Filipino Photojournalists on Working in a Post-Truth World
They're the unseen men behind some of the most memorable, the most haunting, the most controversial photos in media today. We talk to the country's top photojournalists about life and work in the post-truth world.
FRANCISCO GUERRERO: Introductions first. Who are you, what do you do?
CARLO GABUCO: I’m Carlo Gabuco, I’m a visual artist.
CARSTEN STORMER: But you’re not a visual artist anymore.
GABUCO: I know! I still can’t consider myself a photojournalist, but I’m doing this to document the ongoing war on drugs. I want to see the effects, what it’s doing to the society, the community, the families of those who have been affected by it. That’s what I’m trying to explore as of the moment.
EDWIN TUYAY: My name is Edwin Tuyay. I’m an old man already. I used to be a pornographer (laughs). I did a lot of shoots for FHM, 13 years at AsiaWeek magazine of course, as a staff photographer. Then I retired. Freelance—I still shoot freelance. I shoot everything.
VEEJAY VILLAFRANCA: I’m Veejay Villafranca, photographer. Freelance now for about eight years. Staff photographer before for the Philippines Graphic, covering news. And then I focused on different issues, personal projects that I started, [which I do] until today.
STORMER: Carsten Stormer; I’m a German journalist, a senior correspondent for a German news agency. I’m a writer and a filmmaker, and I’ve been living in the Philippines for nine years and been extremely busy for the last seven.
GUERRERO: Okay, I’m going to go back to what Carlo said: ‘I’m a visual artist, and I don’t call myself a photojournalist.’ Why do you define yourself as not a photojournalist, even though your work could be considered photojournalism?
GABUCO: Because I’m not trained as a photojournalist. I love photography. I’ve been doing photography since I was in college. My paintings are inspired by photography. I just want to be out there. I cannot be in my studio, working on paintings, I’d be stuck there for weeks. I don’t see everything happening outside; I want to see everything move forward in front of my eyes. For me, it’s curiosity, I guess.
GUERRERO: Does it go back to that idea of witnessing? Or is that too much of a clichéd idea?
STORMER: I think that’s what journalism is about. It doesn’t matter if it’s photojournalism—I think [the mission of] journalism in general is to be accurate and truthful. You can be biased to a certain extent, as long as you’re truthful and not faking anything.
GUERRERO: What’s the difference, though? What’s the difference between biased and truthful? Because I think a lot of people can’t make that distinction. If you’re biased, it can’t be the truth.
STORMER: Look at the situation of the Philippines at the moment. I think everyone covers the drug war. I think everyone agrees that no one is against fighting drugs. But a lot of people disagree on how it’s executed. And you can be against killing, but still be journalistically unbiased at the same time—personally have a clear stance that killing is the wrong answer.
VILLAFRANCA: Photojournalism in the Philippines is fairly young compared to other countries. It was in the last maybe ten, 15 years that it’s started to shape up, and it started to have its own identity, if I may say. What also I think is not discussed much nowadays is how photographs—especially news photographs—tell stories. It’s supposed to give the viewers a hint of, or the basic facts of what’s happening on the ground. And it’s usually up to the viewers to decide on what they want to believe. It depends on [the viewer’s] personal biases as well. But also, [the work is] supposed to spark debate or a discussion. That’s the role of photography in this kind of setting. Especially when the drug war pictures started to be published, everyone was saying [the photographs were] biased, that they were staged, [that the photographer] has political inclinations. Yes and no, but generally, a photograph is supposed to tell you what’s happening on the ground, no matter how it is framed, published, or printed.
GUERRERO: Whether the reader likes it or not, this happened last night.
VILLAFRANCA: And also that’s one part of photojournalism that’s still strong now—I mean, that’s supposed to be strengthened: it’s two disciplines fused together: journalism and photography.
STORMER: I don’t think there’s a difference. You have to have the same principles and standards whether you’re a photographer or a writer.
GUERRERO: Maybe Veejay is speaking to the skill set—knowing how to use the tools, the camera instead of the pen.
