Mohammad Sarajan: Zamboanga City

Mohammad Sarajan describes himself as an average seventeen-year-old. Yet his images, documenting the beauty and resilient character of the Philippines, are anything but average and reveal a maturity beyond his years. Though he was born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and raised in Doha, Qatar, Mohammad feels a strong connection with Zamboanga City, where he goes to university for computer engineering.

He uses photography to capture the spirit of his newfound home — a resilient country whose people he admires. Mohammad calls the Philippines a “beautiful pearl necklace” of islands that, though different from one another, “has shown the world how united we have been” throughout trials and adversity. Mohammad hopes to convey through his photographs that “wherever you may travel within our most humble country, you find the stories of a beautiful nation that convey the message of peace, love, and hope amidst diversity.”


Mohammad documents the streets, shops, merchants and residents that make up the fabric of daily life in Zamboanga. Through these vivid images, he testifies to the uniqueness of a city plagued by hardships that have largely been overlooked. Almost one year ago, Zamboanga found itself in the middle of a military crisis that threatened to destroy not only the city, but the hope of its citizens as well. As Mohammad says, “We are the land that has been forgotten. A city making its way with a wound that bleeds constantly. Many have lost their homes and their beloved ones, but despite that, the Zamboangueno spirit has proven to the world its resilience. The world has tested our spirit in floods, bullets, and fire. But we stand strong and united towards the realization of a dream that our city will rise again.”


Mohammad’s love of exploring led him to a favored method of finding new subjects to photograph: driving to a new location, parking the car, and wandering until something catches his eye. Through his photos, he hopes to challenge the way people see their surroundings and push others to put themselves in new situations. “I have always found that there is so much to be learned from trying something new,” he explains. Taking risks has allowed Mohammad to express himself and to be inspired to find promise in even the most challenging of situations. Be sure to visit Mohammad’s VSCO Grid to see more of his images of the beauty of resilience.

Discover VSCO Grid℠: Transportation

We are not static. We move forward; we change; we age; we grow. Every morning, we make the decision to rise from our beds and join the world as it presses ever forward. This simple gesture is our first act of movement, followed by numerous others throughout our day. Across the world, humanity engages with various methods of transportation to propel us onward.

Each person and culture expresses this movement in its own distinct way. We may hail a cab, navigate a bike, or board a boat. We race to catch our subway, sometimes only to slump in a seat and doze for the remainder of the ride. We navigate solo through the streets on a skateboard or join the masses in boarding the train. Old-fashioned forms of transportation persist in our modern world alongside airplanes and space shuttles, each serving their specific purpose. In each instance, we participate in the ebb and flow of our world’s activity.

Sometimes, moving forward is not easy. Sometimes, we would prefer to stand still, to not take that first step. The photographs below remind us that, all around us, others join us in pressing on to accept the day’s challenges. We are collectively moving forward. Below are some of our favorite images of diverse forms of transportation from around the world. Discover more by using the Image and Map Search functions on VSCO Grid. In addition, be sure to hashtag your own images as well, to allow others to find your curated photos.

Image by Adam Kingman / C1

Image by Gaetan Rossier / M6

Image by Abaneriee / G1

Image by Thomas J Wilson / M1

Image by Russell Heeter / M5

Image by Kele Dobrinski / C1

Image by Mathew Pecora / A1

Image by Trashhand / F1

Image by Archie Leeming

Image by Aizatlokman / SE3

Image by Corbin-Thomas / G3

Image by Ahmed Saeed / A1

image by Yany Yang 

Image by Noe Gonzalez

Image by Romek Rasenas / M5

Image by Aziziahmad / A6

Image by Adam Powers / M6

Artist Initiative Update: Jon & Chris Schoonover

Earlier this year, we were exceptionally proud to launch our Artist Initiative program, a $1,000,000 USD fund created to support established and emerging artists working in any medium. Since its launch, the Artist Initiative has supported over 15 talented artists, and we are honored to be working alongside them to fund, advise, and advocate for them as they work on their projects. Today, we are pleased to share an update on the progress made by two of these artists, brothers Jon and Chris Schoonover, as they reach the midway mark in their work.

