The best photo manipulation is a perfect and smooth combination of photography and art. It is where reality meets dreams, different worlds cross and imagination has no end. From clever, Photoshopped tricks to true pieces of art – photo manipulations are forms of creation ingrained in our times, being often used to express current feelings and bring back old memories. They’re like puzzles, tempting to be solved. This artist has been intriguing us forever so we asked him few questions to get the pieces together and finally realize the mystery behind Michael Vincent Manalo’s photo manipulations.

Just like his art – Michael is full of surprises

Born in Manila, Michael has been to 27 countries by now and lived in 4 of them. Participated in exhibitions all over the world, won several art prizes and was named one of 2014 Asia's Top Ten Most Inspiring Visual Artists. So you'd probably think: photography and graphic desing graduate, huh? Well, brace yourselves. While he is an acclaimed visual artist now, there was a time in the past when Michael Vincent Manalo studied… nursing: 

Yes, I worked in hospitals before during my internship years. I think it was a great time with my classmates and also with the amazing experiences I’ve had. Picture this – working in the ER, surgery room, maternity ward, orthopedic hospital and the mental hospital. Each of those experiences until now, 10-12 years ago, are still fresh in my mind.

Just like his art – he’s always been lost in dreams

And just how it goes in life – a dream caused something huge: 

In 2008, I started to want to have a camera very bad, but couldn’t afford it during that time no matter what I did, so I just started to create images using free stock photos. After I got my first camera though (a gift from my brother) I started to take photos, and although I was extremely happy, I still think that creating photo-manipulations was still a different story as it allows me to create what I want to see and express.

The mystery behind Michael Vincent Manalo’s photo manipulations

It's amazing to talk about art for hours and devote ourselves to interpret artist’s real intention. But let’s face it – it's mostly just guessing. And just because we’re tired of being wrong, we asked Michael to open up to us and reveal the truth about 5 photo manipulations that are most important to him: 

1. The Story Teller, 2009 

Michael Vincent Manalo - The Storyteller
Michael Vincent Manalo - The Storyteller
When I was young, and while I was growing up, I always wondered what lays beyond the horizon, like what comes next after that place. The map, yes, shows what’s next but seeing it and being there, is a different thing. I think it was during this time, I was watching a lot of films like Into the Wild and 127 hours, and these triggered me to go and explore my country’s landscapes, and started to dream of going overseas to explore. On a side note, during this time me and my sister would watch, mostly, Korean and Japanese horror films on an almost daily basis. We were addicted to it.

2. The Earth Room, 2010

Michael Vincent Manalo - The Earth Room
Michael Vincent Manalo - The Earth Room
I was in the house I grew up in Quezon City, Philippines when I created this work. I felt confined and bored even though I try to go to mountains, beaches, caves or lakes every 2 weeks. I was dreaming to go out of the country but didn’t know how and because I didn’t have opportunities nor the financial means to do so, so I was kind of thinking of a room at that time, where you could see the sky and the sea (my favorite thing to see) and the environment of that room changes depending on the time and weather. Most of my early works were images of imaginary spaces within a room, or rooms which are filled with water or walls made of skies. I was dreaming back then to travel the world and at this point I haven’t travelled all the continents but I have been to 27 countries and I have lived in 4 of them. I consider myself a nomad.

3. We Could Die Chase this Feeling, 2015

Michael Vincent Manalo - We could die chasing this feeling
Michael Vincent Manalo - We could die chasing this feeling
There are times when I get lost in recollecting the sweet memories of the past, almost like in a state of daydreaming. Also during the time of creation, I was listening to the song of Hammock with the same title while recollecting unforgettable memories. It is somehow painful to remember times which you can’t bring back, and impossible to replicate so it is dangerous to dwell on those. A reminder to self perhaps.

4. The Mortal Boy King II, 2015

Michael Vincent Manalo - The Mortal Boy King II
Michael Vincent Manalo - The Mortal Boy King II
In the house I grew up in, I would wake up to the sun’s rays caressing my face and made me daydream. I would like to describe that feeling as something so warm, I felt lost in a dream while I was awake. As if like in a slow Saturday morning in bed where you could still see that little specks of dust particles in the sun’s rays moving and flying about. A feeling like there is no worry in the world for a short period of time. A feeling of being content and peaceful. 

5. Those nasty things kept from you, 2016

Michael Vincent Manalo - Those nasty things kept from you
Michael Vincent Manalo - Those nasty things kept from you
When I was growing up in our house in Quezon City, me and my family always had some supernatural experiences but we never talked about it or at least we ignored this topic until we moved to another house 5 years ago. I’ve recently watched the 2017 film “A Ghost Story” and it reminded me of my experiences back then, although I created this image in 2016. In this image represents that during the late hours of the night in my family’s previous home, some strange events would occur. Things falling down or being out of place, the radios turning on by itself and switched to a broadcast of 1940’s music. My mother even witnessed smoke rising from a chair where my dad died. Sometimes we out of nowhere feel scared going up or down from the second floor, as if something wants to pull you down or something is waiting for you upstairs. It is such an eerie place, even now when I type this, the hairs on my body continue to rise. 

Michael's photo manipulation tips for beginners

If you are inspired enough to think of starting your adventure with photo manipulation here are few basic tips from Michael that may help you begin:

1. You should have passion to do it - if you don’t then it will turn up average.

2. Network network network! Promote your work all the time. Build networks, go to exhibitions, shows etc.

3. Study! There is always something new, keep on experimenting and studying.

4. Web presence - this is very important. Just keep your work floating somewhere where people can see your work. Some artists say they are afraid to pose their work because they would be copied. Don’t have too much pride, once you see another artist’s work it will inspire you, that inspiration is somehow a form of copying too. You just made it better. There is no way to escape from that these days so just upload your work.

The appetite grows with what it feeds on, so if you're hungry for more from Michael Vincent Manalo, visit his portfolio and try to solve his other mysteries.