Behind the Lens: Ralph Misa

In a digital world that is inundated by constant images and videos it is such a sigh of relief to see an artist who utilizes and masters the creative form of photography to convey images and a story that can only be told through a lens.

Ralph Misa, simply describes himself as a Samoan who is a lifestyle & commercial photographer, community builder and part-time super hero.  His artistry through his lens captivated me when I first discovered his stunning work about a year ago.  With the introduction of social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter and most notably Instagram many have diluted notions of having photog cred (ahem, remember this one).  Thank goodness for true visionaries such as Ralph to be a constant reminder to all of us that through the medium of photography “that a picture is worth a thousand words”.

I recently had the rare opportunity to chat with Ralph on his views of Pasifika Fashion, the different roadblocks and barriers he’s had to overcome, and what his advice would be to young Pasifika youth who have aspirations of following in his footsteps.  Check out CSM’s interview of Ralph Misa, the artist behind the lens:

CSM:  What inspired you to do photography?

RM:  I started doing photography back in junior high school then, picked up my basics of film processing with a 35mm when I was about 15 years old. I fell in love with it at that age especially being in the darkroom and processing film.

In 2006 I picked up photography again when the rise of the DSLR’s started to pick up. I was doing graphic design at the time and got really bored with it.  I was dancing for a Polynesian group (Tupulaga) at the time when I picked it up again & decided to shoot the group photos, it was then I felt my love for photography again.

In 2008, I was on my third session with a world-renowned fashion photographer shooting fashion models. I remember distinctly during the workshop he stated: “I don’t shoot ugly people”. Puzzled & confused I asked, “What is your definition of ugly people”. He replied, “I don’t shoot people who are not Caucasian, under 5’8, and weigh more than 120lbs.” I immediately packed up my gear and told him “Thank you for everything and the workshop but, I am done here.” He asks: “Is everything ok?”. I replied: “Yes, were good.”. It was that day that changed my photography journey. I decided that day I would start shooting more of my Polynesian people, start working with more Polynesians in this industry, and ultimately shoot more people of variety that wouldn’t normally be seen on magazines.

What I am truly inspired by are real life stories of my clients and people who share their journey with me. I then utilize photography & a bit of imagination to bring moments to life. It has definitely been a rewarding and fulfilling experience so far.


CSM:  Which Pasifika fashion designer would you love to collaborate with on a photo shoot & what would it be?

RM:  There are so many designers worldwide that I follow. One in particular I have worked with. Fatui Toele from Sacramento. We worked on a fashion shoot last year of his amazing work. He is an upcoming samoan fashion designer that has won several fashion battle competitions in Sacramento. What I particularly love is his venetian approach to his work. It is phenomenal, creative, and I would definitely work with him again in the future on more Pasifika Styled photo shoots. What’s even more amazing is his love for community work and the youth since, I am an advocate for building strong Polynesian communities.


CSM:  What was your most memorable/favorite fashion/design inspired photo shoot and why?

RM:  My favorite? Would have to be the shoot with Fatui Toele and amazing make up artist Keke Vasquez ( whom is also of polynesian decent & signed make up artist to Look Artists where she is also working with global brands such as Giorgio Armani, etc. We were able to come together as Polynesians to showcase our talent & create something phenomenal. This is the very reason why I love this particular shoot because we truly appreciate each other’s work.


CSM:   What is your favorite subject matter to photograph?

RM:  My favorite subject to shoot are people with phenomenal stories and pivotal times in their lives from weddings all the way to portrait shoot where its meaningful, imaginative, and classic.


CSM:  What piece of advice would you give to aspiring photographers who hope to one day be where you are today?

RM:  I am not entirely sure if I am in a place where I want to be however, I have been blessed with great opportunities with amazing people. The only advice I can give is to “trust your vision” & “never give in or never give up”. People will tell you that you may not be good enough – never believe them. I am a self-taught photographer that goes throughs the ups & downs of this business daily. Never be afraid to make mistakes , it’s the best lesson. You will never welcome true success unless you embrace the failures along the way. Remember the failures are temporary. I try to live this everyday and I never stopped believing.  I hope to continue to do this and be an inspiration to those who want to pursue the dream.

P.S. Peep these amazing photos featuring Fatui Toele designs, make-up by Keke Vasquez and naturally captured by the talented Ralph Misa:

FashionRM18 FashionRM20 FashionRM14


4 Thoughts on “Behind the Lens: Ralph Misa

  1. Ralph Misa on October 21, 2013 at 10:44 pm said:

    Thank you Ana for the this feature! You are a blessing and I love your blog. Thank you again for the opportunity! Keep up the great work!

    • 'Ana Fonua-Terrazas on October 23, 2013 at 8:41 pm said:

      Such a pleasure to work with you & thank you so much for your kinds words! Can’t wait to work with you again 🙂 xo

  2. Ralph is a super person all around! He is blessed with so many talents! You go Ralph…Turn Up!

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