Carren's Pitch

Life by Design


Through the Lens, Into the Heart

Posted by Carren |

By writing this article, I was able to pick the mind of the passionate and organized Isa Lorenzo. It was great to hear of their plans for Silverlens Gallery. It was such a pleasure that another article came about because of it. *~C

Two distinct cultures meet inside the halls of the National Museum

Text by: Carren Jao
Published: MEGA October 2008

THE TRAGEDY and triumph of photography is its prevalence. Nowadays, each man, woman and child has access to a medium of art unbeknownst to them -- the camera.

The rush of photography’s popularity is such that the metro is chockfull of advertisements for cameras, lenses and other accessories. Unfortunately, while photography has gone mainstream, its value as an art form has consequently decreased. To counter this misconception, the Japan Foundation and the National Art Gallery in cooperation with the Embassy of Japan have undertaken a simultaneous exhibition showcasing the art of photography from both Japanese and Filipino contemporary artists-- Counter-Photography and Swarm in the Aperture.

The exhibition showcases the varying stages of development in Japanese and Filipino Photography. Isa Lorenzo, owner of photography-based art gallery Silverlens Gallery, voluntarily guides participants through each of the photographs.

Drawing from a wealth of knowledge and gifted with eloquent speech, Isa draws aside the gauzy curtains of the art of photography, enabling her audience to glimpse into the heart of the photographer and his work.

Moving through the silence

Counter-Photography exhibits the works of contemporary Japanese artists striving to portray an inner reality through the use of photography. While photographs have the ability to reproduce visible truth, in the hands of an artist, they are also able to capture an invisible world—one that exists in the soul.

Rumpled pillows, an open doorway, take on new meaning in Chie Yasuda’s Into a Vortex. Mere photographs of empty places metamorphose into a documentary of what happens in between events- after the end and before the beginning.

Black versus White. Male versus Female. Powerful contrasts meld seamlessly, communicating a sense of a yin-yang whole in Eikoh Hosoe’s Embrace and transcending the cheap pornography that abounds today.

Kazuo Katase tackles the feeling of alienation in his Behind the Light exhibit; by capturing the images from his childhood in Japan and printing them in reverse, he allows his viewers to experience his own sense of disorientation at seeing these once-familiar objects.

These and the works of eight other Japanese artists adorn the walls and floors of the museum, conveying a deeply personal and philosophical view of life grounded on Japanese culture, influenced by the artists’ own unique experiences.

The exhibition, like Japanese culture, felt contained. A veneer of self-control regulated each photograph’s emotional depth; the photographs silently hang on the walls unwilling to broadcast the full extent of their emotions, content to subtly reveal their depths to those patiently waiting before it.

A throng of activity

On the other side of the hallway, lies Swarm in the Aperture, a collection of recent Philippine photographs depicting the Filipino’s own reality—peopled by family, religion, and traditions, “a hodge-podge of anything and everything” says Isa. The photographs were active- conveying a sense of community and animation behind the stillness.

Sure enough, the themes of family and community do appear as Steve Tirona explores rituals, gambling and women; as Teena Saulo features alternative types of families; as VJ Villafranca photographs gangs in Tondo. The Philippine art photography scene is young indeed, but thankfully not fetal anymore. Isa is confident that, through time, photographers themselves will mature and push the boundaries of their chosen art form, moving away from the traditional romantic themes often depicted in paintings and photographs.

This parallel exhibit allows viewers to understand the varying levels of development photography has achieved in both countries. “[While] Japanese photography is very isolated, [Philippine photography] … has to do with a larger body of people. [It’s] very romanticized,” clarifies Isa. Indeed, side-by-side, one can easily distinguish the cultural influences that form each photographer’s sensibilities.

Through the lens of each camera, the photographer betrays himself-- heart and soul. This parallel exhibition disproves the convention that a photograph can only document an event; it also enables the artist holding the camera to express his inner self- thus elevating photography to an art form apt for this day and age.

Counter-Photography and Swarm in the Aperture Exhibition
Exhibition runs- June 5 until July 31, 2008
4F North Wing, Museum of the Filipino People
Rizal Park, Ermita, Manila
Museum Hours: 10 a.m.- 4p.m. (Wed-Sun)
Telephone: 527-1219


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