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Meet Ely Barrera, Jr, A Lunch Time Street Photographer

Updated: Jan 27, 2019

- By Anshul Raj Khurana

They say it is all a play of perspective in the business of photography. This can go well for Ely’s style of work. His perspective towards street-photography is exceptional. His work has a strong essence of geometry, light/shadow play, the play of colors and the very diverse element of people. 

I call him “Lunch Time Street Photographer”. He shoots daily during lunch time, as it’s the only time he can go out from his work and take pictures. As a hobbyist, the work he is doing is fabulous. I am personally inspired by his focus and determination.

Anshul- Tell us about yourself.

Ely- I am Ely Barrera, married, and have a daughter.Born and raised in Manila, Philippines. Now living in Singapore for past five years.

Anshul- Street photography is a subjective genre, what is it for you. What made you pick it up over other genres?

Ely- I have chosen to shoot on the street because every time I am shooting, I feel blessed. It brings happiness in me whenever I see these moments, the decisive moments. Street photography for me is a decision- a decision to have this moment on my mind and capture it through my camera. I need to have a faster decision making to make or break the decisive moments.

Anshul- What goes in your mind when you are framing a composition?

Ely- I have this moment in my mind before I take a picture. Before I go to or a place, I observe lights and shadows I can play with my camera accordingly. Once my frame is set, I wait for a moment- may be a person to pass, a stranger with a unique personality. Sometimes hand gestures will give drama as well.

Anshul- You do photography with your daily job, how do you take out time and how often you go out for the shoot?

Ely- With the demand of time needed for my work, I only have one day off in a week. Usually, weekdays are the only chance for me to have a walk around the city to take photographs on the street. I carry my camera with me all the time, and if I see any interesting moments around, I defiantly grab the opportunity.

I utilize my time during lunch breaks, as it’s the right time (around 2 PM) when the experiment with light and shadows can happen. is the best time for me to get good pics.

Anshul- I see a lot of people struggling with approaching strangers, how did you manage this fear of yours?

Ely- I have already received a lot of rejections whenever I approach strangers. But there are more yeses than noes; there are more happy people who are willing to get clicked by you than some who are not comfortable. To overcome this fear, one must face is no other way to deal with it. If I don’t approach strangers because of my fear, will not end up having street portraits.

Once there was a guy I met a year ago in Haji Lane, Singapore. He had a dominant personality with a complete body covered with tattoos. His looks were quite fierce and tipsy as he had some beer cans on the table. But I still decided to ask him if I can make a portrait of him even though I was feeling nervous. He smiled and said yes, and was relieved. I picked up my camera and took numerous shots, as I didn’t want to miss any chance.

I think the secret is to be prepared of being rejected by strangers. But don’t be afraid to ask them nicely & politely. If they say no, at least you have tried. But if they say yes, then go ahead and take as many shots as you can. Show them what you got; thank them and smile. :-)

Anshul- Your pics are uniquely balanced with geometry, the play of lights, color streaks and people. Can you talk about your style?

Ely- I can say that I don’t have any particular style yet, as I am still into experimenting stage of my photographic life.

You could notice the experimentations that I went through since I have an account way back in 2011. From the first photos, I shared till the latest one, I have tried a lot of genres. It varies from over- saturated HDRS to surreal composition, to black and white and now to color.

When I taking photos using iPhone 4S, I love just to take pictures of anything that interests me. If I see something interesting on Instagram, I wanted to have style and tried to apply it my photos. I also love to play with different kind of mobile apps. That’s one reason why I decided to try surreal composite photos before.

As of now, I am focusing on having Saul Leiter-style of photography. He is a genius. I love his style.

Anshul- I see your earlier posts to be mostly black, and white & the recent once are colored. Which one would you prefer and why?

Ely- Black and white give more drama and depth to the picture. It is more straightforward because it will give the audience the feel of ‘happy & sad mood.' But as I have mentioned above, I am more focused on Saul Leiter’s colored photography. Though he has taken black & white pictures too. Since the time I have started following more about Mr. Leiter’s life through his documentaries and studying about his work, I am pushing myself to try his style. Hence I am more into colored pictures these days.

Anshul- Do you follow any street photographer and how have they inspired you?

Ely- There are many names to mention as far as street photographers are concerned. But I specifically @saulleiterpage on IG recently. Every time I see this page, It inspires me to make more photographs. He has a unique style and is pure genius. I want to be like him and want my pictures to be as beautiful as his. ;)

Anshul- What’s in your camera bag?

Ely- I am lazy, lazy to bring a tripod, flash or any other accessories with me every time I want to go out to shoot. Just my extra batteries, face towels, and my wallet inside my bag.

I always bring my camera with me and a spare battery. I shoot with Fujifilm X-T1 with 35mmF2. I also carry my Ipad and earphones so I can listen to music while I am commuting.

Anshul- What is your favorite social media platform and why?

Ely- Instagram. I only have one account for this [@medyoannoying]. I always love to share my photos it is the only platform usually use every time I share photos. I seldom use Flickr because I find it quite hard to reach networks. Almost all my friends are using and hence that’s another reason I am on it. I think have more reach to the wider network by using one platform rather than managing various.

You can see more of Ely’s work here.

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