For this Filipino-British Photographer, the Streets of Manila are Full of Stories
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For this Filipino-British Photographer, the Streets of Manila are Full of Stories

Photo courtesy of Xiaomi. Jonathan Hodder taking photos with the Xiaomi 13 Pro

He is known to capture the stories and faces behind the realities of life in the Asia-Pacific region

For a day in January, the streets of Manila are lined with devotees of the Black Nazarene. Its feast day sees thousands of people come together for a long-standing tradition of seeing its image through a procession. Early in the morning, Filipino-British street and travel photographer Jonathan Hodder sees his first subject having breakfast with the morning sun glinting on his face. 

Noticing a differently-abled man partaking in his meal, Hodder approached him for a quick photo. “I wanted him to remain sitting, but he was determined to rise up—using the chair as his rock—to stand tall and strong in the day’s first light,” shares the street and travel photographer on Instagram

A Black Nazarene patron. Photography by Jonathan Hodder using the Xiaomi 13 Pro co-engineered with Leica

Unscripted and unplanned, street photography captures moments that would otherwise be overlooked or forgotten in a fast-paced life in the city. As a governance specialist for the United Nations, Hodder has gone from one city to another implementing projects for the intergovernmental organization. 

His daily grind immersed him into the realities of ordinary folk in Asia-Pacific—from covering climate-related issues in Nauru and Fiji to the urban poverty of Seoul—hustling through life and the ways people cope and find joy in their environment.

Even in the midst of seeing the world through a different lens, Hodder finds himself drawn to tell more stories of his other home country, the Philippines, a palpable feature on his Instagram feed.

Photo courtesy of Xiaomi

“In Manila, the streets can be everything,” says Hodder. “A playground, a restaurant, a salon, and a bathhouse all at once. They can be full of chaos but they are full of stories, too. [They are] stories of love and perseverance, of hard work, and the work that needs to be done.”

Beyond the image

Through high-contrast images and compelling narratives, Hodder’s style can be described as exploring the intersections of people and place. To inconspicuously navigate the narrow alleys of the many cities he travels to, the photographer uses his Xiaomi 13 Pro to capture cityscapes and portraits of people he meets along his missions.

Photo courtesy of Xiaomi

Co-engineered with Leica, the Xiaomi flagship smartphone functions as a digital camera system equipped with a 50-megapixel professional-grade main camera. It’s designed with two Leica photographic styles, Leica Authentic Look and Leica Vibrant Look, to create natural and raw imagery, a signature of the Filipino-British photographer. 

“I’m after the organic rendering of the image as a whole rather than the tiny details,” says Hodder . “I find that the element of unguarded truth makes for the best photos, and you can find scenes like this everywhere in Manila, as well as in the broader Asia-Pacific region. I think it’s in travel photography, particularly in urban settings, that this phone truly shines. ” 

Holi Festival in Fiji. Photography by Jonathan Hodder using the Xiaomi 13 Pro co-engineered with Leica

The Xiaomi 13 Pro allows photographers the flexibility to capture images with creative freedom in Pro mode, a feature that Hodder often uses on his smartphone. For the street photographer, however, having a device that captures striking images isn’t enough, it’s maximizing its features by knowing how to combine capturing light and conveying the story of what you’re trying to photograph. 

High afternoon in Manila. Photography by Jonathan Hodder using the Xiaomi 13 Pro co-engineered with Leica

“Sometimes, you have a clear idea of what you are trying to say even before you pick up the camera,” says the Filipino-British creative on using photography as a medium to explore an issue or place. “It’s good to be conscious of what your photograph is trying to convey. From then on, it is a combination of being able to recognize good light and then framing the scene with proper composition. The final step is curation—a process which I am still learning. It is helpful to have friends and mentors who can guide you along the way.”

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