TUYAY: The setting now is very different from ten years ago. We are very—ano ba tawag d’un—polarized.
VILLAFRANCA: Super polarized.
STORMER: Not only in the Philippines. Globally.
TUYAY: Globally. Even Europe, right? So three days ago, I shared this photo by Linus Escandor [who photographed a story on extrajudicial killings for CNN International]. I know the photographer, I know the writer. Then one Duterte supporter told me, lectured me, that ‘you should distinguish which is fake or not.’ You know what I did? I didn’t make any fuss. I just blocked him and removed his comment.
GUERRERO: I mean, it must be hard for someone who’s been practicing photojournalism for so long, for someone to come around and say…
TUYAY: Oo, lelecturan mo ako? (laughs)
VILLAFRANCA: But I guess there didn’t use to be discussion. There’s no platform for people to react to the images, and to question their integrity.
TUYAY: There was no social networking then.
GUERRERO: Carlo, you’ve been very active recently with the extrajudicial killing coverage. As a photographer, have you been accused of faking a photograph?
GABUCO: Not yet. But I’m curious and bothered at the same time—every night you show pictures of killings and this and this… and still they say it’s fake news, it’s biased.
GUERRERO: Well, to play devil’s advocate, the World Press Photo competition, which is the mecca of photojournalism, has found [fake photographs] within prize categories. How does one defend photojournalism?
GABUCO: What I’m saying kasi sa EJK, it’s not just me on the scene. Carsten’s there. Linus is there. Dondi [Tawatao] is there. A lot of photographers are there, to see the same subject, but just different angles. So how can you fake that? How is that not true? So that still bothers me.
STORMER: I wish we were paid so much that we would actually be able to stage a fake! (laughs)
GABUCO: It’s frustrating, [but I think] it’s our responsibility. If people don’t believe you, it’s still your responsibility as the image-maker. Maybe you didn’t present it right, or maybe you did something…I cannot speak for everyone, because I’m not trained to do this—I’m just there. I just see it.
I think we’re living in a time, globally, where the importance of journalism can’t be underestimated. It shows how important it is for journalists to be there and report.
STORMER: I think we’re living in a time, globally, where the importance of journalism can’t be underestimated. It shows how important it is for journalists to be there and report, and despite all the opposition of these people claiming that they are fake news, that photographers stage [photos]. Unfortunately, it does happen to a very, very minor extent. But I’ve hardly seen more integrity in journalism than here. It’s quite incredible.
GUERRERO: So you’re saying that the general Philippine press—media, photographers, writers, TV journalists— has stepped up.
STORMER: I don’t know so much about TV journalism. But I know writers here, and I know photographers. It’s very hard to fake news. Like what Carlo said, we’re not the only ones there. There are dozens of people there, local and international. So if someone comes up with a fake story, there would be a lot of opposition from other people who would be at the same spot and can say “it’s not true, this is what happened.”
GUERRERO: If I could speak, for example, again to the fake awarded stories: people do raise their hands and say no. He got caught.
STORMER: It comes from the industry—it comes from photographers saying this guy has fake news.
GUERRERO: We’re policing ourselves. I don’t think people realize how much of an accusation it is to come up to a photojournalist and say “Oh, you faked that, that’s fake news.” That really hits the core.
STORMER: Oh absolutely. It hurts my integrity. If someone is faking a story, it falls back on my reputation as well. I would be the first one to say that, if I knew about someone faking a story, I would be the first one to speak up.
GUERRERO: Which, I guess is hard for people to believe, they think we’re all protecting each other. Which isn’t the case.
STORMER: No, why would I protect someone who’s hurting my livelihood?
TUYAY: You remember that picture of Raffy Lerma? The “Pieta”? No less than the president accused Lerma of staging it.
STORMER: With hundreds of witnesses? Using drones and everything.
TUYAY: You know this advertising guy Dennis Garcia? He was a composer—a member of Hotdog, top advertising guy. He’s the one who told the public that the photographers staged it. You know, sanay siya sa advertising, eh. So he thought that, because of the lights, that it was staged. He didn’t know that the lights there were coming from the TV crew, from the vehicles.
