IN CONVERSATION WITH SARA ERASMO, PHOTOGRAPHER & MIXED MEDIA ARTIST

In a conversation for Flowe Journal, we ask photographer and mixed media artist Sara Erasmo about finding her voice as an artist, unearthing stories from everyday objects, and finding time for creative play.


Life isn’t always about grand pursuits and momentous occasions. For Manila-based Sara Erasmo, it’s often the most ordinary concepts that give depth to her work as a photographer and mixed media artist.


Whether it’s the iridescence of mussel shells or petals drenched in sunlight, this “magical mundane” is what fuels her artistry and everyday philosophy. A new lens with which to appreciate and celebrate life itself.


In a conversation for Flowe Journal, we ask Sara about finding her voice as an artist, unearthing stories from everyday objects, and finding time for creative play.

HI, SARA. COULD YOU TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF?


I currently work at a tech company where I conceptualize photo shoots based on visual trends and consumer behavior, then produce those shoots by collaborating with photographers from around the world. Outside my day job, I’m a still life photographer and mixed media artist.



WALK US THROUGH YOUR JOURNEY OF BECOMING A STILL LIFE PHOTOGRAPHER AND MIXED MEDIA ARTIST. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO PURSUE THIS CRAFT?


It’s been a long and confusing, yet rewarding journey. I first got into photography and Photoshop in high school because of DeviantArt. During that time, I’d bring my camera to school everyday and organize photo shoots with my classmates. Then I took a graphic design course in college and pursued that during my early working years. At one point, I wanted to become an illustrator, and dabbled in copywriting. I even started a skin diving tour company with some friends, and ended up slowly getting into photography again because of it.


I’ve always been medium agnostic and it honestly used to bother me because of this pressure to specialize and go all in with one medium. But looking back, I see how all the things I pursued outside of photography have contributed to my style today. I tried different types of photography too when I got back into it. I shot portraits, food, and tried a photo journalistic approach. But I only really found my niche in still life because of the pandemic. It made me look less outwardly and brought about a more introspective process. I also got into exploring my photography through mixed media because I wanted a tactile experience.


FROM CAPTURING DELICATE PETALS TO FLORAL PATTERNS, YOUR PHOTOGRAPHS CENTER AROUND THE ‘MAGICAL MUNDANE.’ WHY DO YOU CHOOSE TO FOCUS ON THIS THEME IN YOUR WORK?


This focus on the “magical mundane” definitely wasn’t something I thought about in the beginning. Like I said before, it took trying out different kinds of photography to get here. It was a natural progression brought about by the limitations of the pandemic, as well as the curiosity and playfulness sparked by the little things I’d observe in my daily life—the iridescence of mussel shells, the way water would distort the appearance of objects in a basin, etcetera etcetera.


WHY DO YOU THINK IT’S IMPORTANT TO FIND MAGIC IN THE ORDINARY? WHAT ARE SOME WAYS YOU APPLY THIS PHILOSOPHY IN YOUR OWN LIFE?

A nihilistic but liberating realization: life is meaningless. Which is why it’s important to notice the magic in daily life. There is so much joy to be found in the small, seemingly unimportant moments in our lives.


Maybe it’s a result of getting older, too, and being more attached to routine. Because most days are generally the same, it’s easier to find newness in the little things as long as you look hard enough. For example, noticing how the sunlight delicately lands on a flower while walking during the blessed golden hour.


Another effect of aging is taking life too seriously. It’s so easy to get caught up with taxes, chores, the never-ending to-do list that is adulthood. At this age, it’s vital to schedule time for play. It’s nice to feel like a kid again, to let myself be bad at something but enjoy it anyway. I go on bike rides, dance by myself in my room, play with clay, draw, and collage.


TELL US ABOUT YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS WHEN PHOTOGRAPHING OR CREATING A PIECE. HOW DO YOU TRANSFORM EVERYDAY ITEMS INTO UNIQUE ARTWORKS WITH THEIR OWN STORIES?


When I set out to make something, it’s usually sparked by an idea from what I’ve seen in real life, sometimes even online on Instagram or Pinterest. It can be a new material, a lighting setup. I’m writing these ideas down as they come so I can come back to them in the future. Once I actually start, I try not to be fixated on a specific end result. The hard part is letting myself get into flow state, but once I’m there, things start to happen. I build on the original idea, new ideas emerge, I end up trying other setups. Some days I end up with something I like, other days I don’t. The important thing is to keep showing up and doing the work.


LOOKING BACK AT THE BEGINNING OF YOUR ARTISTIC JOURNEY, HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR GROWTH AND FINDING YOUR DISTINCT VOICE AS AN ARTIST?


You know that famous quote by Steve Jobs? The one about how you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backward? Well, my journey has been going from dot to far-off dot, jumping from one thing to another without any idea where I’d end up. It feels accidental, yet it all makes sense how my different experiences have contributed to the work I create now.


I still feel like I’m on that journey now. I’m at a point where I wonder if I’ve pigeonholed myself. I want to move the work forward, though I’m not exactly sure how. As a whole, the journey’s been about being true to myself, my experiences, and the things that make me, me.


HOW DO YOU STAY CREATIVE?

Creativity requires discipline. That’s what I’ve learned the last ten years working. That means I include time to be creative in my routine. When I’m done with my day job, I go to my studio and make something. Anything. When I feel particularly in a slump I do little things like drawing or collaging. Even one hour each week of doing something creative makes such a huge difference in my well-being.

WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY IN YOUR LIFE LOOK LIKE? DO YOU HAVE CERTAIN RITUALS YOU ENJOY?


On weekdays I (try to) wake up before 7 in the morning because I log into work that early. I drink at least two glasses of water, eat something light like cereal, make coffee. If my schedule allows, I spend at least 15-30 minutes journaling before getting to work. I focus on my day job until 4 in the afternoon.


After 4 PM, I either exercise or do freelance or personal work. If I do workout, it’s a choice between riding my bike, doing body weight exercises, or doing yin yoga to decompress. Sometimes I walk my dog around the neighborhood too. For freelance or personal work, I go up to the studio (which is just a spare room on the third floor of our house) and get it done there. All that’s left afterwards is dinner, a shower, and whatever Netflix series or K-drama I’m obsessed with at that moment before finally going to sleep.


If I had to choose one though, journaling would probably be the most important ritual for me. I’ve been doing it since I was in high school. I have stacks of notebooks filling my cabinet because of it. It’s such a good way to organize my thoughts and understand how I’m feeling. I also like to look back at different times of my life by re-reading them.


WHAT MAKES YOU FEEL ALIVE?

The pandemic has made me painfully aware of my online persona, so I love whatever gets me offline and reminds me of how I’m a speck of dust in the context of the universe. Physically spending time with the people I love, for one, has made me realize no one cares about how I may come across online (and I mean that in the best way). I love being out in nature through bike rides or walks with my dog. 


I love making things for the same reason. I get sucked into one thing and everything gets quiet and in that moment I don’t have to worry about anything else.



Sara Erasmo uses the Multi-Purpose Performance Towel in Artichoke. Explore the collection on shopflowe.com.