CIRCLE Conversations with Colin Dancel

                                            MELO jacket in Beige

                                           @colindancel

How did you first get into photography, and what do you like the most about it? 

I’ve always been creative, I think. I remember having Friendster, Tumblr, blogger pages - customizing all according to what I think was cute then (I sometimes even code it) ! Behind all the glittered background, perhaps I was honing my way of seeing and telling a story. Who I am now is truly a progression from that. 
Photography has opened up worlds for me, and has grounded me; it has helped me grapple with my fears, insecurities, grievances, and more. It has given me space to become a better woman. It is because of it that I feel I have a better grasp of my existence and of this world. It has given me more than I could give to it.

Where do you feel most inspired?

When I go out, read and have conversations with different people. I am a curious person, I ask many questions, some of them will be stupid but I ask anyway. I love hearing what people (strangers, authors, friends, etc) have to say because I feel like each person opens up the world even more.

You currently live in the Philippines, what do you like the most about living there?

Admittedly, given the recent elections, it has been tough. Filipinos are grieving right now but I have to tell you that our spirits are unbreakable. I know the value of grit because I am a Filipino.

What do you find most captivating about the dance movement and self-portraits within your work? How does it speak to you?

There’s this quote from a New Yorker article, “Being in Time” by Paul Bloom, 

“Everything before belongs to memory; everything after is anticipation. It’s a strange, barely fathomable fact that our lives are lived through this small, moving window.”

Capturing movement and dance is precisely that but I get to memorialize some of it. Each routine may have the same steps but it will never be done the same way. I’d like to think it's a perverse and bold act, to try and freeze a moment - I like feeling bold. 

As for my self-portraiture, I do this to come to terms with how I look. I struggle with feeling beautiful, I still do but when I take images of myself, I am reminded that I am allowed to take other forms, other than my physical appearance. I am allowed to explore what else I can be and also break free from the notions of what I am supposed to look like. That is incredibly empowering.

What is your favourite shoot that you have done so far? 

The shoot closest to my heart would be a personal project I have titled, “Forms of Grief” – this series received a grant from Angkor Photo Festival and that allowed me to explore and expand it further. 

Forms of Grief is  a project that is both an embrace and a surrender of our questions, grievances, anger, pain, and resentment. In creating that, I hoped to come to terms with how I understand life and loss; impermanence and existence. I think I created it to make peace with my father’s death. 

It was a beautiful ode to photography too, “Forms of Grief is a marriage between movement and grief, photography being its witness.”

What would be your dream shoot to do? This can be of a person, a location, anything…

I would love the opportunity to shoot and create for a solo exhibition show. (I dream of shooting our girl, Zendaya)

Is there anything you would like to achieve that you haven’t already?

There’s a lot that I dream of doing! 

I dream of traveling, studying photography abroad, joining a residency program, of having my studio. I can go on and on! I’ve always felt like Moana, something calls me and I’m here to allow and make space for all these dreams.

What do you value the most in your life?

Right now, I value learning and discomfort in the unknown. In a panel discussion with Adrienne Maree Brown, I asked her when do we know when we should stop growing. She answered,

“It is not a pause on growing, not on learning. There are so many different ways we can grow, sometimes it’s about deepening”. 

I asked this because it felt too comfortable. Comfortable is good, I let it, I enjoyed that season but it needed to pass. I need to always ground myself back to creating space for what I do not know yet.

What’s your favourite piece by OYUNA?

My favourite piece is the Melo in Beige. My relationship with clothing is growing too - it’s becoming a ritual and that piece felt most natural for me.

What does the word Earth mean to you?

Interdependence and a grounding exercise. I remember in Jennifer Armbust’s book, Proposals for the Feminine Economy, she started it off with this,

 “First, notice that you’re breathing. 

Take a few nice, full, easy breaths. You take about 20,000 breaths per day. Begin to notice a few of them.

Feel your feet on the floor. Feel your seat on your chair. Feel the chair holding you. 

You sit on the chair, the chair is supported by the floor, and the floor is supported by the foundation of the building which is supported by the earth. 

There’s an entire world under your feet, down there in the soil. There are worms and roots and insects and rhizomes and millions of microorganisms. Just sitting here in your chair, you are connected to the earth and all these living beings.”

Isn't it such a beautiful thing to know and feel that at this very moment there is an entire world holding you up?

To finish off,  I have a few simple questions; you can reply with a word or a couple of words…If I say blue, what comes to your mind?

  1. Strength? Loss
  2. Beauty? Comfort
  3. Softness? Words
  4. Precious? Touch