New Philippine Photography

I delivered this Photography talk upon the invitation of Goethe Institut Philippinen during the opening exhibit of the German Photo Book Award 2013 at the De La Salle University in Manila, 6 August 2013.

Joseph Nicephore Niepce made the first photograph in 1825. His contemporary, Louis Daguerre publicized his invention, the daguerreotype, a kind of camera, in 1839. That same year, France bought the patent and made the invention as a gift to the world. 

Philippine Photography started young. Sinibaldo de Mas, a Spanish diplomat and traveler introduced Photography in the country in 1841. It was just two years after the introduction of the daguerreotype. To note, Photography in Japan, on the other hand, started in the 1850s. Much has happened from that time to the American colonial period and past World War II. Here, Photography was used mainly as a tool to document the lives of the people and the archipelago. It was utilized as bases for illustration purposes, for historical and political events, for propaganda and as personal mementos.

In the 60s and 70s, the Philippines has one of the most active and vibrant Photojournalism scene in the region. This is according to Zhuang Wubin, a Singaporean researcher on Photography in Southeast Asia. And that is still true into the present. But unlike in the developments of our more prosperous neighbors, Art Photography in the country is just catching up.

Philippine Photography
The New Cathedrals, Stan Cabigas

New Philippine Photography

Two points. First, there is no such thing as a pure Philippine style of photography. What we have is then an adaptation. Second, what makes it Philippine is the content. The way of exploration by new and up and coming and veteran photographers using this medium.

There are lots of Filipino photographers today delving in various genres of Photography. But for the purposes of this talk, and the time given, I am limiting it on personal photography works by Filipino photographers based in the Philippines. In this talk, I only cover seven photographers, including yours truly, with works starting in 2010 and encompasses documentary and art photography.

The Photographers

The beauty of youth is in how they see the world with fresh eyes. Geloy Concepcion is just 20 years old. But it is with those youthful eyes that he sees a beautiful world. A talented photographer, he was part of the 7th Angkor Photo workshop and exhibited in the 2012 Month of Photography in Tokyo. His work, Salamat 2011 is not only a visual diary of what he has accomplished and what happened to him in the year 2011 but looking at his work, you are in for a visual treat. It is not only beautiful images, but highly complex, multilayered photographs that give dimension, as well as a peek into his sensibilities as one of the young photographers of this generation. He is also a graffiti artist.

Geric Cruz is on a roll these days with his work, Second Star to the Right. He is one of the finalists in a popular and respected Asian photography website photography awards. He started photography only in 2006 and later doing street as well as work with social relevance. Geric, known for his documentary work, uses Photography as self expression. Forgiveness is Wonderful, is very intimate. Here he has departed from the usual documentary style and approached it as a very personal work with elements of the conceptual.

A young freelance photojournalist, John Javellana used to work for a wire agency and has been covering political events and disasters. People of the Storm, his ongoing personal work is a series of intimate portraits of people who have been survivors of natural disasters. In its basic approach, the viewer is made to confront face to face with these victims.

Freelance photographer Kat Palasi has been busy going back and forth to her land of birth, to the place of her ancestors, Benguet. An Ibaloy, her interests are on land and people. Her latest work,  The Last Pine Tree takes an intimate look at her Benguet, mining, the people and her heritage.

Faith and Photography

Veejay Villafranca is popular. This photojournalist has not only made a mark internationally with his award winning work but has also helped in focusing the photographic light on other talented Filipino photographers. His Faith above Fate interests me because it tackles religion, something that is also close to my heart. Known for his black and white documentary style, Veejay, in his four part work focuses on rituals and practices that borders on the syncretic.

While Veejay prefers to be a spectator, an observer to bizaare and fanatical rituals as the subject of his faith stories, two works on religion contrasts. Dennis Rito continues with his visual investigation of Filipino identity by way of faith with his Sacred Spaces. While yours truly, have been documenting masses in unlikely venues in the work, The New Cathedrals. These two works prefer to view religion not as spectacle but as how it has pervaded the everyday life. The latter work is also a commentary on the consumerist lifestyle of the Filipinos.

There you have it. Seven new works by seven Filipino photographers on new Philippine Photography.