Bolichie Suzara is a familiar name to insiders of the Philippine live music scene. A member of the clan from Davao who went on to distinguish themselves as fine musicians — guitarist Tat Suzara is an elder brother, and singer-songwriter Top Suzara is a cousin — Bolichie is a bassist who has performed abroad for many years and is currently a member of the band SUZARA with Top, as well as the Black Cows.
But Bolichie has likewise been gaining a reputation as a photographer — whose growing clientele consists mostly of his fellow musicians.
In this Q and A with ANCX, Bolichie talks about his roots as a bass player and what he loves about shooting pictures. He also shares the portraits he’s done of his musician friends.
When did you first play the bass guitar, and why?
Back in high school, I wanted to join a band for our school’s song festival, but didn't make the cut. This motivated me to learn and practice more. My first teacher was the drummer of that school band, who later became the drummer of South Border, Paul Benitez.
You come from a clan of musicians. Tell us about it.
One day my father came home from a trip to Cebu with two cheap acoustic guitars — one for me and one for my brother Tat. At that time, I wasn't doing so well in school, and my parents sent me to the province for a year, so I had to leave my guitar. When I came back, my brother's guitar skills were way ahead of mine. As it turned out, he had a tutor, our kasambahay. I was forced to learn bass guitar.
For a long time you had a band that was based abroad.
Yes, we did the Hard Rock Asia tour. We were the band that performed every time there was a new Hard Rock branch opening. This was also the time I learned photography.
How busy are you with music these days? What are your current projects?
Now that I’m more into professional photography, I dropped my session work significantly, but I’m still with the bands where I’m the original bass player, SUZARA, which was our pandemic-born duo project with my cousin Top Suzara, and the very challenging but super saya Steely Dan tribute band, Black Cows. At present I’m busy with Freestyle as technical manager and official photographer.
When and how did you get into photography?
My father was a professional photographer, but, ironically, I didn’t learn from him. Back in the late 1980s, I was just his driver and assistant. I hated it whenever he had an early call time. I remember, one time, he was booked for a shoot and, for some reason, he couldn’t make it. So, he sent me to do a debutante shoot. He fixed the camera settings and told me not to change anything, just point and shoot. I was doing nervously okay, until I had to change the first roll of film — I did not know how! All the pictures after that first roll turned out unusable! For a long time, I refused to touch a professional camera. I still don’t know why he trusted me, but he did, thank you Pa!
I wish you could see that I turned out just like you!
In 2013, I bought my first camera while doing the Singapore leg of our Hard Rock tour. I learned photography from YouTube tutorials and photographer friends.
What did you like about it?
Freezing time. It’s a fast-paced, creative medium. I love creating imagery fast. It allows me to be technical and artistic, it clears my mind whenever I go for a photo walk.
How would you compare the old SLRs and today’s digital versions, the advantages and disadvantages of each one?
Apologies to the film purists, but technically, I really can’t say there’s any advantage the old analog cameras have over the digital/mirrorless cameras of today. Just the “what you see is what you get” instant preview aspect of digital cameras is enough.
You’ve been taking photos of music artists. Which ones are your favorites and why?
Yeah, I guess I’m now the go-to guy whenever bands and solo acts need professional publicity photos. I’m so thankful I found this niche in the photography world. I have no favorites, they’re all different. The kuwentuhan part before the shoot is what I love most.
All photos by Bolichie Suzara