This Exhibit by One of Boracay's Top Photographers Celebrates 'Unique' Beauty

Check out the stunning photographs.
IMAGE IKE EICHENSEHR

Photographer Ike Eichensehr was 25 years old when he first owned a camera. As a professional in a creative field that’s mainly driven by passion from a young age, that was quite late in the game. What’s even less ordinary is that he only learned the technical aspects of the camera after he enlisted with the US Navy as a photographer from 1987 to 1992. 

“It was near graduation time at Columbia College, Chicago when I became interested in photography,” Eichensehr says. “I was an advertising major, then I enlisted in the navy for five years as a photographer.” 

Once he had a camera in his hands, he fell in love with photography—and has never looked back since. 

Now living in Boracay with his Filipino wife, Eichensehr says, “The navy experience was cool. I got to travel often, normally on short trips to shoot dignitaries or document operations. Even when I was in the navy, my free time was spent shooting portraits of beautiful island women. I was fascinated with photography—I shot it, processed it and printed it myself. I was in control of the total process. The five years went by very quickly.” 

“I like bad weather—because the last thing I want is for my photos to look like postcards,” says photographer Ike Eichensehr

Photo by Ike Eichensehr.
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Beauty as motivation

While he was deployed in Guam, he started shooting “sirens” or half-naked women “free from the world.” 

“Beauty always motivates me, it gets me to try new ideas. I’m fascinated by the ever-changing currents and moods of the ocean, by swimwear and mermaids.” 

After Guam, he worked as a freelance photographer in Hong Kong, shooting editorial for magazines such as the HK editions of Elle, Marie Claire, Bazaar and Prestige, among others.

Ike Eichensehr, a former US navy and magazine photographer, trains his camera lens at “sirens” or women in beautiful, tropical islands

Photo by Ike Eichensehr.

Eichensehr continues the island women theme with his first photo exhibition in the Philippines. Called “Sirens” and on view until the end of January at Crimson Resort and Spa Boracay, the exhibit is a study of the human form against the backdrop of the sea.

“I choose models that have some unique beauty,” he says. “Typical pretty can be boring at times even as it attracts the model types as subjects. I explain my ideas and it’s easy to work with them. I’m currently working on images of only dark-skinned or morena models.”

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Eichensehr's photo of model Amorette, shot on Balinghai Beach, Boracay. He’s now working on a series of “morena” beauties

Photo by Ike Eichensehr.

The exhibit features 20 large-scale photos in black and white with three of them painted on by Crimson general manager and portrait artist Patrick Manthe. “I saw Patrick’s work many months ago. I absolutely loved his beautiful paintings from the beginning. I wish he could have painted on more pieces. He’s a talented individual who understands my vision and we talked many times before he started painting.”

One of Eichensehr most stunning photos, called “Private Pool,” features a naked woman in a fetal position sinking to the bottom (or floating, if you will) of a swimming pool, her blond hair a dramatic contrast to her sun-dappled inked skin.

Eichensehr shot the original image in a concrete pool in Bali as part of a series. His model was Fahrani Pawaka Empel, an Indonesian actress and sound healer, whom he portrayed in eight different poses in the same pool. 

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The details in this photo are amazing—you can see the plaster coming out between the bricks, the tattoos on her body (inspired by her Dayak ancestors from Borneo), the way the sun penetrates the surface of the water and cloaks parts of her body with light. 

Eichensehr’s photo of Indonesian actress Fahrani Pawaka Empel, shot in a concrete pool in Bali. Crimson GM Patrick Manthe painted over this image and two others

Photo by Ike Eichensehr.

Another layer

As striking as the black and white image is, Manthe’s painting on the photo brings another layer of interest—just as the gloss varnish he topped it with gives a deeper contrast. 

“It’s a beautiful photo without my painting,” the GM says. But then he looked at the top of the canvas where the sun is shining on the water and thought it could do with a little more drama. “She’s hiding, right?” he says. He started to put black paint on the top to indicate the evil that was chasing her but he dissatisfied with the concept. 

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“I didn’t look at the squares at first, I just started by shading the blue but then it became boring. Then I looked at it and realized it was so geometrical, so why don’t I use that?”   

