Taking a page out of Aya Cabauatan’s limitless scrapbook of the world

This story is part of “Normal People,” a series on reclamation as a way of engaging with the world featuring local artist-advocates and community leaders.

Rightfully taking up space as an aspiring creative won’t be a problem when you’re around Aya Cabauatan. The prolific artist and photographer has spent over a decade appreciating the world through her lens, cultivating artistic avenues grounded on bringing visionary communities together and making memories last longer.

Channeling positivity with every click of her camera, Cabauatan centers her craft on details often left unnoticed. Her observant eye on everyday life flourishes through surrealist portrayals of organic elements. From capturing stills of weddings and street art, she’s taken her penchant for photography to Balay Kōbō—a multipurpose communal workspace she founded for fellow artists that offers a wide variety of workshops, studio shoots, exhibits, and residencies to pursue.

In our chat with Cabauatan, she opens up about the thrills of creative direction and management, as well as her artistic undertakings that’ve led up to Balay Kōbō’s launch in April.

Cabauatan’s eye for beauty is best seen in her portraits and stills of everyday life. Photo by Aya Cabauatan

What do you tend to look for, highlight, or uncover in your work?

My work mainly consists of lifestyle, commercial, and editorial portrait photography. Using analog film, I also love to dabble in several genres such as wedding, street, and fine art. I often find myself gravitating towards natural and abstract elements that capture the richness of life and essence of a woman.

As a woman, I take pride in creating a safe space for beauty to flourish, where meaningful intentions can empower a community. I believe there’s something more to the mundane—being able to empower the candid and careful nuances of femininity, may it be through a portrait, workshop, or event.

How would you describe your work process?

For me, photography is an art of observing. I treat my photography practice as an open journal of how I experience the world—often highlighting the people I cherish, the connections and conversations I share, and memories I’d like to remember.

With almost ten years of pursuing photography, I constantly follow my curiosity, collaborate with creatives of various disciplines, and learn new things along the way. I am, after all, a student of my craft.

A glimpse into Cabauatan’s vivid portraits that portray her definitive experiences. Collage by Aya Cabauatan

How do you take control of your work narrative and how it’s being framed?

I try to find balance in pursuing both intention and spontaneity. Trust plays a big role in my work, allowing portraits and stories to unfold the way they are supposed to and not being so consumed by things beyond my control. It’s truly a humbling experience to learn and trust the process.

What’s a non-negotiable in your routine?

Grounding myself and cultivating a rich life beyond the material world. These days I find joy in gardening, cooking, nourishing my body through garden-to-table dishes, yoga, and tennis. Through my hobbies, I make sure I get to take care of myself.

When asked about her creative process, self-care is a must for Cabauatan. Photo by Aya Cabauatan

What keeps things fresh and exciting for you?

Right now, my upcoming multipurpose studio Balay Kōbō has brought me much excitement. As its founder and creative director, I believe there’s a lot of potential in reimagining and cultivating space—gathering like-minded people to collaborate, create, and marry ideas of space, material, and feeling.

Balay Kōbō is my brainchild, creative playground, and work space all at the same time. With a goal to elevate and hold space for beauty, we offer versatile studios for shoots, workshops, residencies, and intimate events. From its conception and construction to its completion and opening, working on the ins and outs of it thrills and fulfills me.

What do you want to manifest through your work?

Celebrating the female gaze, honoring candid and careful nuances of femininity, and interpreting beauty and its abstraction through colors, shapes, and textures.

Photo by Aya Cabauatan

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Andrea Posadas: Andrea is a perpetual daydreamer who hopes to pack as many punches in her voice as there are in her words someday.