IF WORDS alone cannot express, let photographs do the talking.

In this digital age where digital cameras, cell phones, and webcams dominate the social arena, immortalizing any event is now possible with a simple click.

But amid all the fuss and ease to capture every fleeting instance, what does it really mean to “articulate a moment”?

For Enrique “Jun” de Leon, a maestro in the art photography, the need to define every moment through photographs is the hardest part. A professional for 39 years now, he said taking photographs is just as natural to him as humanly instincts.

“In photography, you have to learn the rules before you can bend them. That is when you articulate the moment,” he said.

Tough beginnings

During his days as a UST fine arts student, de Leon said he was a “loner” who got stuck most of the time with a second-hand Pentax film camera his mother gave him.

When his father died when he was 5 years old, he witnessed how his mother ventured from one job after another for the family’s upkeep.

“That is why I love my mother so much. Because of such financial instability, I was forced to apply for various scholarships,” he said.

In his junior year, the family was so hard-up that he had to work at the Daily Express newspaper to cover his tuition.

Student by day and photojournalist by night, de Leon recalled his first assignment that made him earn a respectable position in the company. Being an inexperienced applicant in the 70s, he was tasked to probe into the prostitution and drug addiction problems in Olongapo City.

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Armed only with 10 rolls of black and white films and a courageous heart back, de Leon was hired.

Eventually, he had to stop schooling because both work and studies became difficult to balance.

“I had my camera and it kept me company. When I got the chance to work and to study at the same time, it took its toll so I had to pick one,” he said. And photography it was “because I was so in love with (it).”

Great heights

De Leon saved just enough money to go solo later on.

“I thought that was a good time to be alone. I never thought I would be a good employee,” he said.

Four decades later, he knew he had made the right decision.

“I used to tell myself, if I could produce a book, I could die already. I have several now. Honestly, after all these blessings, I do not know what else could come my way,” de Leon said.

With 14 photography books, two music videos, and two short films under his belt, the 56-year-old photographer stays true to himself by being modest.

“I have no special talent, I just love photography—more than food,” he said with a soft chuckle.

In 2008, telecommunications company Sony Ericsson asked de Leon to work on its first outdoor camera phone exhibit. This gave him the opportunity to travel to four different continents.

Using only a cell phone with a 3.2-megapixel camera, de Leon took pictures incessantly and proved to everyone that it is not just the camera that makes a photographer good. “Like what they say, ‘It is the archer, not the arrow.”

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De Leon’s vast experience includes projects with big companies such as ABS-CBN, San Miguel Corporation, and Pepsi.

“It would take me daysto put into words how I feel. I assess everything through photographs,” he said.

Zeal for perfection

With his zeal for perfection, hard work, and discipline, it is no doubt that more opportunities still await de Leon. Love for photography is the fuel that keeps him going.

“I never thought I would last this long. I just keep on shooting and shooting no matter what,” he said.

Today, de Leon has no regrets, saying he has long found his true calling that has been making him happy for the past years.

“I have made one of the best decisions in my life. I am very happy. This is my calling and there is no turning back,” he added.

He reminds budding photographers about the importance of self-restraint. It involves a lot of discipline and that, to him, is the hardest part.


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