May 22, 2024

Creative Communication

A picture is worth a thousand words, or so they say.

For first-generation student Joemmel Tendilla, a picture is priceless.

The UMW freshman uses photography to break down the language barrier within his Filipino-American family.

Joemmel Tendilla an aspiring photographer at the ampitheater, Tuesday Nov. 17, 2015. (Photo by Norm Shafer). Joemmel Tendilla an aspiring photographer at the ampitheater, Tuesday Nov. 17, 2015. (Photo by Norm Shafer).

Though his immediate family moved to the United States before he was born, Tendilla’s extended family still lives in the Philippines, and it can be difficult to communicate with his family members whose native language is Tagalog.

Tendilla received his first camera as a hand-me-down from his sister when he was 16. Without ever taking a photography class, he taught himself how to capture beautiful images and tell stories through them.

“I communicate with my family through my pictures,” said Tendilla, a double major in sociology and political science. “My mom also doesn’t speak fluent English, so it’s easier to show her a picture than to try to find the words to explain it.”

As the first person in his family to attend a four-year college, Tendilla has become a role model for his family both in the U.S. and abroad. Tendilla started at UMW in August 2015 with a partial scholarship for his outstanding community service and leadership.

“My family back home in the Philippines is very proud,” said Tendilla. “Their education ends after middle school and, if they surpass it they have to pay for it, so college is a big deal.”

Tendilla’s passion for photography has evolved over the years. Today, not only does he photograph close friends and family, but extends his services to the UMW community for a small fee.

He enjoys the reaction from his subjects.

“I love seeing someone change their profile picture on Facebook to a photo I took and seeing all the positive comments,” said Tendilla. “It reminds me how much I love being a photographer.”

His favorite place to photograph? UMW’s amphitheater.

“I always return to the amphitheater,” said Tendilla. “It’s part of our campus history and it tells a great story.”