Seeing faces outside the screen

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AFTER nearly two years of staring at people on screens during the prolonged isolation forced by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the Metro Manila-based photographers’ collective FotomotoPH saw that portraits were a fitting theme for this year’s exhibition.

“We thought that it would be refreshing for people coming out of the lockdown to start seeing faces,” Jason Quibilan, one of the collectives’ founding members, said in a video about the exhibit — “Fotomoto21: Portraits” — posted on the group’s social media accounts.

“[Portraits] celebrate human beings especially since we have not seen each other for such a long time,” said Raena Abella in the same video.

“Faces also represent primary ways in which we interact with each other,” another member, Edric L. Chen, added.

The exhibition is presented in partnership with Shutterspace Studios, Inc. and the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde’s Arts Management program.

The exhibition is scattered around the metro, with each participating venue showing a unique set of images, with some venues showing the photographs until the end of the year while others will be open to public until early 2022.

The main exhibition venues are Kondwi PH in Makati City, Manila House in Bonifacio Global City, and The Alley at Karrivin Plaza along Chino Roces Ext., Makati. Other participating venues are Le Petite Café Fleur, OTO, Spirits Library, Commune, FUTUR:ST, La Collina, and Agimat at Ugat in Poblacion, Makati.

BusinessWorld spoke to several members of Fotomoto — Edric Chen, Apa Ongpin, Neal Oshima, Raena Abella, and Jes Aznar — in a group interview via Zoom in November. They explained that the group decided to explore the idea of using multiple venues to get a diverse group of exhibitors.

They invited photographers and asked them to recommend other people that they knew in Manila and in the provinces “who were doing interesting work.”

For “Fotomoto 21: Portraits,” over 100 Filipino and Philippines-based photographers (professionals and photojournalists), as well as artists, amateurs and hobbyists took part. From about 500 submissions, the selection was narrowed down to 300. The images were taken using professional, smartphone, and Polaroid cameras.

These include works by Fotomoto founding members Jes Aznar, Raena Abella, Edric Chen, Tom Epperson, Paco Guerrero, Miguel Nacianceno, RJ Fernandez, Wawi Navarroza, Apa Ongpin, Neal Oshima, Sandra Palomar, Gio Panlilio, Jason Quibilan, Jake Verzosa, and Veejay Villafranca.

One of the founding members, Mr. Ongpin said that photography has been democratized because of technology.

“The phone gives [people the] capability to take great photographs, or at least very good ones, with comparatively little effort or understanding of the process… So, the number of images that are produced in the world today has exploded exponentially,” Mr. Ongpin said in the interview.

“Then it became clear that just because it was easy technologically, great photography actually stands out,” he said, adding that great photos are those that can tell stories, and connect with the viewer.

Part of Fotomoto’s plans is to mount an exhibition annually as a festival celebrating Philippine photography, eventually extending well beyond Metro Manila. This week, its regional iteration opened at PFAStudios in Dumaguete featuring the works of Paris-based artist Ryan Arbilo.

“Our goal really is to strengthen the community of photography, and to have platforms and venues to exhibit their work and see their work printed,” Ms. Abella said, adding that most photographers nowadays often view images on screens.

“It’s really different to see their works printed and hanging on the wall,” she said.

Entrance to the various “Fotomoto21: Portraits” exhibit sites is free. Visitors must comply with health guidelines and safety protocols implemented by respective LGUs. All images will also be shown online at https://fotomoto.ph. Many of the images will be available for sale as mounted archival prints (separate from the exhibition prints). For more information and schedule of exhibitions, follow Fotomoto’s social media pages (facebook.com/fotomotophilippines and @fotomoto.ph on Instagram) or e-mail info@fotomoto.ph. — Michelle Anne P. Soliman

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