The quiet power of Romy Gacad, titan of Philippine photojournalism

He had a perfect eye for shooting a tale, was once a real skilled, and a beneficiant mentor. That is how his buddies and co-workers will keep in mind photojournalist Romeo Gacad, who kicked the bucket Saturday, October 30, on the age of 62. 

Gacad, a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, is a legend now not best amongst his friends however to a more youthful era of photojournalists. “His pictures by no means regarded contrived,” says Alex Baluyut who began his personal occupation in images round the similar time Gacad did. “He was once at all times in search of a distinct perspective or a method to provide the inside track {photograph} as now not uninteresting or formula-based.” 

“Artist din siya eh, kaya iba din ang silip niya,” says Tammy David, a Gacad mentee from years again. “He’s this kind of entrance web page man. Yung dapat lahat ng data nasa body.” 

“Here’s a shooter who stands proud along with his works. However greater than that, he stands tall within the business for being honest to everybody, newcomer or veteran, mainstream, freelancer or choice,” says ABS-CBN (Manila News-Intelligencer) Information picture editor Jun Sepe. Photographed through Gil Nartea

After which there’s the opposite factor that set Gacad aside, David provides. “What makes him nice is yung power niya. Parang quiet energy. Andami nabubudol sa kanya na he can get get entry to. Kaya sa protection, pinipilit ko maging cushy spoken o matangkad.” 

In his greater than three-decade occupation, Gacad has lined the entire banner occasions, from the Olympics to the Global Cup; from state visits to side road demonstrations in post-Ninoy assassination Manila; from the Gulf Battle in 1991 to the Iraq invasion in 2003. Having labored for Agence France Press for just about all of the run of his career, his images have graced the pages of global publications—together with Time mag in December 2001, along with his pictures of The us’s struggle on Afghanistan. The photographs would result in Gacad’s 2d time at the finals listing for the Pulitzer Prize, following his 1989 debut at the esteemed listing along with his snap of the dramatic finals race between best sprinters Ben Johnson and Carl Lewis on the Seoul Olympics. 

Gacad was once amongst a bunch of fearless photojournalists who began their careers all over the turbulent length following the intended lifting of Martial Regulation within the early Nineteen Eighties—a length anchored closely at the Ninoy Aquino assassination in 1983 and the Marcoses’ fall from energy in 1986. “We have been fortunate to be round all over a length of political turmoil within the 80s,” Gacad said in a gathering of photojournalists in 2017. The flurry of occasions then, he added, “ang nakapag-panday ng dedikasyon ng pagkaseryoso ng mga photographers ng era namin.” 

The TIME Magazine cover from December 2001.
The TIME Mag duvet from December 2001.

Being a UP pupil (he was once a VisCom man), stated Gacad, helped him find his position on the earth—his schoolmates being at all times at the frontlines of main demonstrations. “I checked out myself as a photographer. Ano bang puwede kong gawin para makatulong? Ano ba ang aking position as a photographer? We take photos—for whose excitement?” he stated. “All over that point it all started to morning time on me na maraming malaking paraan na maitutulong ang images: to propagate the reality, to peer issues how it occurs, to ship the 5 Ws: who, what, when, the place and why.” 

The character of movie images additionally helped mildew Gacad and his colleagues then to change into the astute visible journalists they’ve change into, what with having just a prohibit of 36 pictures consistent with roll of movie at their disposal for a unmarried task. “You could have 36 pictures to inform a tale,” he stated. “Kung ubos na movie mo, nakatunganga ka na lang, you don’t have anything else to do. Tipid na tipid. Hindi mo alam kelan matatapos yung rally, 20 pictures na, 30 pictures na. That roughly self-discipline malaking bagay, nakatulong sa amin on being decisive.” 

Romeo Gacad
Gacad (rightmost) in Cubao with Angie de Silva, Melvin Calderon and Benjo Laygo. Photographed through Gil Nartea

Gacad had a lot to percentage when he lectured about struggle images to Faculty of St. Benilde scholars 13 years in the past, annotating a slideshow of his photos with the tales in the back of them, or the selections that resulted in a definite shot. A video of the lecture has been uploaded on YouTube and it gives a useful peek into the person’s procedure whilst at the box: how he turns components of a scene in order that they change into symbols that inform a richer tale; how he zeroes in on a shot—he research it and, if he has the posh of time, waits for the easiest second prior to clicking; how he did not make a difference between an Iraqi soldier or an American soldier on the subject of taking their photos. “It’s human lifestyles,” he stated. 

“We name him Lord, brief for Lord Gacad,” says ABS-CBN (Manila News-Intelligencer) Information picture editor Jun Sepe. “It’s not for some bizarre explanation why that he is likely one of the lords in Philippine photojournalism. Here’s a shooter who stands proud along with his works. However greater than that, he stands tall within the business for being honest to everybody, newcomer or veteran, mainstream, freelancer or choice. Most likely its the similar compassion that interprets to his poignant images, whether or not or not it’s struggle, sports activities, politics and even tradition.” 

“He was once very hardworking and had a spartan paintings ethic, which is tricky to return through at the present time,” says Baluyut of Gacad. “If there was once somebody who I’d paintings along in a struggle state of affairs, it could be him. Hindi ka niya iiwanan if you happen to have been hit. A real brother in fingers. Or in cameras.” 

Sepe brings up an “open secret” amongst photographers relating to Gacad: that he was once stingy. “However the reverse is correct on the subject of images. He was once at all times open to giving recommendation and speaking concerning the craft,” Sepe tells ANCX. “And this isn’t best to his friends. He was once similarly magnanimous to newbies, to freelancers, to impartial media. Most likely he was once stingy with cash as a result of to him it was once finite. However for the data he can percentage, he knew that that wisdom can affect numerous other folks infinitely.” 

“Tata Romy in spite of having again pains from sporting apparatus and lacking his youngsters nonetheless delivered excellent paintings,” says David who at one level was once organizing Gacad’s archives. “He was once each inch a certified who mentored brats like me and beloved excellent wine when he’s now not operating.” 

Gacad, with mentee David, going thru tear sheets of his reportage. Photo from Tammy David
Gacad, with mentee David, going via tear sheets of his reportage. Picture from Tammy David

In keeping with a commentary despatched through Gacad’s circle of relatives to ABS-CBN (Manila News-Intelligencer) Information, the veteran photojournalist died in Thailand of “liver headaches associated with (gastrointestinal stromal tumor) wild kind most cancers.” His youngsters Raha, Bianca and Sabrina, stated within the commentary, “Many know our dad for residing a fearless and whole lifestyles. He met the most cancers with the similar inspiring power.” 

“Tata Romy had many encounters with demise on account of his line of labor and a large number of well being problems,” provides David. “Such a lot of instances I discovered myself praying for his restoration. However ultimate evening once I discovered he died, I messaged my former colleagues that I couldn’t consider it since Tata Romy was once the sort who would reside endlessly.”