A top editor once told me, “don’t worry if there’s other stuff, even people, in your shot … these could bring warmth.” Well, on this 2015 shakedown drive to Sagada with the then new BAIC M20 MPV, the other stuff were not incidental, not just tolerated but caught deliberately, fortunately, in the composition.
A picture, any picture, ought to tell a story all its own. There’s nuance, there’s atmosphere, there’s a notion of what comes after, all conveyed in life made still for endless scrutiny. And, on the hardy M20 there’s even the odd pun to plumb: people-mover in foreground, a person, and movement, in back. I did warn you, a pun.
Seriously, though, the photo’s story is yours for the telling. There’s the M20–big, wide, metal sleek and placidly parked in the foreground. She’s pointedly stationary, as underscored by the van blurring by (an old L300 Versavan by the looks of her roofline), and she seems empty. Enter the man in red. He’s not the main subject of the image, but his presence, his striding stance away from the scene, could somehow explain it. You have to ask: Is he leaving or looking?
The actual narrative is explained by what he’s gazing at over his right shoulder. It was the seventh hour of a drive that started at midnight, a push from Manila to Sagada to test the new MPV. This scene finds us, a party of five passenger/drivers, on Halsema Highway and caught in the shadows of a mountain sunrise while those peaks to the west were already getting sunlight.
It was a serene moment on what was once considered, up to a handful of years ago, as one of the most dangerous roads in Asia (but is now a proud and well paved wonder). That guy in red, our car buddy, a well traveled engineer, had gotten the jump on us. We put the M20 on a lay-by to do what anyone would do in the situation … look for a spot to do a selfie.