The start of Drag Race Philippines (2022) not only kickstarted the rise of the Filipino drag queens to the mainstream media, but it also created spaces for local artists to showcase their talent. Among these fortunate individuals is Elroe Banawa, one of the photographers who is making his way to further success by capturing the beauty of these queens.
But who is he when the lights are off and the lenses are hidden? Read on to meet Elroe, the man beyond photography.
Getting to know Elroe
Russell Roed Banawa, better known as Elroe, the portmanteau of his name, is a Marikinean dog lover native who enjoys cycling. Aside from this, Elroe also juggles being a creative in the morning and an investment bank manager during the night. Being the breadwinner of the family, he highly believes in one thing: hustling never stops.
Because of this belief, Elroe was able to make a name for himself and build his own businesses from the ground up.
Elroe’s Journey through the Lenses
One night in 2018, after buying a camera to document a vacation trip, Elroe started asking himself one of the centuries-old questions ever invented, “what is next for me? What do I want to do next?” And then it hit him. Next thing he knew, he was setting up a business page called Rustic Stills Creative.
Right then and there, a whirlwind of opportunities started coming his way. Within two months, Elroe was booked to the last page. Some of his notable projects under Rustic Stills Creative include a photography gig for a drugstore company and a broadcast coverage for two government departments in the country. For his personal gigs, Elroe was given two huge projects: a broadcast coverage and a social media management task for Barkadahan Partylist and another job to cover the 9th and 10th seasons of Mobile Legends Professional League. For six months, he was able to travel the Philippines with his team from another studio who he works for as an in-house photographer.
But Elroe, who believes that hustling never sleeps, did not just stop there. Instead of being content, he took a step higher and established another business. This time around it is in the form of his own studio called Jagger Studios; a space dedicated to cater creative needs. Fast forward to now, his businesses are continually expanding and booming. Aside from shoots, Elroe also added social media management and content creation to the growing list of his offered services.
Elroe the Photographer
Elroe as a photographer definitely knows his brand. Despite the lack of his academic credentials in photography, it did not stop him from being who he is now. Fearlessly tapping into his potential, Elroe knows how to translate his spontaneity and boldness to his pieces. Moreover, true to his never the usual and creative mark, Elroe makes sure that this would translate not just to his works, but to his process as well. From experience, he knows that to efficiently deliver his brand, he should always practice giving quality and outstanding service to his clients before, during, and after a project.
Elroe Beyond Photography
Once the props are set aside and the cameras stopped filming, that is when you will see the other side of Elroe. Coming from a poor family forced him to believe that to achieve success, excuses are inexcusable. It made him find his own ways to survive and thrive in life. While in the process, he also absorbs another important lesson; the lesson of looking back.
When Elroe finally got the chance to create his own business, he did not forget to give back. Instead of hiring famous people who already proved something to work for him, Elroe opted to give opportunities to freelancers as he was once like them. For him, embodying his principles in life also means being and enacting the philosophies he believes in. Furthermore, he was able to learn that success will mean nothing if you do not know how to share it.
Contribution to the Future of Photography
As how Elroe sees it, the future of photography in the Philippines heavily relies in mobile phones. Since phones are very accessible to anyone, he also adds that he envisions photography as a more creative technique that includes graphics, GIFS, and videos.
Taking into consideration the portability and accessibility of this device, it is easy to assume that more people will be interested in photography in the near future. So when asked if he can leave some advice for aspiring photographers, Elroe was quick to say that balance is the key. Setting your goals and understanding your weakness and strengths, along with passion fueled by interest, can bring you miles.
Elroe Banawa’s works surely made him stand up. But meeting the man behind the camera and knowing his story and inspirations made him exceptional as well. Because of this, we cannot wait to see how his brand will continue to break barriers and adapt to the changing and ever-colorful lenses of the creative industry of the Philippines.
Aside from being a self-proclaimed caffeine-dependent person, Franchesca believes that she is a writer too. Because of her desire to escape mundanity, most of her time is spent in her bed watching TV series or her nose in a book. Additionally, she can be found wandering the streets, museums, and theaters of Manila. When asked about her philosophy in life, she will answer, “God is a woman, and my lola is the proof!”