February 19, 2010, Friday
There is nothing in the world more interesting than people. And documentary photographers, Tammy David, Jake Verzosa and Veejay Villafranca know it.
Launching STRIP, a new annual photography show by Silverlens Gallery, are three young photographers who are all about documenting the here and the now. In a time when photojournalism has been replaced by video and live coverage of world events and everyday news, David, Verzosa and Villafranca hold on to the power a photograph has in telling a story. Their stories are still about bridging the gap between subject and audience, but this time with more emotion and revelation.
Pointing the camera at herself, David’s work, It takes an island; or how to be alone, is personal and honest. Her documentary is not the Kodak moment or the Facebook profile type; instead she rids of the picture perfect circumstances to reveal a part of her life story only a select few (if at all) have seen. She lays it out for us. She looks like that when she wakes up; she exercises in her bathtub; she has a habit of pulling her hair. No touch-ups and no styling, David invites the audience to look at her. Putting an honest face to documentary photography, she shows that the simple truth is as good and as relevant a story as any other.
Verzosa’s work entitled Communal Identity documents the different faces of the indigenous peoples of Southeast Asia- faces the world seldom gets to see, much less get to know about. Bearing witness to the living cultures of the region, Verzosa’s work records the details of the people’s everyday lives, from their clothes and chores, to their homes and landscapes. His ethnographic theme is strong, but is not limited to documenting the ‘other’. Also looking inward, Verzosa’s documentary makes it clear that the differences between people are circumstantial, and therefore not prime in understanding human nature. Everyday life is the same everywhere. There is routine; there is a need to make a living; and there is a want for expression.
Completing the trio is Villafranca, whose work, Marked: the gangs of Baseco, documents the story of the forgotten. Immersing himself in the world of the Baseco compound in Manila, which is rift in poverty, violence and stagnancy, Villafranca exposes the life of a gang member- from the rehabilitated ones seeking decent livelihoods to the compound’s children so vulnerable to the lures of gang life. Knowing his subjects are hardened to vulnerability and honesty, Villafranca spent much time with the gang members and acquainted himself with the neighborhood to reveal stories so potent and ripe with patience. Villafranca’s work witnesses the struggles the people of Baseco must face everyday to find dignity and acceptance, only to reveal that their story echoes throughout the world.
The work of David, Verzosa and Villafranca define the integral in documentary photography: accessibility is key. Forging a connection or relationship between subject and photographer, they strip the artificiality and manipulation this technological age has generated to highlight what is right there…such that in their case, exposure is much more than technical process of photography.
Image: (from left to right), Communal Identity by Jake Verzosa, Marked: The Gangs of Baseco by Veejay Villafranca, It Takes an Island; or How to be Alone by Tammy David