They say if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere. Now I’m not 100% sure this is true, but I do know this is a line from the Frank Sinatra song, “New York, New York.” He does make a fine point, though, seeing as New York is the city that never sleeps – and so the hustle just keeps on going 24/7. New York is also known as the land of opportunity, housing the world’s major commercial, financial and cultural centers. With that, the city attracts the best of the best from all over the world – And this is what Sundae Cruz strives for.
We invited Sundae one afternoon to talk about what drew him into photography, his life as a freelancer, and his plans of moving to New York.
Sundae Cruz is a freelance photographer from Manila, whose interest in the field kicked in pretty late. He started out as a photographer for his brother’s band back in 2010; touring with them, and candidly taking photos as they played in gigs, and his growing fondness led him to go back to school and study photography. This was in 2011, and since then, he has been hard at work just learning the craft and honing his newly developed skill. He used to be a managed talent of an agency until he decided to go the freelance route, when he started feeling overworked and looking at photography as just a means of sustenance rather than it being a creative endeavor. Now if you think freelancing is a walk in the park, where you can chill and relax, book projects left and right, and just take photos when needed, think again – Sundae tells us how challenging it is to be a freelance photographer.
“When I went freelance, I thought it’s gonna be better, but it’s actually a lot tougher. In the industry, you have to be someone to get noticed, and I don’t do very good PR. I don’t go out that much, I only hang out with people that I already know. Generally I’m very shy, and it’s very difficult if you’re that kind of person. You have to be really outgoing, you have to be cool, and if you’re not, it’s so hard to get published and get work.” and he goes on about the struggles of being a photographer in the Philippines, “If one person doesn’t like you, it’s so easy to poison other people’s minds. And you know how big chismis (gossip) is here. Some don’t bother to confirm anything, so if they hear it from someone who they think is credible, they immediately believe it and take their word for it.”
We continued to talk about his life as a freelance photographer until we moved to discussing his recent trip to New York. Sundae Cruz went to the Big Apple to further his knowledge on photography at the International Center of Photography. “There are a lot of fundamentals that you have to consider. Before I learned all the technical things, I thought I knew enough. But I guess the advantage of having formal training is from the get-go, you know where you are in,” Sundae tells us the importance of formal education in a field where barrier of entry is fairly easy. We go on asking him about New York, and how different it is from his state in the Philippines. “In New York, there’s a higher ladder to climb but it’s easier to climb. It’s because they don’t look at the person doing the work, they look at the actual work. They don’t care if you’re nobody as long as you can produce good stuff. During my first month, I already got to work with models from IMG and different agencies. Here in the Philippines, it’s harder to get noticed and get yourself out there. You have to have a name before you get jobs, and those jobs won’t even pay for your bills.”
As a freelancer, Sundae feels there is a lack of opportunity in the Philippines because the big guys look at big names, but he is hopeful that the freelancer industry will improve and newcomers will finally be given a chance to showcase their talent. As for Sundae, New York is where he feels most alive and inspired, so we're excited to see how he does in a bigger, more global stage.
View some of Sundae Cruz's work below, and to see more you can visit his Instagram account, @sundaecruzphotos.