CNY | Binondo through the lens of today’s top smartphones

It’s that time of the year again. Most houses are probably filled with boxes of tikoy as we celebrate the Chinese New Year. And as always, Binondo — the world’s oldest Chinatown — is at the epicenter of festivities. That’s why it was the chosen location for the recently-held Argomall Smartphone Shoot-off, which was meant to highlight the rich culture of this historic district through digital photography.

College student Jedo Dela Peña was provided with the Nokia 7 Plus to shoot scenes around Binondo

Four participants were handed various smartphones for the shoot-off, which were carefully chosen based on camera specs and features.

Shaira Venzon, a project coordinator for a post-production company, was given the Asus Zenfone 5Z. Digital project manager Nina Yumul took the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, while college students Kyle Macorol and Jedo Dela Peña got their hands on the Vivo V11 and Nokia 7 Plus, respectively.

Trust and authenticity: the sights and sounds of Binondo

This wasn’t your run-of-the-mill smartphone shoot-off, however. The contestants, aside from needing to take clear and creative pictures, had to make sure their pictures are in line with the special theme: “Trust and Authenticity in the Chinese New Year”.

In this day of fake news and rampant misinformation, it’s more important than ever to be able to trust and rely on people, things, services and everything else without having doubts.

Starting at 9 a.m., the participants had two hours to scour the streets of Binondo for the perfect photo moment. While photographers usually carry sophisticated DSLRs on photo walks, the smartphones held their own in terms of quality.

Of course, this is only possible since all the phones are authentic and genuine, the same as the other items being sold by Argomall which come with Philippine warranty, invoice, and official receipt.

The contestants were impressed by how the smartphones performed, but they were also intrigued by the rich culture of Binondo. The setting allowed them to observe the daily, unscripted lives of people from all walks of life. They also got to see first-hand the religious traditions and how individuals showed their trust in a higher being as well towards other people.

All four photography enthusiasts were allowed to use their respective smartphones’ editing tools to enhance the photos and experience the full photography experience using a phone. They were also required to upload at least 15 photos on social media but must choose one as their official entry. They were judged based on four criteria: human interest (35%), adherence to theme (25%), composition (20%) and creativity (20%). 

After the photo walk, the participants rested and had lunch together with the Argomall team lead by chief argonaut Karel Holub and CCO Amiel Mendoza. Photographer and artist Arthur Tselishchev, who also served as guest judge, gave encouragement and revealed tips and tricks to the participants. And just as the contestants had a hard time trying to balance getting a great photo and telling a story in line with the theme, the judges also had a hard time choosing among the entries. 

There had to be one

In the end though, there had to be a winner. And that was Jedo, who submitted an awesome black and white shot of a fruit vendor handing over change to one of his patrons. Jedo’s shot most closely captured the essence of trust and authenticity. As with Argomall’s advocacy of putting trust and genuine service first among its customers, the exchange between the vendor and the woman radiates warmth and trust. 

With the win, Jedo took home P5,000-worth of Argomall gift vouchers and tons of other stuff including tumblers, travel kits, umbrellas, and even a brand-new mobile phone courtesy of the brand partners. Even Shaira, Nina, and Kyle did not go home empty-handed, as they also received P3,000-worth of Argomall gift vouchers and goodies from the brand partners such as leather notebooks, pens, and new mobile phones as well.

Jedo dela Pena’s winning photo

According to Holub, with the event being a huge success, Argomall is already thinking of doing another one.

“Argomall is looking at making this a regular event to teach more young people how to use their smartphones and other tech to show others the rich culture of the Philippines, and of course, to also encourage them to explore digital photography,” he said.

Though the participants were the ones who came home with the prizes, everybody went home a winner at the Argomall Smarphone Shootoff. Not only did it show how far smartphone camera technology has come (which is really impressive, to say the least), it also showed how one can find truth and authenticity in supposedly mundane or ubiquitous surroundings and settings.

In Binondo, the photos clearly showed that these values are very much intact, which is a great thing to realize as we usher in a new Chinese New Year. Kung Hei Fat Choi!

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