Manthe was very careful to paint on the photos when he started because he didn’t know how the photo canvas would react to paint. “At first I did it with a lot of water but that produced lines and I didn’t like it. So I let it dry and stopped using water and more like dry brushed it, which gave me more control.”

The result is a black and white photo with shadings of blue, orange and black at the top and splashes of white (Manthe planned “to a certain extent” even the size of the splashes).

Ike Eichensehr with Crimson Resort and Spa Boracay GM Patrick Manthe and artist in residence Eric Egualada

Photo by Ike Eichensehr.
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During the exhibit’s opening on Dec. 21, three buyers wanted to purchase “Private Pool” (it was first-come, first-served). Eichensehr says it’s by far the most popular image in the exhibit. “I think it’s because it has a mysterious mood that draws people in.”

Another photo that stops viewers in their tracks is called “Morena,” a photo of a beautiful woman with curly hair, her body half turned to the camera. 

“The model is my friend Amorette, whom I first met in Hong Kong,” Eichensehr says. “I photographed her on Balinghai beach and had my assistant hold a piece of wood over her forehead. I love her dark skin tone. My focus now is on naturally darker skin. I want to glorify dark-skinned beauties.” 

Which picture was the hardest to photograph? “All photos had some obstacles but nothing really stands out,” he says. “I like bad weather—because the last thing I want is for my photos to look like postcards.”  

As the island’s top photographer, Eichensehr gets to photograph celebrities, holidaymakers, families, models, newlyweds, children, engaged couples and everyone that want their stay in Boracay recorded for posterity. 

Eichensehr and Manthe collaborated on this photo, with the latter mixing real sand into the paint

Photo by Ike Eichensehr.
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An artistic eye

“I’ve actually found that in shooting celebrities, the bigger they are, the easier they are to work with,” he says. “You can’t be too much in awe. You both have a job to do. It’s a business—and the beauty business is fickle. You have to always be prepared and switched on at all times. The joy comes from the process of making beautiful images.”

Eichensehr grew up in Chicago and was a fashion major at the Ray-Voque College of Design before getting a bachelor’s degree in advertising. “Chicago is a great city,” he says. “I always had an artistic eye for design and composition. My mother was good at making her own clothes and design.”

This year marks Eichensehr and his wife Claui’s seventh year of marriage. They met on the island as holidaymakers (his wife is from Cadiz, Negros Occidental) and have been living there for over five years.

“I’m lucky to have the best Filipina wife,” he says. “We don’t have children yet and we are praying to have them. Boracay is paradise. It’s slow in the current situation, but I would not want to be anywhere else. I’ve always wanted to live on an island and bought a home here after my first visit in 2007.”  

Twenty of Ike Eichensehr’s images are on display and for sale at Crimson until Jan. 31

Photo by Ike Eichensehr.
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Eichensehr is also the in-house photographer at Crimson Resort and shoots weddings, engagements and portraits of guests. “Crimson has always been my favorite hotel because of its inviting mood and design, even more now with an artistic general manager whose vision for art is very strong. “I photographed many families there over the recent holidays, it was a great December. I love it when the kids remember my name and yell at me from the swimming pool, it warms my heart.” 

The art programs at Crimson continue with the launch of “50 Shades of Blue.” The resort is calling on artists—Filipinos or foreigners currently residing in the Philippines—to send in artworks that will be on display in May.

A panel of judges will choose the 50 best artworks from all the submissions received and will be put on display at the resort for the whole month of May. They will also be available for purchase by interested collectors and art aficionados.

Crimson is inviting artists to send their artworks (painting, mixed media, photography or sculpture) with the theme “Shades of Blue” for the exhibit “50 Shades of Blue” in May

Photo by Ike Eichensehr.
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“50 Shades of Blue” will be the largest collection of artworks displayed on the island. Cash prizes will be given to the top artworks and the exhibit will “enable artists to meet art critics and collectors who are looking for fresh talents to feature in future exhibitions in galleries both here and overseas.”

For the contest mechanics, visit the site or email [email protected].

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