Photography as Art: See the Works of the Strangefruit Collective at This Year's Art Fair
Get some of the country’s top photographers together and talk naturally gravitates toward old “war” stories. Like that time Francisco “Paco” Guerrero was on his way to photograph the President of the Philippines in Malacañang and it was at that moment when one of his shoes decides to fall apart and give up on him. Or all the portraits and covers Jason Quibilan shot in his Shutterspace Studio in Quezon City. Or that time Raena Abella photographed one of the most powerful businessmen in the country—San Miguel Corp President and CEO Ramon Ang.
(By the way, all those were shot for the old print editions of Esquire Philippines).
But it’s been a year, to put it mildly, and, well, the stories from the past 12 months are a bit different but no less riveting. Edric Chen talks about the emotional impact of the stay-at-home orders, how, as a free spirit, it has severely disrupted his get-up-and-go ways. Jes Aznar discusses how the pandemic altered his plans of taking pictures of local cockfights and ultimately narrowing his focus towards the animals instead of the gamblers and spectators that congregate around them. And for Veejay Villafranca, the health crisis forced him to zero in and reflect on specific aspects of Filipino culture—religiosity and spirituality—that eventually became the focal point of his artwork at this year’s Art Fair Philippines.
“Photography was conspicuously low-key in previous Art Fairs,” Guerrero says. “Last year, with the help of Jason who brought the group together and the organizers of Art Fair, they finally gave photography a major space.”
The group he is talking about is Strangefruit, a collective of six photographers whose vision is to show “a broad spectrum of photo-based artworks highlighting the eccentricities of the Philippines.”
Guerrero says he reckons the exhibit on photographic works during last year’s Art Fair was the largest ever held in the country. It was about time.
But the current situation meant a sequel to the exhibit this year wasn’t a done deal. Thankfully, this year’s Art Fair is on, albeit with some major tweaks.
“We’re excited this year because…the whole thing is virtual,” Guerrero says. “It has the potential to reach a much wider audience. People who wouldn’t normally be able to go to the (Link) parking lot (the usual venue of Art Fair) and buy the entrance fee, can see the exhibits. So the potential is there for a much wider audience, which, for us photographers is what we want. For people to see this sort of work, which is different from the photographs we consume daily on Instagram.”
Not that the Strangefruit crew view themselves as better. Just…different.
“What’s important there is that everyone is starting to get involved in taking photographs and creating visuals,” Aznar says. “So everyone’s going to be visually literate, and that’s going to be good for professional photographers like us.”
He likens it to the moment when Gutenberg invented the printing press. “Everyone learned the alphabet and everyone learned how to write,” he says. “But not everyone is going to be a poet or a novelist.”
The Savior by Veejay Villafrancia
The Strangefruit exhibit is located at Shutterspace Studios, 175 Citigold Plaza, Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City.
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