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June 28, 2024


A Long Term Boardwalk Visual Diary

Photography by Edwin Carungay
Interview by Melanie Meggs

Embark on a journey into the creative world of Edwin Carungay, a senior graphic designer and multimedia producer based in the vibrant San Francisco Bay Area. Edwin has always had a profound connection with photography, allowing it to complement and enrich his creative pursuits.

From 2017 onward, Edwin found himself being drawn deeper into the world of photography, inspired by the masterful works of Alex Webb and Nikos Economopoulos. Their ability to capture the essence of life through intricate plays of light, shadow, and candid moments resonated deeply with him, shaping the trajectory of his own photographic journey.

Edwin's lens is constantly drawn to the raw and unscripted moments that unfold on the streets of his hometown and beyond. His photography seeks to encapsulate the genuine, unfiltered essence of human experience, celebrating the individuality inherent in everyday life's vibrant moments.

His latest project, “Boardwalk Diary,” is a visual love letter to the iconic Santa Cruz Boardwalk and its surrounding coastline. Far removed from the polished glamour of Hollywood, this kaleidoscopic hub of fun has been a cherished American destination since its establishment in 1907. Edwin captures the colorful mosaic of humanity that converges on this beloved spot along the California coast. Each click of his camera’s shutter is imbued with a profound love for documenting the diverse tapestry of cultures and experiences that make the Santa Cruz Boardwalk a perpetual carnival by the sea.

Join us as we explore the inspiration, techniques, and stories behind Edwin Carungay’s captivating imagery, and gain insight into the artistic vision that defines his work.

“The Boardwalk Diary has evolved into a deeper, more poignant look at both tourists and locals, showing their highs and lows inside this makeshift environment. I like the challenge of working in this environment, keeping the focus on the people and not the amusement park.”


THE PICTORIAL LIST: Welcome Edwin to The List! How does your background in graphic design and multimedia production influence your approach to photography?

EDWIN: I feel that my graphic design and multimedia background helps to direct my focus on what I am capturing inside the frame. In the process, I often find myself gravitating towards the principles of visual hierarchy. I think it’s beneficial for me to begin thinking about each frame with this structure – and most often the best outcomes are because of outside forces. It’s those happy accidents that enter the rigidity of the frame that makes me smile.

TPL: How do you balance your full-time job with your passion for photography?

EDWIN: I’m very fortunate to have a career in a creative environment. I’m frequently working with and editing photos (that aren’t mine) at my full-time job. I’m around images that are in contrast to my own personal preference. I think being surrounded by images that are in contrast to my own aesthetics helps me to push my own work in a different direction – away from the mainstream. For the past couple of years, I’ve been working mostly from my home studio – and frequently on my breaks take a walk with my camera. During the spring and summer, I try to shoot every day before and after work.

TPL: How has your photography evolved since you started being drawn deeper into the world of street photography?

EDWIN: I have calmed down quite a lot in comparison to when I first started shooting on the streets. Someone once said I was “like a kid in a candy store” – when out photographing. I’ve become more discerning – and for me, this more calculated approach allows me to study the environment and the people within it, allowing more of the unique shots to come into my frame.

TPL: What motivated you to start your "Boardwalk Diary" project?

EDWIN: Initially, it was where I could go to interact with locals and tourists in a more densely populated and colorful environment. The more time I spent there, the more revealing it became of its cultural diversity and scope of emotions. At first, I was just thrilled to capture the amusement of it all. The Boardwalk Diary has evolved into a deeper, more poignant look at both tourists and locals, showing their highs and lows inside this makeshift environment. I like the challenge of working in this environment, keeping the focus on the people and not the amusement park.

TPL: Can you share a particularly challenging or rewarding experience you've had while photographing for your project?

EDWIN: The boardwalk isn’t a public space. So, you have to navigate carefully to balance being that obtrusive stranger – with missing once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. This is often the case in a public setting, but at the boardwalk, you are often being watched by security officers who have the best interest of its patrons in mind. A good friend and fellow photographer has been escorted out of the boardwalk several times. I tend to shoot first and talk my way out of any bad feelings afterwards. Ninety percent of the time, those after-the-shot engagements turn friendly. Those friendly conversations with strangers are sometimes interesting and can end with me taking their photo using their mobile phone. And sometimes, you encounter a family, and they want to chat about photography. It’s encouraging and reaffirming to talk to strangers who understand what and how you’re photographing.

TPL: Can you discuss any recurring themes or motifs that appear in your photography?

EDWIN: I mostly shoot in the early parts of sunrise and in the late afternoon. I’m looking for the softer sunlight where longer shadows persist. I like to include interesting shadows and silhouettes when possible. I also aim towards quirky, unsolicited poses, gestures and expressions.

