tea-break with: RIA MAGLINAO


Ria Maglinao is a multimedia artist and curator based in Walyalup. I sat down with her one drizzly morning over peppermint and fennel tea in her cozy sunroom to chat about life as a freelance photographer, balancing work and self care, and how she got started out on her creative journey. You can find more of Ria's work on her Instagram @wiyah__ and catch her at our upcoming Photo Walk through Fremantle on Saturday the 9th of April.

Self-portrait. Photo credit: Ria Maglinao

tell us a bit about yourself and what you do:

Hi! My name is Ria, I’m a photographer and a writer based in Walyalup. I was born in the Philippines into a Filipino/Spanish/Chinese family and I moved to Australia when I was young, so I’ve always had a lot of different cultures and traditions around me. Growing up, I felt like I wasn’t really Australian or Filipino ‘enough’ and photography and writing became the bridge for me between cultures. When I felt that I couldn’t express myself in English or Tagalog I would just take photos instead. So photography became really important for me in shaping my identity and exploring who I wanted to become. I always wanted to travel and see the world and through landscape photography I’ve been able to do that.

how did you get into photography and what do you like about it?

I remember the first time I started taking photos when I was young was with my parents’ film camera. I would always jump in at birthday parties and that sort of thing and take photos of everything, not realising that I was using up the whole roll of film- sorry Mum! When my Dad got a phone with a camera that was the most amazing thing to me- I would take photos of the mushrooms in the backyard, all of my Mum’s plants, anything! When I was 16 I entered a landscape photography competition by Perth Centre for Photography and got in. That photo actually later became the cover for my poetry book, Dusk and Dawn. Seeing my photo exhibited alongside huge landscape photos was a big confidence boost for me and I knew then that I wanted to become a landscape photographer. So I just started selling prints of my landscape photographs and doing event photography, and one thing lead to another! Whenever I travelled anywhere I spent a lot of time taking photos- I started doing portraits when I travelled to Europe and ended up doing some paid campaign and lifestyle shoots in Bali.

what are your favourite things to photograph?

I’ve always loved shooting couples. I guess it’s the inner hopeless romantic in me- even when I was single I loved writing love poems and watching romantic movies like the Before Sunset trilogy. When I was younger I really romanticised being alone but in recent years I’ve learnt to appreciate relationships, and observing how people treat their loved ones. I didn't know if I had it in me to take professional couple photos but I was approached by a friend to take photos of him and his girlfriend, and things just went from there! I just love shooting feelings, someone being passionate about something- whether that’s their partner or their art.

Photo credit: Ria Maglinao

what does a typical day as a freelance artist look like for you?

I like my mornings- I always start slow and take my time sipping my coffee. In the summer I make it a point to go to the beach every day, either to swim or to read a book, or just drink my coffee there. I need that quiet time in the morning to gather my thoughts and set my intentions for the day. It helps me to figure out what the important tasks of the day are and then I always try to start work by 9am.

I have a bullet journal where I track everything that I’m working on and I break my projects down into four sections- planning, shooting, editing and delivery. I like having a visual representation of my progress and it makes it clear what my next step is.

My days are always different depending on how much work I need to get done and what kind of work it is but I usually try to spend three days a week working on passion projects and the other four days on work that pays the bills. I’ve found that with freelance work I really need clear boundaries around my work-time and my chill-time so that I’m not just working constantly and burning myself out.

is there any advice you would you give to emerging creatives just starting out?

Have clear boundaries and don’t push yourself to over-work just because you can. You don’t have to sacrifice your mental health for your work! Work hard but give yourself space to relax. My best ideas come to me when I am relaxed and not exhausted. Last year I was pushing myself to work 60 hour weeks which was just not sustainable.

It might sound cliche but if you want something then just go for it! There’s no shame in being the one to approach first- you have to get out of your comfort zone and put yourself out there in order to get opportunities. I ended up doing an internship at Propel Youth Arts WA just because I decided to message them on Instagram. It only takes one person to reach out and you’ve got nothing to lose.

Ugnayan exhibit and mingle night, curated by Ria in 2020. Photo credit: Ria Maglinao

what do you like to do in your free time?

I love climbing- it’s been so good to have a hobby that gets me moving and away from my desk. It’s also such a social sport so it’s nice to have that time away from work to exercise and hang out with friends, and feel like a part of a community.

are you working on anything at the moment?

I’m doing a passion project where I shoot both the art and the artist and explore that link. I’d love to do an exhibition where people are invited to guess what kind of artist someone is just based on their portrait and their responses to a questionnaire.

Other than business shoots, I’m also working on another passion project with Yume Wine, an organic and sustainable wine company based WA.

Lately I’m really trying to make sure that all of my work resonates with my lifestyle- if I'm trying to be more sustainable then I want to make sure that I am working with brands that share that mission. I don’t want to be advocating something that I don’t personally believe in like fast fashion.

Photo credit: Ria Maglinao

Interview by: Cailin Dumma

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