An Interview with Photographer Danna Peña

I had the chance to interview Manila based photographer Danna Peña who, lately has been shooting some of the best photos on Instagram. Her photos are very soothing and they take you to that happy place pic after pic. What attracted me to Danna’s photos were how each photo captured the essence of a fun road trip. I’m a big fan of her work.

I really enjoyed this interview and the photographs. Hope you enjoy.

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Drake Ernest: Where did you grow up?

Danna Peña: I grew up in sunny Manila, Philippines. 

DE: How did you get into photography?

DP: It has always been instilled in me as a kid, to admire and appreciate captured moments in a still tangible frame. My jet setting aunt would constantly bring home fashion magazines from abroad which came in hefty prices if purchased locally, titles such as Vogue, W and Vanity Fair, to name a few. Perusing these would be one of my favorite childhood past times. Subsequently, I found myself taking photos of my outfits or having my outfit shots taken. A transition occurred to me after climbing my first mountain back in March 2014, where I shifted from taking fun in being in front of the camera, to enjoying and gaining more satisfaction being behind it. This later on evolved to an affinity for going on travels and capturing them in stills, which are often nature sights and the occasional portrait shots of my travel companions (or having mine taken by them). 

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DE: What did you want to work as when you were a kid?

DP: Interestingly enough, the first job that I wanted to have was a librarian. As a kid, it’s one of those things you answer to questions like, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and I answered straight away, a librarian. I loved books and I still do. I remember sneaking to the library in kindergarten and hiding books in corners so I could be the one to borrow them next. Selfish, isn’t it? It should still be lying around somewhere on a dusty nook at home, that preschool yearbook of mine with my answer written in crooked handwriting.

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DE: What is your dream project?

DP: Well, first off, a dream of mine would be collaborating with brands or people who are unapologetically passionate at what they do. Partnering up with writers, painters, graphic designers and artists of all kinds to create works inspired by travels – a book, maybe? I’d love to collaborate with local music artists, too, to create music inspired by and for travels, ala-Tycho or Empire of the Sun’s “Country”. Making creations out of travels (may it be photo collages or writings) and/or creating substance out of travels, I should say, is something I immensely enjoy doing. 

DE: What is the single best thing about the Philippines?

DP: Its natural environment, definitely. All the beautiful beaches, mountains and caves. I get inspired by nature’s hues, which the Philippines has an insurmountable supply of.

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DE: Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?

DP: I recently went trekking with my boyfriend and was accompanied by a female guide. It may sound so trite, but it had been a wonderful experience to me mainly because it seemed like such an uncommon event to the locals around, and a pleasing one at that! When locals around saw that she was a guide, they all looked at her with a mix of shock and awe. In context, majority of the guides around were males, which I’ve found to be the norm in the other provinces I’ve visited and trekked mountains in. It was simply inspiring how she took pride in what she did and how endearing it was to see her community’s palpable support.

DE: Who would you most like to collaborate with?

DP: Creators of all kinds who have a good head on their shoulders. Ones that mainly aim to express and positively touch the people around them.

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DE: Name something you love and why?

DP: My two year old maltese named Joffrey. (And yes, he was named after that horrendous character from Game of Thrones, thank you to my brilliantly humorous sister.)  I used to be a cat person until we had him. Humans can learn so much from dogs, from their vivacity to the way their eyes are so unashamedly set on the prize (which is, in Joffrey’s case, bite-sized dog treats). 

DE: What location is your favorite place to photograph and why?

DP: The coves in San Antonio, Zambales. Serene, remote and usually low-tide bays surrounded by Agoho trees. I fall in love every time. 

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DE: Do you have a favorite subject to photograph what is it?

DP: Horizons from tall peaks, as well as coves.

DE: What’s next on the horizon? 

DP: Expanding it, in all its sense. I can only try to live up to what Bowie once said, “I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.”

Interview by Drake Ernest

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Danna Peña’s Website

Danna Peña on Instagram

Danna Peña on Twitter

Danna Peña on Pinterest