Several months ago, Jon and Chris found themselves reminiscing over something they both remembered fondly from their childhood: watching pro wrestling. As kids, they loved the pageantry of the competition. As adults, their conversation turned to current amateur and independent pro wrestling leagues. They found the unique subculture of the sport intriguing and desired to explore it through photography. Through their project, their goal is to shine a contemporary light on their subjects and give viewers a fresh look at the world of pro wrestling. Read on for a preliminary look at Jon and Chris’ project and view the initial images from their collection. Also, be sure to visit both Jon and Chris’ VSCO Grids, where they will be posting new work as they go.

As Jon and Chris’ passion for this project stems from their childhood enjoyment of watching pro wrestling, their intention is to instill that same pleasure in their viewers through the photographs they capture. “We’re hoping people will get excited about wrestling like they may have been when they were younger and allow themselves to enjoy it again.” As for Jon and Chris, the series has already brought them joy. “We’ve high-fived a lot while shooting it, and we’re hoping to pass that on to those viewing our finished body of work.”

Image by Jon Schoonover / S3 Preset

Image by Jon Schoonover / HB1 Preset

Creating any new body of work comes with its challenges; an exploration of the subculture of pro wrestling presents unique ones. The Schoonovers share, “We’ve been kicked, yelled at, landed on, and had chairs thrown at us. So far, we haven’t come up with any effective way of avoiding these hazards.”

Despite these unusual setbacks, their process has been one of effective teamwork. Jon and Chris often work together and have an established workflow. “We work well together, and we each bring our own strengths to the table; so it’s been a relatively smooth process.”

We look forward to sharing Jon and Chris’ full collection of images soon.

Discover VSCO Grid™: Coffee

A simple cup of coffee can have complex connotations. For some, it is a daily ritual to be enjoyed over breakfast. For others, it is an elegant process to craft the quintessential cup, and for others still, a job that provides for their family. From the cultivator who labored over the crop itself, to the barista who fastidiously arranges milk and foam into an elegantly poured cup, each mug of joe speaks to a history that goes beyond a dose of daily caffeine.

Coffee’s unique appeal transcends its culinary properties to entice us with its social component as well. We gather with friends in a café, just as we gather our cold hands around a steaming mug. We huddle together in the office break room to make a fresh pot and clear our heads, or we sit around a campfire with a kettle to enjoy one another’s company. And yet for some, consuming a cup of coffee is a morning ritual, a solitary experience that occurs before a single word is uttered. No matter the scenario, coffee is an established fixture of daily life for many and has solidified its indisputable place in our lives.

To discover more beautiful images related to coffee from across the globe, be sure to use the Image and Map Search functions on VSCO Grid. Remember to hashtag your own images with key words and locations as well, so that others can discover your curated photos. From farms in Uganda to trendy cafés in Melbourne and roasters in Portland, discover coffee through the eyes of the VSCO Grid community.

Image by Shrly

Image by Darlene Phan / G3

Image by Michael Stetson / HB1

Image by Anthony Adams / F2

Image by Jay Kim / G2

Image by Lorant Pandea / A1

Image by Phi Tran / F2

Image by Joon Siau / S2

Image by Daniel Chae / M5

Image by Diala Canelo

Image by Irene Kim 

Image by Mylene Chung / S3

Image by Jason Yong / M6

Image by Joel Flory / B3

Image by Voros Mate 

Image by Stumptown Coffee / A4

Image by Emily Blincoe / M3

Stella Maria Baer : The Evolution of an Artist

Cool, subtle blues and greens, haunting oranges and reds, faded tans, browns, and grays; these understated yet enchanting hues dominate artist Stella Maria Baer’s paint palette. Creating in watercolors and oils alike, Stella explores color, geometry, shape, and nature through painting. Originally from Santa Fe, New Mexico, Stella’s paintings carry with them the mesmerizing spirit of the American southwest. “I do sense that I am haunted by the southwest,” she admits. Now living on the East Coast, Stella finds her work reveals a longing to be surrounded by the colors of the desert. “I find myself thinking a lot about sand, the colors of the rocks, the lines in the canyons, the cacti, the horses. That longing for the desert is present in my paintings, but usually not directly.” From animals to organic shapes to an entire series of watercolors capturing various moons throughout the solar system, each of Stella’s paintings are unique and display a true command of her medium.

