Is there more to paradise than palm trees and white beaches? In Trikes of El Nido, photographer Oleg Tolstoy captures an unexpected side to an island nicknamed ‘heaven on earth’: a world of dazzling neon dream machines that only reveals itself when the sun goes down.
Pools of artificial candy-bright colour fight the black night. From within luminous shells, drivers-for-hire in worn clothing gaze at the camera, shy half-smiles flickering on their faces. Trikes of El Nido is a series with contrast at its core: at first glance, this could be the set of the new Blade Runner, but the unpaved roads and corrugated iron fences tell a different story. “El Nido is a remote town on the Philippine island of Palawan. There’s not much of a nightlife so the drivers need to compete for business, but only a few have gone to this much effort,” the photographer explains. “When I learned that LED lights only became available in the town in 2016, I realised that their customisations are a creative outlet as much as a commercial decision. I thought it was time to show the world that El Nido is more than its natural scenery. This is innovation, Palawan-style.”