VILLAFRANCA: Maybe if that happened predigital, it might be harder to come up with the same image, because of technology. But now all the digital cameras—you can shoot 10,000 ISO. It will blow out the same. Siguro ’yung idea of misrepresentation or fakery, d’un nanggagaling, because of the technical aspect.
TUYAY: That’s why I answered Dennis. [I said] Bullshit, this is not advertising.
GABUCO: Actually that’s the danger nga every night, when we go out. There’s this seductive light, this seductive feeling—I know it’s wrong to say this, but everything is just… the lights, the corpse...
GUERRERO: It’s dramatic.
STORMER: Very dramatic.
GUERRERO: That’s the strength of the work. It’s a dramatic situation with dramatic light.
TUYAY: With your high-end camera nowadays, even the mirrorless camera...
VILLAFRANCA: Even just a hint of light.
GABUCO: Even with your iPhone, you can capture that.
GUERRERO: But I think the questioning of, let’s take a photograph, who’s taking the photograph is also because of that phrase, “everybody’s a photographer.” Everybody has taken their selfies, everyone has taken a picture of something and then Instagram-filtered it or warped their wide waist. Everybody feels capable of faking an image. So they also think, well, why not these professionals with all the tools in the world? Now, how do we fight against it? How do we keep the integrity and say, this is what we do, this is the reality—you might not like the reality that we’re photographing, but this is what’s happening.
VILLAFRANCA: There are several ways, I think. Engaging them would be one, but that takes a lot of time. I mean we hardly have any time already for ourselves. You go to the comments section and, damn! That’s a black hole right there!
STORMER: You can’t discuss with those people. They are resistant to facts and arguments. You can’t.
GUERRERO: Maybe we want to bring it to the day-to-day too: I mean I read a lot of these comments on Raffy’s photographs. I think people believe that you just show up, get out of the cab, go click-click and get back in the car, and you’re done. But what’s the day like?
VILLAFRANCA: It depends. Like me, I work on long-term projects. For example, my project on the gangs of Baseco. This was pre-EJK, and they were already in that scenario. They were trying to get out of drugs, poverty, all that. I committed to it, at first as a personal project and as a school project. But then afterwards it snowballed into something like a real-world project.
GUERRERO: Again, I’m trying to stress the fact that you don’t just show up take a picture and you’re gone.
VILLAFRANCA: Ah, no. [In the beginning] I hardly took any pictures. I took pictures of Baseco. Baseco is like our photographer’s go-to place for several issues—poverty, environment, organ-selling and all that. And then I met these people. But it took me four, five months before I could talk to them. When I was able to actually talk to the guys, then that started my dialogue with them. I would go there just to hang out with them. And yeah, it took me around two years before I could come up with the edit that I felt comfortable with.
GUERRERO: Wait, this is something again that I think that people aren’t aware of: that you actually build a relationship with your subjects in the course of your work. You interview, you talk to people, you’re taking photographs of someone’s home. There’s a relationship there—or a rapport, more than a relationship.
TUYAY: That’s one of the requirements of photojournalism. You have to engage your subjects.
STORMER: And it takes time, I mean, you’re entering people’s lives. They are opening up to you.
TUYAY: It’s hard to penetrate.
VILLAFRANCA: Basically you’re uninvited, eh.
TUYAY: Yeah, especially when a family is mourning and then you barge in? ‘How do you feel, ma’am?’
STORMER: I think that was the main difference between sincere journalism and for example, TV. And you see it here a lot when someone gets killed and they’re still at the crime scene, they’re horrified that they lost their relatives, and suddenly they have bright lights in their face and someone goes, ‘How do you feel?’
GUERRERO: But this is the negative perception of the mainstream media: microphone shoved in your face.
STORMER: I really disagree with this kind of behavior, because I think it’s wrong. We take pictures from behind or stay in the back. Or I would go back the next day or several days after, introduce myself, maybe come back again, and then sit down with them, when they’re not like in the worst moment of their lives to ask silly random questions like, ‘How do you feel? I’m Carsten, by the way.’