The daughter of a weaver and a gallery curator, and stemming from a long line of craftsmen, Stella seems to have the makings of an artist in her blood. To be certain, Stella possesses a true, given talent for painting.Yet, having worked for the past eight years to establish her creative life, Stella also knows that living life as a fine artist comes with endurance, hard work, and dedication. She has found ways to incorporate risk, challenge, and discipline into her daily work routine to keep her pieces fresh and evolving.

Read more below to learn about Stella’s life as an artist. Additionally, see photographs Stella has captured of her paintings in various stages. All images were processed using VSCO Cam®.


These days, Stella keeps a strict 9-5 work schedule in her studio. Over the years, she’s spent time honing not only her craft but her routine. In the early years, Stella’s practice was private, almost a secret. Her subject was, for the most part, portraits of people painted as animals. She would share her work with only a select group of family and friends, but over time, she grew more confident. When people started requesting commissions, she took them. At this stage, she was also working as a studio and research assistant for artist Titus Kaphar. It was here that Stella learned what it meant to develop an artist’s practice. Now, Stella’s routine has been honed to an art in and of itself. “I try to spend a little time early every morning writing about things I want to make, being silent, and listening. I’ve found that journaling during that lucid early morning time is really important to my practice,” she says. Additionally, Stella believes she does her best painting between 9 am and 2 pm; so it’s important for her to be in the studio during those times. Finally, Stella seeks out time with other artists who inspire her, including her former boss, Titus Kaphar.

Stella’s subject matter has expanded as she’s taken bold steps to broaden & develop her creativity. After several years of painting animals almost exclusively, she grew bored and knew she needed to push herself. “I longed to take a greater risk in my painting practice but wasn’t sure what that would mean,” Stella shares. She followed her instincts and began to shift her concentration, exploring color, geometry, and the human form. “I made a decision to start making larger scale pieces – something I’d wanted to do for a long time.” Recently, Stella completed a 68 x 42” oil painting of a man riding a snail. It took 5 months to complete.


On a day-to-day basis, Stella creates in both watercolor and oils, moving back and forth between the two. “The oils are slow moving, tightly controlled, and take months to complete. The watercolors are quick, out of control, and are finished in one or two sittings. I really like moving back and forth between the two mediums and the balance it brings to my time in the studio,” Stella says. The two mediums also offer Stella another outlet to challenge and stretch herself. “Every day, I try to take a risk with my painting, and do something that I’m not sure will work. I’ve found that’s the only way to get closer to what I most want to make.”


Exploring Stella’s VSCO Grid, viewers will find any number of paintings in various stages of development. The images reveal Stella’s process in a way that the finished product never could. She shares, “Taking photographs of paintings while they are in process is a way for me to record something that is about to disappear. They also invite other people into my space to witness something that is incomplete and still evolving. [This] sometimes feels risky but seems important somehow; I think, because it’s a more honest look at how things come into being than just posting a finished painting.” Furthermore, Stella’s Grid images speak to an interesting paradox between the digital and the analog. “I find it interesting that in an age where almost everything can be made by computers, there is a return to valuing what is handmade,” she says. “And at the same time, those of us making things by hand so often capture what we make with our phones. It’s an interesting tension – this celebration of the handmade via technology. I think my work thrives in that paradox, for whatever the reason.”


Inspired by the Blood Moon eclipse this past April, Stella decided to paint the enchanting site. “I was struck by how flooding the surface of the paper with water and then bleeding in the paint created a texture that resembled the natural surface of the moon.”This realization urged Stella to begin a series depicting different planets and moons. In turn, Stella has made an effort to learn quite a bit about astronomy. “I’ve loved researching different planets and moons and learning more about the Greek myths they’re often named after and the various gases and elements that compose them,” she says. “It’s a convergence of science, mythology, geometry, and color that I just love.”