Photography is work in progress and patience through an enjoyable, physical pursuit.

TPL: How do you find a balance between capturing spontaneous moments and planning your shots? How do you connect with your subjects when taking candid photographs? How do you navigate ethical considerations when photographing people in public spaces?

EDWIN: In both familiar and new environments, I never have an itinerary or solid plan. I’m just always looking for interesting situations and interesting people. I do have a handful of favorite “fishing spots,” and those reveal themselves and become too obvious to the people present, and in the photos. I’m mostly just walking and studying, with camera at-the-ready. I try not to connect with the people I’m photographing. To capture those genuine, spontaneous emotions, I try to be unobtrusive and most of the time unseen. I navigate and treat strangers the same way I’d like to be treated. When I’m confronted with having taken someone’s photo, they usually just want to know “why?” and sometimes even ask if I can share a photo. I don’t get defensive. I’ve witnessed other street photographers get defensive and it usually escalates on both sides. I’d like to keep believing that I have a third eye for approaching strangers who are OK with having their photos taken – by a stranger.

TPL: What role does post-processing play in your photography, and how do you ensure your editing enhances rather than alters the authenticity of the moment? Can you share some behind-the-scenes insights into your photography workflow?

EDWIN: Early on, I never cropped or made any edits. I was proud of being a “purist.” But now, I’m fine with cropping in a bit. Sometimes there are distractions on the fringe. I shoot manually, and some photos require exposure adjustments – as moments happen quickly and often. When I was learning photography in the darkroom, we learned to dodge, burn and crop on an enlarger. These similar tools are available digitally and I sometimes use them without diminishing the moment.

TPL: What lessons have you learned from your photography that you've applied to other areas of your life or work?

EDWIN: Photography is work in progress and patience through an enjoyable, physical pursuit. I’m learning by seeing in real-time how my photography is evolving – through the process of patience and persistence. On most days, I don’t come home with anything noteworthy to show, but the experience of being out and about, thinking and studying the scenes are still valuable. There is value in the process. In my work, creative criticisms are expected, and you have to be receptive. You learn to know what appeals to others and what will ultimately be successful in their eyes. Entering open calls is much the same. You put your best out there for the critics, juries and judges to decide. And in most cases, you don’t get the first show, but there’s still value in the process.

TPL: Apart from Alex Webb and Nikos Economopoulos who you have mentioned previously, do you have any other favorite artists that you would like to share with us, and the reason for their significance?

EDWIN: My wife, Lesha Maria Rodriguez, who is also a photographer and artist, is an early influence on my photography and I give her credit for being the person to introduce me to street photography by showing me Alex’s book, The Suffering of Light. That frontispiece photo from San Ysidro, California of immigrants, officers and a helicopter in the field is etched in my mind – and lit the fire for me. Graciela Iturbide’s body of work is another inspiration. The beauty, attachments and prolific consistency throughout her documentary work is also often on my mind. She produces long term projects and books containing remarkable standalone photos that also fit exactingly to narrate a larger story.

TPL: What was the first camera you ever held in your hand, brought to eye, and released a shutter on? What is the camera you use now and your preferred focal length? Is there anything on your Wishlist?

EDWIN: The first camera I ever held and shot was my mom's Polaroid OneStep. That also felt like my first experience with what I perceived as adult technology. Of course, I had a bowl of water ready as well. The camera I’m using is a Leica M11 with a 35 mm. A friend has actually been encouraging me to get a Polaroid. So, that’s on my Wishlist.

TPL: When you're not working or creating your visual stories, what would we find Edwin doing for leisure?

EDWIN: I’m out walking our dog at least twice a day (with camera around my neck). So, even with this loving chore, I’m looking for interesting situations to capture. On most days, I fill my other times cooking and then relaxing on the couch, winding down the day streaming episodes or watching a movie. Going out to see my favorite bands play is also a great, but less frequent treat.

As the shutter falls on Edwin Carungay's photographic diary of the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, a mosaic of human experience has unfolded before us. Through his lens, the vibrant energy of this iconic American destination is captured, revealing a medley of moments both fleeting and eternal.

In each image, Edwin skillfully encapsulates the essence of life along the California coast, celebrating the convergence of cultures and experiences that make the Santa Cruz Boardwalk a perpetual carnival by the sea. His photographs serve as windows into diverse narratives, reminding us of the beauty found in the unscripted moments of everyday life.

As we bid farewell to this visual journey, we are left with a profound appreciation for the power of photography to immortalize the essence of our world. Eagerly, we anticipate following Edwin on his continued creative journey, knowing that he will continue to inspire us with his unique perspective and storytelling through photography.

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