This past January (well, late January and early February, actually, since this assignment spanned some two or so weeks and multiple locations) I had the wonderful privilege of photographing (and styling) the incredibly talented singer-songwriter Martina San Diego. The newest addition to the 22 Tango Records roster, putting her in the company of local music stalwarts Cattski, Zafra, and the Wonggoys, this charming and strikingly down-to-earth young woman is set to make her solo debut within the next couple of months (hopefully before the third quarter of this year because local music fans can hardly wait—apparently she’s created some sort of buzz ever since she performed at the Wonggoys’ pre-hiatus gig late last year).
I say solo debut because, although you might have heard her name only now, this really isn’t her first legit foray into music—prior to deciding to begin work on this forthcoming release, she was lead vocalist and guitarist of an all-girl alternative rock band based out of D.C . called Ivy Rose, with which she released two albums (2010’s This Adventure, and then the 2012 follow-up Rain), opened for big names such as Ben Folds and Weezer, and, dare I say it now, appeared on season 7 of NBC’s America’s Got Talent.
Darn it! I shouldn’t have shared that little tidbit, ‘cause now there’s a chance that whole thing might have left you with rock star connotations, and now you’re probably expecting to see high-wattage, high-drama, rock star-y images as you scroll down this page. Please do not be disappointed when you see the opposite. Trust me, there is nothing I want more than to photograph musicians in a highly stylized setting, complete with crazy stagecraft like special effect fogs and/or fake explosions, and grownup cool kid styling (classic example of this would be the work I did for her labelmate Womb some six months ago), if only to satiate my own rock ‘n’ roll ambitions. But that wasn’t what Martina wanted. She was done with her rock-just-like-the-boys pomp, and was ready to usher in a new era. She was ready to strip it all down, walk closely to what she believed in, and follow the voice inside her that she’d long turned a deaf ear to. And this meant going lo-fi, via folk rock. And she wanted her new image to reflect just that. I had to respect this, of course. Although it may seem absolutely insane for me to not force a little bit of my agenda into the picture, it was refreshing to be able to work with someone who knew who they were, or who they wanted to be, and who had firm creative visions for themselves. (Actually, that was kind of a lie—the not forcing a little bit of my agenda part, I mean—because I did get her to say yes to straying a teeny-tiny bit from her mood board so we could do something I’d always wanted to do for years—you don’t see those photos on here now, but you will when it’s time for me to post everything.)
I had a blast doing this assignment. The styling aspect was a bit of a challenge because, although boho-folk look was something I was fairly adept at (when I’m in the States I make it a point to linger in a Free People store for two or so hours each time I stumble across one, even when I have no intention of buying anything), I had to be careful not to go overboard with it, lest I ended up disguising her—I had to remind myself constantly that this was a serious musician I was dealing with, and not Mary-Kate Olsen! I think it took some three house calls and one personal shopping trip before we could arrive at a solid wardrobe lineup. Thank goodness Martina had the patience of a saint—never even complained about the mess I made during each of those house calls! The real fun came on the days of the shoot because, well, it took us places: Martina had opted for a “rural road trip” kind of theme, not so much because she felt it would lend a certain earthliness to the pictures, but because of what it stood for—retracing her roots, rediscovering herself. My favorite was the day we headed south—Carcar (where her ancestors from both sides of her family were from), Argao, Oslob. I’d been to these places before (for other assignments, or with friends), but seeing them through Martina’s eyes made me feel like I was seeing them for the first time—suddenly, like her, I was curious about what kind of history lied beneath those lawns, those trails, those walls, etc.! It was definitely an exhilarating experience.
Itching to tell you guys the story of how we prepared for this shoot, how we came up with the concept, etc. More importantly, I can’t wait to tell you about her music, and what to expect from this album of hers! But those will have to wait until I release the rest of the photos—I hope to be done deliberating within the next couple of weeks (sorry, it’s just a very busy time)! In the meantime, you may head on out to 22 Tango’s official blogsite (or their Facebook page) to learn more about this knockout talent and/or to get updates on her shows/appearances (yes, she’s everywhere these days—as of this writing she is headlining a series of sitting room only unplugged shows at Gilt Artisan Lounge, and just this past weekend she was the star of an unplugged special held at Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa). I’m telling you, one whiff of that gorgeous soprano—and one flash of that girl-next-door smile—and you’ll understand why people are starting to dub her “Cebu music’s newest sweetheart!” Don’t let that nickname fool you, though—the girl can still out-guitar you any day!
Martina San Diego | Photographed and styled by Angelo Kangleon in Cebu City, Carcar, and Oslob, on January 27, 2013, and in Lapu-Lapu City on February 3, 2013 | Hair and makeup by Justine Gloria | Sittings assistant: April Ordesta | Special thanks to Cattski Espina, Andre San Diego, and Marla Baguio | Cosmic latte Peter Pan collar lace top, Stitch in the City; isabelline multi-way lace poncho, Lian Lacandalo; French rose/carnation/mantis/white chintz print top, Bossini; Redwood maxi skirt, Cotton On