Written by Julia Antique / Photos by Arah Reguyal and Eunick Nobe / Graphic header by Lance Tongol
Hilariously honest: that was my first impression of Niccolo Cosme, an award-winning visual artist and conceptual photographer based in Manila.
But he’s so much more than that.
Aside from winning multiple photography contests in both the local and international scene, he is also known for being an outspoken LGBT activist and HIV/AIDS awareness advocate. He has started multiple campaigns, such as the Red Whistle campaign in 2011 to raise awareness for HIV/AIDS as a response to the alarming rise of HIV infections in the Philippines.
Niccolo is also the founder of “Project Headshot Clinic”, a digital concept that combines advertising and profile photos online by seeing profile pictures as potential “online billboards”. The project has caught the attention of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and has even been taken to other countries.
Looking at Niccolo’s prolific career, one could say that he is “living the dream”. But his journey wasn’t always easy, especially if you consider the fact that he didn’t even have his own camera to begin with. Still, despite the odds, he flourished. He believes that anyone can turn their dreams into reality with the right mindset. Here are 5 tips that the #WIMterns Batch 3 took away from his talk.
5 Tips for Success from Award-Winning Photographer Niccolo Cosme
5. Perseverance is key.
Niccolo’s introduction to digital photography began with the release of the Nokia 6750 (one of the first mobile phones with a camera). This inspired him to become a photographer. His challenge then was that he did not own a camera, but that did not stop him. For 3 years, he was using his cousin’s camera to take pictures.
And this happened! @PiaWurtzbach speaking to young HIV awareness advocates during her charity day. After hearing the different stories, she asks "Anong pwede nating gawin?". Today she pledged to continue the dialogue when she returns this April. #TheRedWhistle @theredwhistle #UNICEF @unicefphils #HIV #AIDS #piawurtzbach #missuniverse
One day, he stumbled upon a photography contest and decided to join. He worked hard on it, even asking Ate Glo to be his model. But alas, he did not win. The following year, he entered again, but only won 4th place. For the 3rd year in a row, he joined the same contest again, sending in a total of 4 entries. Not only did he place 1st in the contest, his other entry also managed to snag the 2nd place.
His advice: Perseverance is key! Even Pia Wurtzbach and plenty of others have tried multiple times and failed before they finally achieved their goal. You can always try again, but what matters is that you don’t give up.
4. “Kapal ng mukha” is good! (Be courageous!)
The conceptual photographer expressed his fascination with Imelda Marcos and his dream to have a project with her. This had always been a goal of his, but he never thought that he would be given the opportunity for it. One day, though, he casually mentioned his aspiration to a publication. Word got around and the next week, he received a call asking him to photograph none other than the ex-first lady herself. He didn’t expect the call at the time and he wasn’t sure if he was ready yet, but he rose to the occasion.
Niccolo explaining the inspiration behind his series: “SIMPLE GIRL: IMELDA”
His advice: A lot of people say otherwise, but If you have a dream, don’t keep it to yourself: Put it out there. The universe needs to hear that. People will help your dream come true. Just make sure that when it happens, you’re prepared for it.
3. Don’t be so hard on yourself.
Niccolo told us a story of how he had a nervous breakdown 30 minutes before his 30th birthday. He said that he “felt like a failure” despite everything he had accomplished. He realized that he was being too hard on himself and noticed that a lot of young artists don’t believe in themselves enough.
His advice: Be optimistic! Having negative thoughts only releases negative energy into the world. Like the law of attraction, you get what you give. Believe in yourself and be proud of your work. After all, if you’re not sold on your work, then no one will buy it.
2. Stress can be good.
For Niccolo, there are two types of stress: good stress and bad stress. Good stress motivates you. It’s when you’re looking forward to the work that you have to do and the people you have to work with. Bad stress drains you. It’s when you don’t want to work or be with the people around you. Having a good team that you don’t have to micromanage influences what type of stress you’ll have.
My team and I collaborated with various artists and individuals and created peace evoking images to balance out the negative images we've been seeing brought by the conflict in Marawi. Inspired by Teach Peace Build Peace Movement whose primary goal is to provide psychosocial peace-building activities for the affected children in distress of war. This project is also made possible through the collaboration with Strokes by @momoisupe who pledged to donate a certain percentage for every major services rendered from June 26 until July 26. We also sold small prints for 200 pesos, each one embedded with augmented reality accessed through an AR app ismartphoto. We were able to raise Php10,000 in one night alone. If you wish to help, you may still purchase the art cards at Strokes in Greenbelt 1 and in Ayala Vertis North. This is #BeautyThatMovesPH because true beauty is in giving! #onewithmarawi @teachbuildpeace
His advice: While it’s important to collaborate with diverse people, steer clear from people who you know will become problems later on. At the end of the day, what matters most is your sanity and peace of mind.
1. Inspiration is everywhere.
When asked if he has ever experienced being in a rut or having artist’s block, he chuckled. He said that he’s never been asked that question and that he doesn’t because inspiration is everywhere.
His advice: It’s very crucial to have a core that you draw inspiration from. For him, his main sources of inspiration are pain and suffering (which are very evident in his works). But just going outside and observing people can already give you a lot of inspiration. Experiencing life and immersing yourself in the world helps you stay creative. Writing things down also helps because words are powerful.
Niccolo Cosme started Project Headshot Clinic back in 2007. The campaign will be celebrating its 10 year anniversary this December 10, 2017.