WELD Artist of the Week: Paul Golangco
Mantra: Love. Serve. Rest in Redemption.
Interview by: Kristin Read
Your blog shares your love of coffee, the nations, and the prostitutes Jesus oh, so loves. How have you served in such areas?
A lot of people want to do missions/humanitarian work, but are unsure how. The first thing I advise those interested is to be a humanitarian first, photographer second. Seek out and partner with organizations because you’re passionate about their mission. Photography isn’t my life’s end goal, it’s just a tool I’m using now to help supplement the work being carried on around the world.
From street outreach, concerts, to live births, and overseas mission projects—You’ve told the stories of many. What's your most memorable?
One that comes to mind was my encounter with a young girl in Kenya. Before she was able to develop speech, she was hearing impaired. And in some African cultures, when a child has a disability, their family is deemed cursed. Unsure what to do with her, her family kept her at home. Sadly, she was taken advantage of by neighbors that knew she couldn’t hear or speak. When the organization I was working with and myself arrived, she was about 21 years old, and the team of doctors we were traveling with were able to provide her with a hearing aid. Testing the piece, we listened to her mimic the first sounds she had ever heard. She was beaming. We also trained her life coach/mentor on ways to help her adjust and assist others with hearing impairments.
Leah's Hearing Test
Let’s reverse that idea—Is there a story you’ve yet to tell that you’re dying to?
Yes, and I’m hoping to go back this year to do so. There's a boy that was born prematurely in Zambia with a gaping hole in his face, from his lower eyelid to his mouth. A plastic surgeon was able to do several reconstructive surgeries to repair the holes. After receiving a new face, he was also given a new name: Hope. I had the honor of meeting with him while working with the same organization. He can now communicate, where before he couldn’t speak or swallow. He’s a living testimony of the organization's ongoing work.
Passion is obviously your driving factor.
Just being passionate about something is useless if you don’t get in the game. So get in the game. Before we can tell a story, we have to know what story to tell. And the best way to know the story is by being part of that story. The passion you have for the things you love and care about will be reflected in your work. And you do a grave disservice to these organizations and the people and causes they serve by not telling the right story. I say that as one who has done so. I've told stories through photos without actually connecting with people and being involved. I became paparazzi and it showed. I took good pictures, but I left the viewer simply thinking they were good pictures, but not really caring about the story behind them. My passion was thus rendered useless because it led to nothing more than a nice picture. Learn from my mistakes.
Dad and Son Time in Zambia
Name your favorite piece of gear.
I wouldn’t say that there’s one piece of gear, but I know I couldn’t live without gaff tape. I use it to mount camera, and even piece my gear list together . . . it’s the handiest thing ever. Also, it’s intimidating to pull out a large camera and take someone’s picture. You feel like you’re just “taking” from others. So, I also love to take my traveling, battery powered Pogo printer, as well as my Canon Selphy printer overseas to disperse pictures.
I’ve heard you’re a strong believer that comparing yourself as an artist to others is a “soul sucker.” Elaborate.
There will always be people around the world that are better at something than you. Whether it’s creatives you work around, or people who are able to mingle with other cultures without hesitation—someone will always do it better. Comparison leads in one direction—depression. Instead, we should look at what others have created and think of ways we can learn from them—Or just celebrate with people excelling in their fields! Early in my career, I spent a lot of time looking at others with eyes of jealousy, until I realized that my life has its own trajectory—that God has a plan for me. I no longer have to be a billionaire. I just have to be me.
Dune Running in Dubai
What has been one of the most influential experiences of your life?
When I first started trying to do freelance, I was really toe-in-water. Until one day, when I decided I would just jump in and go for it. I was able to work in an area of photography that made good money, but I hated it. I’d finish a shoot and then let my camera collect dust for a couple of weeks. That being said, there were several times throughout that year I’d literally find myself broke . . . and I’d start praying. I knew I was supposed to be a photographer, but was unsure to what capacity. Sure enough, within a week or two, I’d have the funds to pay my bills. It gave me resolve to remain faithful to what I knew I’d been called to, as well as it shaped my view on life in general. I learned that the only thing I can do is be faithful to what I have at any given moment—the organizations I work with, my friendships, the gear I’ve been entrusted with—and somehow, that always leads to my next steps.
What is a crazy fun fact about you that few really know?
Starting right before I wake up, and at any given moment throughout the day, there is a song playing in my head. Almost all life events have a soundtrack playing with them in my head. It's really bad . . . To the point that I sing them aloud to everyone's annoyance . . . on a regular basis.
If you were able to shout something from the rooftops for the world to hear, what would it be?
You. Are. Loved.