Villafranca: How do we engage these people about fakery—they don’t understand the responsibility that comes along with the job. Everyone will leave, all the news crew will fade out, but then [there are some photojournalists who stay with the story]
VILLAFRANCA: That’s actually the part of the job that hardly gets [attention]…you know, nobody notices that. Because you bear the brunt of this responsibility. And I think—going back to your question, how do we engage these people about fakery—they don’t understand the responsibility that comes along with the job. Everyone will leave, all the news crew will fade out, but then [there are some photojournalists who stay with the story]. Recently, one of the main guys that I photographed messaged me, ‘Hey, I’m in Baseco, you might want to meet.’ I went there, you know, just to keep in touch with them. [I’d been keeping in touch with them] for the longest time—it’s been ten years since I did that project, in 2007—so there is constant communication. The people that I’ve photographed, say, after Yolanda or after several other typhoons, it’s the same: Sometimes they’d text, like, ‘Sir, wala kaming pang gatas,’ or ‘Nasira ‘yung bahay ko,’ or ‘My daughter or my son is in the hospital.’ How do you respond? You can only do so much.
TUYAY: You know, I envy these three guys, because they have these long-term projects. All my pictures were from assignments.
GUERRERO: But still, that sense of responsibility—nand’un rin, regardless of the duration.
TUYAY: Yeah, it’s part of the training. You have to engage, start a relationship, just like what Veejay was saying: you have to come back.
GUERRERO: But you know the engagement can happen over months, years, or minutes. It’s about intensity of engagement rather than duration. Would that be a fair statement?
STORMER: Sometimes you’re lucky and you have weeks or even months to uncover something. That really depends on you. You have to be able to empathize quickly and establish the trust very quickly and be able to enter people’s lives. You’re breaking in someone’s life, and you have to make them understand that you are not exploiting them but you actually want to tell what happened to them.
GUERRERO: I’m sure some of you worked in the Yolanda area. I was doing a workshop about what’s it like on the field, and I asked: Imagine that your house just got flooded, four of your family members have just died, and all of a sudden four photographers show up to your house. What do you do? Do you speak? It sort of brings it back home, because their bravery and their courage to share these stories is also something, I think, that’s overlooked. A lot of people think that, oh, it’s in their self-interest. Is it really, or is that part of the relationship now? [These people are] probably at the worst days of their lives and they’re trying to tell this story of what happened to them.
GABUCO: I think for me—I’ve realized this recently—there’s this moment, like what Carsten was trying to say, this moment, you’re in front of a grieving wife or a mother, you have to give them a moment to process everything and settle in. And you have to give yourself that moment to [process] how you’re going to present it, how you’re going to treat it, how you talk to them, everything. If you’re building that relationship, it’s not just them that needs to settle in. It’s you as well—as the start, as the voice, as the conduit. Again, it comes down to responsibility.
STORMER: You’re giving them a voice. And they are willing to take that opportunity. And that comes with enormous responsibility. You’re responsible to the people you’re covering, but also to your readers and viewers, to do the best of your abilities, to report accurately.
GUERRERO: How have these past months affected you professionally or personally? Like it or not, as journalists, we’re used to photographing something that’s happening to somebody else. But this, this is our home. We live here. This is our backyard. How has it affected you on a day-to-day basis? How has it affected your work?
VILLAFRANCA: I skipped the whole drug war thing, but generally covering news or issues is quite taxing at some point. Whether you have a family or not, professionally, since the jobs or assignments [are] also getting scarce, add that to the fact that foreign journalists and photographers are coming in. I take it day by day, as long as I find ways to continue my work.
Veejay Villafranca is a recipient of the 2008 Ian Parry Grant for his work in Baseco.
STORMER: I just don’t like people ending up dead at my doorstep. I really find it offensive. I find it rather scary that there is a huge consent in the population that it’s all right that so many people get killed. I think everyone can agree that fighting drugs is a good thing; it’s a necessary thing. Drugs are an evil menace to society [but] I find it very worrying that due process is abhorred.
