ROM MATIBAG, Head Shots Photographer

Rom previously worked for IBM. Living in cities of Sydney, Los Angeles and New York for the past 10 years, earned him an experience in Photography . He is currently a member of Peter Hurley’s Head Shot Crew and is a member of the 10,000 Headshots initiative last July 2020.

My love for photography goes way back when I was as young as 6 years old. As young as I can remember, I have always loved the camera. it soon taken root in my being as I began to get interested in images. Reading children’s books, I became captivated with illustrations, drawings, paintings and old photographs. I remember, often staring at the pages of my mother’s yearbooks and was captivated by the dynamics of light and shadows of the black and white images printed in its pages. In High school I began taking photos of my life, my friends and family and the people around me.

My first digital camera was a Sony point and shoot with 12-megapixel resolution which I took with me in Australia. The first photograph I entered in a contest won the grand prize in a local city in Australia, using only the Sony compact camera. When you are an artist with a passion, there are no boundaries to your creativity.

My journey as a catholic seminarian in Australia was the training ground for my eventual venture into formal photography although I already have it as my hobby even way before. My first unofficial photo exhibit was held in the seminary I was attending during its foundation anniversary. I displayed almost 1000 of my own photographs, together with that of the seminary archives. As a the seminary archivist and photographer, I have captured more than ten thousand photographs during my length of stay there, it would have been a waste if I am the only one who will get to see all of them.

My passion for photography has been cultivated even further in every institution I was assigned to. I practiced taking head shots and portraits of seminarians and priests. I improved my photojournalism during daily routine and activities in and out of the seminary walls. And I collaborated with other professional photographers in Australia during events and celebrations, thus also learning from the pros.

My first venture into commercial photography was during my time in Los Angeles. I was hired in a company to head a new department which needed photographing the products for online listing. My first social event that I covered outside Australia was for a private debutant party for my sister’s friend in California. One thing led to another and soon I began doing small private events.

My dream of having my own photography studio has been on my mind since I was still inside the seminary back in Australia. This is probably the reason why I did not pursue my calling to priesthood since there is a calling within a calling. Sometimes you must hear the inner voice within the voice that whispers inside your heart.

Being a photographer is not a demotion from my previous calling as a priest. In fact, there is a correlation between the two. As a seminarian I was taught how to see the image of God in every man. As a photographer, I capture that Divine image of God in man for posterity in perpetuity.

Leaving my first dream of becoming a priest to pursue another dream to become a photographer, I moved to New York clueless and lost where and how to start. There was an old saying “you never make it to New York without starting broke”.

I started from the very bottom and worked my way up often juggling with hard work while still practicing my photography skills in the sidelines. It was not easy, but I endured. And here I am. Hope springs eternal.

When opportunity knocked on my door to have my own studio, the Pandemic happened and everything I worked hard for went to a screeching halt. But I did not lose hope and lose sight of my goal. I pursued and persisted even at the height of the New York lockdown. Someone told me to forget about this year because nothing will happen. I did not listen and followed my own heart.

In my stubbornness to fulfill my dream, I was chosen to be part of this nationwide initiative of 200 photographers for the 10,000 Head Shots Project by Peter Hurley and Tony Tafe.

Persistence and determination go a long way. I used to be a quitter. But life outside the seminary walls taught me how to persists even in the most unlikely of circumstances.

One Spring in New South Wales, my brothers in the seminary and I went to a field trip in the Australian Parliament in Canberra. I noticed something in the Government logo which I found remarkably interesting. I asked my seminary director “why does the official insignia of the Government of Australia has a Kangaroo and Emu on each side of it?” He said, “because kangaroos and emus are few of the animals that never walk backwards, they always move forward.”

I will never forget his answer that day. It changed how I see the world. Thus, I move forward, never backwards.

Ad Astra

“When you are an artist with a passion, there are no boundaries to your creativity”