

As a visual storyteller, Gumiran said his objective when taking photographs is to “connect to the deep humanity” of the subject. “I always aim to capture and preserve memories of our time,” he added.

“My photography is meant to capture images that present new ideas, renewed hope, and a desire to make a difference. My images do not only aim to stir emotions but also initiate action. My favourite subjects are those that capture human conditions and emotions in everyday life.”

Passion, not profession

Gumiran’s love for sharing stories captured through his lens began in 2009, when he received his first international photography award. He said his love for the visual arts led him to the world of photography. “It all started as a passion, not as a profession,” he said.

Gumiran first arrived in Dubai in 2005 to work as an art director for a marketing agency. He eventually joined Overseas Pinoy Professional Society and Lightform International Filipino Photographers Guild in Dubai to learn the rudiments of photography.

“Photography for me is a form of artistic communication and expression. It has also become my creative outlet. Every time I pressed the shutter, it felt like it was an extension of my personality.”

Besides winning contests, Gumiran has also served as jury in several international photography awards, including The London Photography Awards; European Photo Awards and New York Photography Awards. He has been part of various photo exhibitions in Frankfurt and France. He also conducted several photography workshops across the UAE.

Gumiran said: “I am more motivated to do my best in my craft to continue to inspire others and help them pursue their passion. I am living my mission as an artist for humanity. I’m also proud to bring honour to my country.”

Today, Gumiran is helping newbie photographers to learn the art. His advice?

“Follow your heart and don’t overanalyse. Just shoot what you feel. Don’t focus on a single image, shoot more. A single image might be very powerful but it’s still only a part of the bigger series of photographs that connect into a cohesive storyline. Know about the culture and behavioural patterns of the subjects you’re going to photograph.”

He added: “Again, photography is not about seeing, it’s about feelings. Pictures should evoke emotions. Visual storytelling is a skill that takes time to build – keep learning and shoot.”