GUERRERO: Especially for Carsten: You fly around the world. I mean, is there a bit more importanceor urgency to your work when you work locally?
STORMER: It’s not really a factor. It becomes more important because it is your home, yes. But the importance—I work a lot in the Middle East, I find it as important when this is happening at home. So yeah, I find it frightening.
Everything will sink in. The trauma, you will experience during the shoot, but you’re blind, you don’t hear anything, you do your job. But when you come home to your family, that’s when everything will sink in.
TUYAY: Well, everything will sink in. The trauma, you will experience, of course, during the shoot. [But] you’re blind, you don’t hear anything, you just keep on doing your job. But when you come home to your family, that’s the time when everything will sink in. And you’ll be worried, what if somebody, one of my friends next door will end up dead tomorrow morning? That’s scary.
STORMER: I’m very careful because I’m not a local. I live here, I’m very happy to live here, but I’ve been living here for nine years, and there’s a reason. I’ve never experienced that level of fear within people. I think this is a shocking development within the society. If someone had told me a year ago that Filipinos are capable of accepting many people ending up dead, I would’ve said no way.
VILLAFRANCA: I was sitting with Carlo two days ago—we were having coffee, then he got a call from his network of the nightcrawlers—the guys that cover EJKs—that there was a raid right across my house. Well, my house is in a compound, but opposite it is a marginalized community, a settlement. And the PDEA guys did a raid there, 20 people got arrested. And that area’s been on my radar. I want to do something in that area, but I cannot, because it’s too close. The proximity is very close to my house. If I go inside and ask around, and I go back, they see me enter my compound, they would be like, ‘That guy is an intel.’
STORMER: I think this is one of the reasons why there is so much indifference at the moment: Because it doesn’t hit home for most people. Killings happen at night—not even that far away—but they happen at night, and when people wake up, the body is gone. It’s cleared. And it mostly happens in poor areas. It doesn’t happen in Dasmariñas Village. It doesn’t happen in Forbes Park. So people who could make a difference, they are not affected.
GUERRERO: But isn’t that the job of the photograph? Isn’t that its job to say look, it’s right here. This is it. This happened last night while you were asleep.
TUYAY: It doesn’t affect people anymore.
STORMER: I disagree. I think what the local journalists have achieved here with the drug war, I think without the photographers, the local photographers, this story would not have been that big, would not reach international news. Because of the quality and dedication of local journalists, the story has become so big. Now foreign journalists know about what’s going on. It’s like, why do people go to places like Payatas, Caloocan, Navotas? You don’t go to have fun.
GABUCO: I try to avoid working in Mandaluyong [where I live], but something’s always going on in Mandaluyong. Like there was this one time, I was doing a follow-up interview with this family near my house. It was a Monday, and Mondays are usually busy—usually a lot of killings happen on a Monday. I was doing an interview, then after that, I was planning to go to Manila Police District. I was doing an interview, I was wrapping up, then there’s this woman who approached me. She just said she saw a riding-in-tandem, wearing masks. They were all sure [that they] were the killers. Minutes after, a boy approached us, said someone got shot. I ran there. And yeah, there’s this guy, tricycle driver, his brain was splattered on the street. So many people there. There were witnesses. There are things that you cannot really avoid, but it’s scary whenever you go home at night. It scared the shit out of me. Like, Veejay—I was with Veejay the other day, I was telling him, always check your six.
GUERRERO: We don’t live in the safest country for journalists. A radio talk show journalist was killed in the province, and nobody really cares. It definitely speaks to the efficacy of the medium that so many people are against [our work]; so many people are calling out, ‘No, it’s fake, it’s fake.’ It definitely is hitting home. If it didn’t, people wouldn’t even care.
STORMER: Thing is, I understand where it comes from. People are fed up with the status quo in the Philippines. People don’t want to live in poverty, in corruption, in chaos anymore. So I think that’s what marched Duterte to power. So I understand where it comes from.
