Archive for March 2011

Pictures everywhere! (An interview with Marisse Panlilio of MPGrafx)

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Photo of Marisse Panlilio

Marisse Panlilio of MPGrafx at work on location. (Photo courtesy of MPGrafx.)


Nowadays, pictures are ubiquitous and pervasive at the same time. Often, it doesn’t matter what is pictured. The fact is, pictures are everywhere we look—if and when we choose to look at them at all.

We see pictures gracing almost every page of magazines and newspapers. We see pictures gleaming on every click of the electronic web. We see pictures decorating, as it were, one block of street after another.

Yet, we never really think about how pictures seem to pop up all around us all the time. We’ve simply come to taking for granted that pictures are there where we are.

Of course, pictures don’t just magically appear—here, there and everywhere. It takes some sort of complicated and professional behind-the-scenes machination and maneuvering for each and every single one of them to be placed or installed where they are, where we can all see them.

Photographers are therefore necessarily connected to all sorts of publicly accessible media, outlets, and suppliers—an array of opportunities and possibilities to showcase and display photographs. With the right placement, photographers are able to target specific audiences.

But whatever media outlet a photographer decides to choose (and there are many of them—photographers and media alike), and whatever the aim may be—to inform, to motivate, to sell, or simply to showcase and to enrich, it cannot happen in a vacuum. It has to happen within a framework of the media.

In this sense, consider media and the context with which you are able to view them, as the legal and generally acceptable equivalent of graffiti walls. Sanctioned and allowed, a photographer’s commercial work, whether a single photograph or a group of photographs, acquires a sense of acceptable public presence, legitimacy even, with the transformative process of its legal (and professional) installation, to be openly seen by all and sundry.

We rarely get to see a photographic work in the process of installation. On the streets, it’s usually done at night or at times when there are the least number of people. In galleries and museums, it’s constructed and completed inside a cocoon of an enclosure—a temporary restricted area. On shop windows, it’s presentation is arranged behind shaded covers, even during down times. And in most other cases, it’s fixed-in ambush-style, stealthily putting it up when no one’s looking or paying any mind. Next thing we know, when we look up and look out, there it is—as if it has always been there.

But dressing up a place or an area or a location to show pictures takes careful and deliberate planning, time, effort and logistics. Because of this, any photographer whose work has been publicly displayed must have necessarily known a professional or two who happens to work in this strange, baffling and behind-the-scene line of business. They who work in this seemingly “invisible” industry makes things visible. They who are almost themselves magicians.

In one recent and successfully completed project, I had the opportunity to meet, interact, and work with just such a professional. Her name is Marisse Panlilio of MPGrafx. For our project, she expertly “handled” the media that securely held and prominently displayed the photographs on several two-front show windows, as well as the printing of collaterals that were hand-distributed.

Marisse has been working as a media producer and installer for professional creative artists (often serving as a bridge to their clients as well) for more than 10 years now. Also, within her sphere of interest and expertise, she’s a supplier and an experienced technical director for all sorts of events and functions such as concerts, shows, and private parties.

I caught up with Marisse Panlilio recently for a brief Q&A:

Dominique James: Tell me a bit about MPGrafx. How did you get it started and what sort of services do you offer?

Marisse Panlilio: I started MPGrafx as a business after I retired in 2003. I bought my wide-format printer in 2006. Since then, our offerings and services has expanded to include not only to large-format poster printing but also other several alternative media prints and installations such as vehicle wrapping and signs.

DJ: What did you have to do in order to be able to put up MPGrafx? What kind of education, training and experience are required?

MP: I studied graphic design with specialty in print at the Union County College in Cranford, New Jersey. I’m a certified wrap installer.

DJ: What are the biggest challenges or the difficulties that you encounter in your line of work?

MP: In this field, competition is very stiff. However, it is obvious that there is still a lack of qualified or experienced wrap installers. For instance, I have to make sure that I have to personally train my assistants. For me, conducting on-the-job training, and sharing my skills and knowledge, is one of the best forms of experience.

DJ: Who are some of the biggest clients you’ve worked with so far?

MP: My list of clients include Red Ribbon, Western Union, GMA Pinoy TV, TFC, Max’s of Manila, Fiesta Grill, Philam Merchandising, NJ State Library, to name a few.

DJ: What do clients usually tell you with the kind of professional work and world-class service that you provide? What feedback do you get?

MP: I make sure that I provide exceptional service and use only exceptional quality materials on our products. Clients appreciate the fact that we go way beyond our commitments, thereby going over and above their expectations. I take pleasure in delighting my clients.

DJ: What makes you and your company different from the others who provide similar products or services?

MP: I follow a very simple formula—my policy is to always provide world-class service using the highest quality materials at the best price.

DJ: What is your style or approach in dealing with the many different people whom you encounter in your business dealings?

MP: My years of experience has taught me to be understand the needs and goals of my clients, and to be always flexible in order to accommodate all types of requirements. This is how we earn their trust. To me, their accolades for the work we do speak volumes.

DJ: If you have the chance to establish the same business today, if you were going to start all over again, will you still do it? Why or why not?

MP: Yes, I would definitely be very happy to do the whole thing all over again.

DJ: What are the things in your line of work that people are always surprised to find out and discover? What are the things that they never expect from you?

MP: Clients and associates are almost always surprised that I am a certified wrap installer—that I studied for it and I can professionally cover uneven, rough, curved, angled, and all sorts of surfaces such as that of vehicles.

DJ: You seem to be a workaholic, and people see you working all the time; what would you consider are your peak working hours? Do you ever take days off from your work to relax? How do you spend your time when you’re not working?

MP: When it comes to creative work such as designing the presentation of photos and graphic elements for printing, I work best during late nights up until the wee hours of the morning. I feel my creative juices flowing freely during these times. When installing the materials for display, I work during the hours that are most convenient to the client, and whenever and whatever the practicality of the situation calls for. We make sure to factor into the work schedule not only the convenience of people we work with but also even such considerations as the weather and the seasons required for proper job installations. You can definitely say that this is not a routine job. On my free days, I love taking long drives with my partner and my two 4-legged boys.

DJ: What advise can you offer the many working creative professionals, specially photographers, with whom you work with?

MP: My best advise is to earn the trust and respect of clients through professional experience. The strong record of one’s sterling accomplishments will always speak for itself and carry one through. Also, the love of and commitment to one’s work is essential.

[Note: For free professional advise and guidance on your large-format printing requirements, installation and wrapping service requirements, and also on creative visual design, contact Marisse Panlilio via email at For free professional advise and consultation on advertising and commercial photography and visual media design, contact Dominique James at Also, you can view and purchase the fine art photographs of Dominique James online at Zatista’s website. Thank you.]

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