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Frames and Cultures

Exploring photography and antrhropology With Meg Forteza-Kaufmann

By: Chad Patrick Osorio, Netherlands

We catch up with photographer extraordinaire and cum laude graduate Meg Forteza-Kaufmann. She has been official photographer for a number of key events at the University of the Philippines Diliman and a judge for various photography competitions. Meg’s work has also been featured in PhotoVogue by Vogue Italia. She is currently based in Berlin and specialises in portraits and family photography. 

We asked Meg how she integrates her knowledge of anthropology into her art projects to create that picture-perfect framing. 

Can you tell us a bit about your journey as a family photographer and how you got started in this profession?

My journey in photography started with taking self-portraits and snapping candid shots of my own family right at home. This spark of passion turned into a full-blown flame when I received a DSLR camera as a gift. It took me into the exciting world of visual storytelling. Joining a photography group (UP OPTICS) at university was a game-changer, sharpening my skills and connecting me with fellow photography enthusiasts. 

I organised photoshoots with photographer and model friends, which not only expanded my network but also hinted at my future focus on family-related photography. Capturing portraits and experimenting with the creative aspects of event photography brought me immense joy. This blend of interests remains a cornerstone of my photography journey, allowing me to embrace a wide spectrum of artistic expression and pursue diverse goals.

What drew you to family photography?

My journey began with photographing weddings, where I discovered the art of capturing moments during significant life events. This experience ignited my passion for documenting connections. Moreover, my personal history fuels my dedication to family photography. Growing up, we never had a full family photo, mainly because not many people owned cameras, especially where we lived in the mountains. By the time we finally got one, it was too late, as my siblings had already embarked on their own life journeys, and they were far away. This made me realise the importance of family portraits, which give a sense of identity and unity through challenging times. Providing families with a cherished keepsake that they can pass down carries deep meaning for me.

How do you incorporate your Filipino cultural background into your photography, especially being in Germany? Does it influence your creative process?

Essentially, families share a universal value for treasured moments spent together, a sentiment deeply ingrained in my Filipino heritage. This perspective significantly influences my creative approach, prompting me to conduct comprehensive research. It ensures that I not only understand what I'm photographing but also respect the cultural context. This includes being mindful of potential sensitivities, choosing appropriate words, and knowing what to expect within the unique setting of each photoshoot. 

What are some unique challenges and advantages of being a family photographer in Germany, and how do you navigate them?

Being a family photographer in Germany brings both unique challenges and advantages. Understanding diverse cultural practices through prior research and interviews is crucial. While the weather can be unpredictable, the country's scenic landscapes and historic sites provide beautiful settings. In some seasons when days are shorter, I might need to employ additional lights, props, or creative techniques to ensure we capture the desired concept effectively. This adaptability is crucial to achieving the best results for our photoshoots.

Though language can be a minor hurdle, most clients communicate in English. Still, I'm committed to learning German for smoother communication and a deeper cultural connection. I'm lucky to have many Filipino clients who understand my languages: Filipino, Cebuano, and Hiligaynon. 

Scheduling can be demanding, especially for families with young children, (considering feeding time, nap time, and diaper changes), requiring a flexible and organised approach.

I prioritise flexibility in scheduling to meet lexibility in scheduling to meet each family's specific needs. So I continuously work on improving my language skills and cultural understanding. This proactive approach ensures clients have an enjoyable and culturally sensitive photography session.

How do you ensure that your photography sessions with families are personalised and reflect their individuality?

I ensure that each photography session with families is tailored to their individuality in a few key ways:

  • Getting to Know Them: Before the session, I talk with the family to learn about their personalities, interests, and stories. This helps me customise the session to suit them.

  • Location Matters: I choose a location that's meaningful to them, like their favourite park or their home. This adds a personal touch to the photos.

  • Showing What They Love: If the family has hobbies or activities they enjoy together, I make sure to capture those moments. It brings out their personalities and makes the photos unique.

  • Capturing Real Moments: While I give some guidance, I also let them be themselves. Natural, unposed moments often show their true connections and emotions.

  • Listening and Adapting: I listen to their preferences and make adjustments accordingly. This helps me create a comfortable and personalisedpersonalized experience for them.

  • Editing with Their Style: Even in the editing process, I match the style to their liking—whether it's vibrant colours or a more muted look.

  • Embracing Diversity: Every family is different, so I make sure to highlight their uniqueness, whether it's their cultural background or family composition.

By combining these steps, I make sure each family's session is personalised and captures their distinct story and personality.

What are your future aspirations as a family photographer? Do you have any specific goals or projects you'd like to pursue?

I aspire to establish myself as an artist in Germany and Europe, broadening my network and collaborating with fellow creatives who share my vision. Additionally, in the upcoming months, I'm excited to conduct a free photography workshop in partnership with UPAA Germany e. V.

(More information on Facebook and Instagram @upaagermanyev.)

This aligns with my goal of not only honing my craft but also giving back to the community by sharing my knowledge and passion for photography.

Catch more of Meg here: | | instagram @foto.fortmeg


Writer's Profile 

Chad Patrick Osorio is a lawyer-economist currently based in the Netherlands. He is a PhD candidate for Environmental Economics and Natural Resources (ENR) and LAW at Wageningen University. As a photographer, he has exhibited at Harvard in the US, the United Nations University in Bonn, Germany, and the British Council, among others. As an author, poet, and artist, he seeks to promote international collaboration and creativity through the synergy of various fields and perspectives.


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