Arts & Culture

Inside This Year's Special Photography Section at Art Fair Philippines

Art Fair's new section devoted entirely to photography is worth a visit.
IMAGE PAOLO CHUA
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This year, Art Fair Philippines highlights photography through ARTFAIRPH/PHOTO. An entire section is devoted to the under-recognized medium to “increase awareness for photography as a form of contemporary art,” say the fair organizers who hope to expand photography’s collectability among Filipinos.

One of the first exhibits you’ll see in the area is Neal Oshima’s Kin. The award-winning photographer, who played a vital part in the section, explains how ARTFAIRPH/PHOTO started.


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Neil Oshima's Kin

“I was asked to do a special exhibit. And then I ended up offering to do a co-curated show, which is Provocations, with Angel Shaw. It was a really interesting experience,” says Oshima.

Kin presents Oshima’s fascination with the B’laan, an ethnic group from southern Mindanao. “I’ve been photographing the Austronesian tribes in the Philippines—Ivatans, Igorots, various hill tribes in Mindanao—for decades. It’s sort of a, not a retrospective, some are fairly recent but some are from the late ‘80s up to the year 2000s,” he says.


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Bo'i Diwa Ofung, Dreamweaver (2000) by Neil Oshimi

“The [exhibit’s] theme is really about these connections between people and what creates kinship and what creates a tribe—affinity and things that relate us as a people. At the same time, I’m trying to explore my own empathy and relationship. Why do I keep photographing these people? What do I find so fascinating? ‘Cause even when I was young in Hawaii, I photographed a lot of the Polynesians,” the artist shares.

Oshima also thinks Kin is a great way to show Filipinos how these tribes are distinct. “I want to see people develop some kind of understanding of the Austronesian cultures. I think it’s important for contemporary Filipinos to recognize these linkages. Maybe the idea of being Filipino is more complex than just the lowland areas and cultures,” he says.


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Reynas Delas Flores: Manila Golden Gays by Geloy Concepcion, Provocations

Meanwhile, Provocations compiles 14 photographers and their extended form documentaries. Those part of the exhibit—photojournalists, photographers, and artists—includes Jes Aznar, Alex Baluyut, Nana Buxani, Geloy Concepcion, Kawayan de Guia, RJ Fernandez, Carlo Gabuco, Paco Guerrero, Tommy Hafalla, Marta Lavina, Kat Palasi, Jose Enrique Soriano, Veejay Villafranca, and Boy Yñiguez.

The work of Weegee is also exhibited through the International Center of Photography. Prints from the 1930s to the 1940s showcase the photographer’s signature style of “seizing the moment” whose scenes like “the aftermath of street crime, gaudy gloss of society, abandon of laughing children, and kissing couples” have become historic in the field of photojournalism.


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Lovers at the Palace Theater (1945) by Weegee


A photo by Eduardo Masferré, Mabini Projects

The photography section houses one of the most talked about exhibits in Art Fair, Ang Mga Walang Pangalan, which covers the extrajudicial killings around the country and those who are directly affected by it. Curated by Erwin Romulo, with photography by Carlo Gabuco, music by Juan Miguel Sobrepeña, and lighting design by Lyle Sacris, the provocative and chilling exhibit features a photo wall depicting the bloody aftermath of the president’s war on drugs.

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The Last Tattooed Women of Kalinga by Jake Versoza presents a series of portraits that show the dying art of tattooing in Northern Philippines. The Kalinga women, including the legendary Whang-Od, have worn tattoos for nearly a thousand years. By capturing these images, Versoza ponders and laments the loss of the intricate ritual due to changing aesthetic perceptions.


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Whang-Od by Jake Versoza


Confabulation (2017) by Wawi Navarroza, Silverlens

Mabini Projects presents the work of Filipino-Catalan photographer Eduardo Masferré, and his work capturing the Cordilleran natives’ lifestyle. During the VIP preview, the entire Masferré collection was immediately picked up by an art collector. There’s also a Silverlens’ photography exhibit that features work by Wawi Navarroza, Frank Callaghan, Teodulo Protomartir, Johann Espiritu, Gina Osterloh, and Yee I-Lann. Street photographer Teodulo Protomartir captured images of a battlescarred city during Manila's liberation in 1946. Particularly moving is an image of the American flag being lowered and the Philippine flag being raised.

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Oshima notes, “One of the good things about Art Fair this year is that they were able to get Julius Baer, an investment firm that has a huge collection of photography, to sponsor this photo section. And the Art Fair organizers felt that photography wasn’t getting enough credibility and interest as an art form, and the wanted to push it out there. It’s been very successful, and we’re getting a good response.”

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About The Author
Paolo Chua
Paolo Chua is a style writer based in Manila. He writes about fashion, trends, shopping, current news, and more for Townandcountry.ph.
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