The Art Fair Philippines that artists and art-enthusiasts flock to annually has presented a wide array of contemporary Philippine visual art, with few cameo roles by photography. This year, the sixth edition of Art Fair Philippines officially inaugurates the inclusion of ArtFairPH/PHOTO, a full section meant to increase awareness for photography as a form of contemporary art and to expand its collectibility among Filipinos. This new section is presented by Swiss private bank Julius Baer.
Opening on March 1 to 4, the Art Fair PH 2018’s ArtFairPH/PHOTO, highlights three renowned photographers in the Philippines and the Americas: Neal Oshima, one of the foremost practitioners in contemporary Philippine photography; Eduardo Masferré, a Filipino-Catalan photographer who documented Cordillera and its people; and Arthur “Weegee” Fellig, the iconic 20th century press photojournalist from the USA.
The three celebrated photographers’ works, along with a selection of photographs from the Julius Baer Art Collection, are showcased on The Link carpark’s 5th floor, where 18 other galleries are situated. A total of 54 galleries will be participating in Art Fair Philippines 2018, occupying the 5th to 7th floor.
Neal Oshima has long been fascinated with the way we classify, and whether or not the common thread that binds us would show itself in captured images. Oshima’s Kin exhibition at the ArtFairPH/PHOTO section brings Austronesians into focus, a folk linguistic group that includes tribal Filipinos.
In Oshima’s images, issues of land, tensions between past and progress lend a narrative backdrop to portraits shot during different periods and encounters, featuring the tribes of Bukidnon, Batanes, and Cotabato—all Austronesians, all kin. It is a visual tribute to tribes, across places and across generations, encountered through one man’s lens.
“Oshima’s oeuvre suggests that kin goes beyond the tribe and kinship beyond blood ties. This show presents 45 years exploring the overlapping relationships between kin and kinship,” according to curator Angel Velasco Shaw.
He also works with curator Angel Velasco Shaw for another exhibit, Provocations, marking Art Fair Philippines’ first exhibit dedicated to documentary photography.
Provocations gathers image-makers not affiliated with galleries to show the range of established and emerging documentary photographers: Jes Aznar, Nana Buxani, Geloy Concepcion, Tommy Hafalla, Carlo Gabuco, Kawayan de Guia, Paco Guerrero, RJ Fernandez, Jose Enrique Soriano, and Veejay Villafranca, among others.
Most of the works presented are the outcome of covering beats, of photojournalists pursuing stories in the field. Culled from the artist’s long-form narratives, photographers present an excerpt of stories unfolding in the course of years, put in dialogue with one another, all giving light to an aspect of Philippine culture.
ArtFairPH/PHOTO also features works of Filipino-Catalan photographer Eduardo Masferré, organized by 1335 Mabini. Masferré recorded in images the way of life of the indigenous people of the Cordillera Mountains such as the Bontok, Kankana-ey, Kalinga, Gaddang, and Ifugao from 1934 (at the age of 26) to 1956.
Half-Spanish and half-Kankana-ey, Masferré created an intimate portrait of the mountain and the life of its inhabitants, unparalleled by other photographers. This allowed him exclusive access to their rituals, ceremonies, and lifestyle.
Realizing the effects of modernization to the tribes, he set out to preserve timeless images of the lives of the indigenous people of the Philippine Cordilleras.
Arthur “Weegee” Fellig
The photography section also highlights a selection of Arthur Fellig’s photographs from the 1930s to the 1940s, with loans from the collection of New York-based International Center of Photography (ICP). Weegee’s works in exhibition provide a chapter in the historical arc of photojournalism, sampling images that evidence the iconic photographer’s standard-setting eye for sensational images.
ICP Collections Manager James Kopp will provide a presentation on Weegee for more insights on his works and an introduction on the history of ICP, the world’s leading institution dedicated to photography and visual culture. He will be joined by Philippine photojournalists Ezra Acayan and Raffy Lerma for a discussion of their coverage of the night beat and the critical importance of the camera in bearing witness and keeping a visual record of events. Both Acayan and Lerma are members of an informal collective of photojournalists formed in the early months of the Philippine drug war.
“With the interesting selection and body of works that will be presented in the inaugural year of ArtFairPH/PHOTO, we are excited to see how photography will continue to find its place in our local art scene,” said Lisa Periquet, one of the fair’s co-founders.
About the photographers
Neal Oshima – Neal Oshima has spent more than four decades photographing indigenous tribes and traditions, tapping the capacity of the medium as a data-gathering tool to examine culture. A prolific photographer whose body of work encompasses advertising, editorial, and documentary photography, Oshima upholds the belief that cultural practices are revealed through the nuances of a photograph.
Eduardo Masferré (1909-1995) – A Filipino-Catalan photographer who primarily documented the lives of the Cordillera people in the middle of the 20th century. In 1989 he was invited to exhibit his works at the world’s most prestigious photographic exhibition: Les Recontres International de La Photographie, in Arles, France.
His photographs have been exhibited since the late eighties, including in the Philippines, Copenhagen, and Tokyo. A book of his life and photographs titled People of the Philippines Cordillera. Photographs 1934-1956 was published in 1988.
Arthur “Weegee” Fellig (1899-1968) – Weegee, a self-taught photographer, is most known for his stark black and white street photography that capture the sordid aftermath of street crime. He based his work around police headquarters in New York, selling his photos of news events to publications such as New York Post, Herald Tribune, and Daily News. His nickname, a phonetic spelling of the board game Ouija, was a reference to his uncanny ability to arrive at crime scenes with his camera ahead of the police.
He eventually developed a broader scope for his work to include photographs of movie stars
and their stylish night-outs, the day-to- day lives of street-dwelling New Yorkers, and intimate encounters among people.
His career in photography, which started when he was 14 years old, earned the respect not only of his colleagues in the media but also of the fine-art community. His photographs began appearing outside the mainstream press in the 1940s when the Museum of Modern Art started collecting and exhibiting his work in 1943.