GABUCO: Basically, fear corrupts everything.
Photographs of Aleppo, Syria
STORMER: And, you know I’m not a Duterte supporter, I wouldn’t be if I was Filipino. But I think this guy actually genuinely wants to change your country. I think he’s very much mistaken about how he wants to achieve it. But when it comes to threats to journalists—I don’t think this administration would threaten journalists or have journalists killed. But who knows? There are people within the administration, within the police, or within drug syndicates who are certainly not happy with the amount of attention this is getting. And that’s scary.
TUYAY: That’s quite scary, yeah… from the syndicates. Mahirap ‘yun pag ikaw na-target. Just like what happened in Colombia, and Mexico.
STORMER: By these so-called vigilantes. There are no vigilantes here. But there are assassins.
VILLAFRANCA: There’s one photojournalist who was killed in the line of duty [in 2004]. His name is Gene Boyd Lumawag. He was actually the son of the president’s photographer. He was based in Davao, and had been covering Mindanao a lot. They went to Jolo with MindaNews—one of the biggest, most credible news outlets in Mindanao. And he was just shooting a sunset on the Jolo pier and he was shot at the back of his head.
TUYAY: Very young, at the age of 26.
GUERRERO: What are you working on now? What’s the next story that you’re working on that needs to be told?
STORMER: I think the challenge for Filipino journalists is to keep the story in the news. I find it already very much incredible that it has been breaking news for so long, internationally and locally. I think the biggest challenge is to keep it in the news.
GABUCO: During Martial Law, we didn’t have any solid photo books. That’s why now there are so many revisionists, apologists. This didn’t happen, where are the photographs?
GABUCO: During Martial Law, we didn’t have any solid photo books. That’s why now there are so many revisionists, apologists. This didn’t happen, where are the photographs?
VILLAFRANCA: There are, actually. Pero they hardly circulated.
GABUCO: You need to have solid publication, books, to prove that it did happen, that we went through this.
TUYAY: Next week I’ll embark [on] a project for the Japan International Cooperation Agency, all over Philippines. To pay the rent (laughs). I’m just waiting for an assignment. [It’s] funny that you mentioned Yolanda, I didn’t get any assignment from that incident. All they want is, ‘Can you do video?’ I realize I need to learn multimedia.
VILLAFRANCA: I’m working on the climate refugee book. It’s supposed to be out this year. So I’ve been at that issue, that story for like six, seven years now. There’s so many stories after. One reason why I kept going at it is just the science of it actually [drives away] the people…That became a challenge for me. That and also I’ve been trying to work with other photographers on trying to establish baseline information about Philippine photography in general. This is, I think, my way of—not naman combating fake news—but to establish what photojournalism really is in the Philippines. Because from the time of Sir Edwin and even the guys before that, [photojournalists] kept working, through the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s. And then a lot of them, their archives have been on the shelf. Sonny Yabao, Alex Baluyut, Derek Soriano…
GUERRERO: Photography is a very popular thing to pick up as a hobby. I think the younger generation needs to realize that, if you want to do this professionally, you have to make a living—but with ethics. You can’t be a practitioner and not have any ethics. The next step is, are people going to pay for your photos?
VILLAFRANCA: I kind of changed track with how I run my own personal workfl ow. I hardly rely on the waiting assignments. So I pitch, and since I work on long-term projects, because I want this project to be envisioned, to come into fruition. So I approach possible funders, grants. I pitched consistently after I went freelance in 2006 or 2007. Every day ‘yan, pre-social media.
TUYAY: What was the result?
VILLAFRANCA: Ah, wala—99 percent [of the time], hardly anyone answers.
STORMER: But that one percent pays the bills.
VILLAFRANCA: Sometimes it did!
STORMER: As long as you don’t compromise your work ethics. Like, I would never take an assignment for advertising. I wouldn’t compromise my integrity for money. But then again, I’m very, very lucky. I’m a trained writer, but I do mostly films now, because it funds my writing. I don’t rely on the payments anymore for the stories.
