Gutsy Tuason refers to himself as the “Eddie Vedder of Underwater Photography”. To us, he’s less rockstar more pornstar (Ron Jeremy) and the rightful son of Neptune. Scott Tuason, or more notoriously known locally as “Gutsy Tuason” is the Philippines best underwater photographer bar none. He and I go way back, probably around eight years of friendship. I’m not his long time friend, like that of Boomie or Rich, but he has been mine. Together with Joseph Benavides, Gutsy is the other half that balances the Yin and Yang of my friends. While Joseph provides a much more stable mind for advice regarding most issues in life, Gutsy is the opposite with his much more colorful and creative approach to life’s problems.
I came across Gutsy Tuason during my Digital Photographer Philippines days. He was the first cousin of Nick Tuason, my then partner in the magazine. We needed to be different, to break new barriers in the photography magazine industry, so we called in the help of Gutsy. We were tired of the constant self promotion that was being done by one of our partners in the weddings section of the magazine so we needed fresh content. Nick gave Gutsy a call immediately. He arrived in the DPP’s Rada office in his white Toyota Fortuner just fresh off a dive from who knows where. He smelled salty, no not like tuyo or dried fish, but rather more oceanic. And no, I didn’t intentionally took a whiff, it just enveloped the office. He was ultimately foul yet funny, much like any Espanol you’d come across. He initially thought that we were running a men’s magazine like FHM, but was really saddened that we were doing a photography magazine. It was never revealed to him that we was there for his underwater photographs, not to be interviewed on his life story.
Eventually, the shark would regularly circle Rada. He made the office into his own personal watering hole, asking his driver to buy a couple of bottles of San Miguel Light while he hanged out and waited for traffic to dissipate. I wasn’t sure why he was there all the time considering we weren’t so welcoming of him drinking in the office.I guess misery loves company. On occasion, he’d prank the office staff, including myself. He’d change the browser’s home URL to a gay pornographic site, at times he’d change the whole wallpaper itself into something homo-erotic. It was something that he probably was fascinated with that he wanted to share with us. We never understood what we was into at that time.
By the 6th issue of DPP, Gutsy was assigned as one of the moderator of the site (other moderators include fashion and product photographers: Louie Aguinaldo, Frank Hoefsmit and Jo Avila). His topic was considered to be the sites most popular thread, and probably the funniest as well. He threw a topic to the discussion that no one dared to ask, but everyone wanted to know “Did you ever sleep with your model/s?” He wrote that with a /s, because there might be a chance that it was truly plural. We all know that not all people who get into photography are driven with the clean passion of shooting landscapes. A number in fact, get into the hobby to sleep with a model. Gutsy Tuason was the only one that dared to ask that question. No one knew what his motivation was in asking the question. I feel he was trying to see the feasibility of shifting photographic genres or just really surveying the competition. Only the shark knew why. The topic thread had more than 1000 replies in a few days and eventually crashed the site because of the sheer amount of traffic it was generating. He got people excited. His legend was forever cemented in the photography industry with just one topic. Everyone knew who he was, and what he was all about, but nobody cared about his underwater photographs.
I never got to ask him about his passion for underwater photography. I don’t know when he started, how he started or why he got into it. In the years that I’d regularly see him, from DPP to his man cave in BGC and to his latest business venture, Squires Bingham Sports, he’d have me edit his photos. We’d always talk about something else (something much more distasteful to most). It was never about his photography. I guess we both knew that he’s tired already on answering the same interview questions all over again. In the moments that I’d see him, he’d remind me to do what ever it is that I wanted to do. Stop being a corporate slave and make it count today instead of tomorrow. Not sure what he was trying to communicate to me because he sure didn’t live up to this also.
Gutsy Tuason has become an inspiration to a lot of people. His rockstar attitude was as infectious as his cursing was (he’s the Duterte of the underwater community). One of the best samples of his rockstar-ness was his request to play a Pearl Jam song when he was being introduced in an event, like how WWE was when a wrestler enters the arena just without the fireworks. He’d always bring a thumb drive containing his favorite Pearl Jam song to give to the event organizer and made sure that they played it. This continued even when he was honored by Acer’s Mobility Group (back when Acer was still a serious brand to contend with) as part of the Playspace activity to promote work + passion fusion, he garnered not just a standing ovation from the audience but as well as the most questions asked to any speaker. One of the questions was from the event photographer himself asking “How do I become like you?”. It was obvious everyone wanted to be him when he was presenting his slides on cruising with turtles, dancing with sharks and singing with whales.
The internationally multi-awarded underwater photographer is now busy with his growing family and his new book, Blackwater. We made his last book, Notes From The Sea together, two years back and I haven’t really helped him in this latest one since then. While he’s one of my best men for my wedding, I should reach out to him regularly since I’m sure he’ll need a lot of editing again. Something I haven’t been doing for a while.