Member in Focus | Debbie Fortes

Debbie Fortes was born and raised in Manila, Philippines. A college undergraduate, curious, independent and a mother of two, she is currently based in Dubai.

Debbie began pursuing her passion with photography when she bought her first instamatic camera. She joined a student organization in her college days and actively participated in street demonstrations as a student activist, fighting against tuition fee hikes and upholding student rights. Her first photos were about human interests and street life.

She moved to Dubai in December of 2010, hoping to find a better job to support her family. With the help of one of her colleagues, she bought her first digital camera in August of 2013. Instagram selected her as a suggested user on October 3, 2014, when she gained more than 78,000 followers during a span of two weeks. Currently, she has around 55,000 followers. In March of 2015, she became one of the Creative Crews of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority for DXB Art Season. In the same year she become a regular contributor in Brownbook Magazine. Today, although still a newbie in photography, she continues to share her passion for street photography and documenting underrepresented as the rest of the stories unfold before her. 

1. What sparked your interest in photography?
I first discovered photography when I bought a book on sale. It was a book talking about the villagers in a small village in China. I cannot remember the title anymore but what caught my attention was the images that were beautifully and purely shot in black and white.
I have always been interested in telling stories through photography. I was a student activist in my uni days. I used to participate in street rallies and demonstrations. My very first camera is a film point and shoot camera (Pentax, instamatic) usually I only have 30 frames and I try to go around and capture people. Mostly human interest and street. 
Life was tough back then. I cant afford to buy a DSLR nor develop the films. So everytime I see a subject or a scene, I just mental note it.

2. When did you start shooting?
In my uni days, around 17 – 18 years old – using Pentax instamatic. I bought my first DSLR in 2013 and took the Level 1 photography class at Gulf Photo Plus.

3. How often do you shoot?
I always have my iPhone 6 with me, if I see something that catches my attention, I take a shot of it.

4. Why do you love photography?
I love photography because it allows me tell stories. It allows me to capture a moment and to keep a memory alive. It has also taught me to train my eyes to see things in a different perspective. Different angle. 

5. What gear do you own?
I still have my first DSLR, which is a Nikon D7000. Currently my gear is a Fuji XE1. Still using a kit lens. Occasionally I borrow some prime lenses if I have an assignment. Saving money to buy my own prime lens 

6. Other than your camera, what piece of equipment couldn’t you live without?
I guess that would be my iPhone 6. Most of my posts on my Instagram account were shot on iPhone 6 hence one of my images (Liwa desert) has been selected to be a part of Apple World Gallery for their #ShotOniPhone6 campaign.

7. Who are your biggest influences as a photographer?
2 years ago I was fired from my previous company and I didn’t know what to do. I was depressed and stayed in bed all week. I am a follower of a Facebook page called Humans of New York. I found out that Brandon (the guy behind HONY) was also fired from his job. He then went to the streets and started shooting people and telling their stories through his HONY Facebook page. I was extremely inspired and I could relate to what he went through. Then I heard that a group of Instagrammers based in Dubai were planning to have an instameet. I showed up, met a lot of creative people with the same interests. That instameet inspired me a lot to further pursue photography.

8. What’s your best advice for someone starting out?
Just go shoot! At least every day. Go out and explore. Train your eyes. You can start with your smartphone. I know that phone is restricted but it will make you and push you to be more creative and be innovative on how to execute a shot.

9. Where can we see your work?


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