VILLAFRANCA: I think with photographers now, the business model should be questioned—or not questioned, but challenged.
Carlo Gabuco recently won a Magnum Foundation grant for his project "Less Than Human" which chronicles President Duterte's drug war through the eyes of affected children.
STORMER: And I think that’s where fake news comes from. You’re kind of staging stories. If you get paid 500 euros for a story where you work on a month or two months, it doesn’t make sense. You have to come up with something. Some people might think ‘Oh, I’m going to come up with something just to pay the bills.’ Quality does require funding. That’s as simple as it gets. You want to have quality journalism, you have to pay for that. And that goes for the editors, that goes as well for the readers—you can’t expect free news, and…well, we don’t work for free. It’s our livelihood. My kid wants to eat, my kid wants to go to school. This is my job. I have to get paid.
GUERRERO: Edwin, you’ve gone from staff to freelance.
TUYAY: It’s hard being a freelancer. But I do a lot of stuff, corporate, wedding, (laughs), the works. So right now, I hardly work on any hard news.
GUERRERO: And yet your portrait of Duterte was a cover.
TUYAY: Yeah, Time magazine bought it for one time use.
GUERRERO: But that was stock, you shot it before, you weren’t on assignment.
TUYAY: Yeah, I told them that it was an old photo. Still, they asked me to view. Then they liked that particular shot. They asked me to convert it to black and white. The rate was $1,500. I asked the editor, “Why that low?” Because they used to pay me $2,000 for a cover. Even Newsweek, they pay $2,000. They told me because subscriptions are going down.
GUERRERO: You said quality costs money, but my question then is: Who’s asking for quality anymore?
STORMER: By ‘quality,’ I mean truthful journalism. Not only getting the truth out; it’s really the truth in a journalistic kind of way. It has to be well-written, it has to be well-photographed. It takes a lot of time to get the access. You have to pay a lot of people, you have to pay the fixers, the driver, the car, whatever. I just did a film in [Iran] and just to do the film cost the company 20,000 euros.
GUERRERO: I might overstep my boundaries over here, but I’ve heard of stories of journalists selling out: writing politically biased news reports, because they have to pay for the bills. You know, people are handed envelopes, saying hey look, you’re getting paid five pesos per word—I have no idea what their rate is—but if you write it this way, here’s an envelope, just write it.
TUYAY: Worldwide naman ’yan, eh.
GUERRERO: I mean if you pay your journalists well, they might end up being uncorrupt.
VILLAFRANCA: I think there are political biases also, and their lineages, and personal biases would make them switch—of course the money.
STORMER: Well, why do you become a journalist in the first place? It’s like, you’re an idealist. You certainly don’t go into journalism to get rich. It’s a privilege to see history unfold in front of your eyes. It’s a real privilege. But you don’t choose to for the money.
GUERRERO: I think with privilege comes responsibility. I think we’ve all been in situations where—I have been in situations where I don’t take a photograph, because I know that that’s not ethically correct to do that.
Edwin Tuyay's most well-known recent work is a portrait of President Duterte for Asian Dragon magazine, which was also used by Time.
STORMER: I have an example. I was working in Mindanao, in 2008, I think. And there were five kids who had been killed by the Philippine Army. It was an accident, but I had the pictures. I decided not to show it in the Philippines, because I knew either side, whether it’s MILF or the Philippine Army, would use it for...
STORMER: So I decided not show them.
VILLAFRANCA: I think it’s still personal. It’s the choice of the author. Either you’re a print journalist or a photographer. There goes integrity. Going back to your earlier question: how do you keep these things, how do we combat these fake news and all that? Keep your integrity intact, keep doing what you do, cover either the drug war, climate change, keep doing editorial assignments, it’s your work that will define it.
STORMER: And with that comes success.
VILLAFRANCA: Hopefully, success.
GUERRERO: With luck.
TUYAY: It’s a long journey, but...
STORMER: With a little bit of luck, if you produce quality work with integrity, you will be successful.