Favourite Five 012 - Happyfingers
Happyfingers or (his real name, Don Michael De Leon) is a portrait photographer, born in the Philippines, now working and residing in Malaysia. He is also a musician.
Now enjoy his Favourite Five below
Happyfingers: When I was starting out in photography, I already knew that capturing portraits of people I cared about was what I was truly passionate for. But I only had an idea of what I wanted to capture — no model, no prior experience, no DSLR either. One afternoon, I used a point and shoot camera and took some sunset portraits of my girlfriend, Magel, as we walked around her home village. Despite being ultra-camera-shy, she obliged and let me study her features and angles, and figure out how best to let the light shine on her.
No matter how far I've gone and how many models I've captured, this portrait will always keep myself grounded and remind me that the pursuit of portraits is not just a pursuit of beauty; it is a delicate exercise of love and understanding, of breaking invisible barriers, and showing the truth in beauty – what is and has always been there, as opposed to what the world makes it up to be.
Happyfingers: I have always been in awe of the female form, and the celebratory nature of my portrait style led me to co-create the theme "Fever Pitch", which explores intimate female portraits in the context of a summer day.
It actually started off as an accident - due to unforeseen venue issues, not to mention it was a sweltering hot summer afternoon. My model and I had to improvise and create indoor portraits in an unused floor of the home I was staying in at that time. The results definitely captivated us both, as we went with the creative flow and captured portraits that highlighted her physicality in a way that was not overly carnal.
From this photograph, "Fever Pitch" was born, and it is arguably my ace portrait series to date.
(You can find more of this concept, by typing #FeverPitchbyHappyFingers on Instagram)
Happyfingers: As a portraitist, I have always found comfort and mastery in shooting non-models and non-professional enthusiasts, but I doubted my capacity to handle shooting the pros, simply because I felt I lacked the talent or street credibility to do so.
The end of summer of 2014 was a pivotal moment for me, because Jessica Yang, one of the most sought-after ramp and print models in the Philippines, graced my coffee portrait series, “Coffee in the City.” Jessica was incredibly gracious as I fumbled through my camera settings and dealt with my initial starstruck nervousness, and we both had a wonderful time capturing portraits as she enjoyed her morning brew.
Happyfingers: Before leaving the Philippines in 2015, I had the pleasure of collaborating and striking a friendship with Catriona Gray, also a highly celebrated commercial model in Manila.
For my street fashion series - Street Forward - Cat and I took our game to the central business district in Manila – which is quite known for being quite apprehensive toward photography enthusiasts shooting portraits and landscape scenes without permits from either the local government or the corresponding management of the public venue.
Armed with just my camera and Catriona’s impeccable talent, we used the city night lights to our advantage and created favourable results. I particularly like this shot because it blends two of my favourite go-to visual devices in my portraits: bokeh and hair dynamics.
Happyfingers: When I moved to Malaysia to start a new life, I was willing to forego my music and portraits. Needless to say, this led me to sulk into a morose slump. Thankfully, my path crossed with that of Talitha Tan, a singer-songwriter now enjoying her own meteoric rise in the Malaysian music scene. Despite my apprehensions, Talitha relentlessly encouraged me to continue my artistic pursuits, and slowly but surely, I did. Talitha has since become my quintessential muse for a variety of portraits, and a very good friend of mine as well.
The funny thing is, among the thousands of photos I have taken of her and the hundreds of favourites I have sorted out, this portrait escaped my radar. I gave it to her as part of my batches of outtakes, and it ended up being arguably the most circulated portrait of her—making its way through the pages of high-profile music outlets like No Black Tie, Alexis, and even hitz fm, among many others.
It’s a constant reminder for me to never discount the potential of my outtakes, and to always let my muse co-create with me. The results always come with pleasant surprises.