Sunday, December 09, 2007

Yesterdays News, Today’s Art.

Published in What's On & Expat, 9 December 2007

The dramatic photograph on page one that halts the forks journey from plate to mouth will not necessarily have the same impact when hung on a gallery wall 30 years later. Photojournalism is about timeliness, objectivity and narrative whereas when viewed as a work of art timelessness and individual creative vision become paramount. Especially when the stories being told are long forgotten and the faces being shown are divas from another era.

That the current exhibition “5 Photographers”, at the Silverlens Gallery works as well as it does is a tribute to the curatorial skills of Jose Enrique Soriano. For these works are 35 to 45 years old and consequently can only be appreciated for their inherent aesthetic values. Which range from strong personal visions to the perennial subjects that still engage today’s photographers.

Foremost are the sepia toned, silver gelatin prints of the late Joe Gabor. The palms and mountain landscapes with an impending tropical storm, the lyrical horizontal lines of the fisherman casting his net and the 3 wide eyed children, all demand a second or third look. Although fire damaged these and the other few remaining works by Gabor, speak directly to the viewer and are as articulate today as when first made.

Ed Santiago’s “St Peter’s Harvest Study 1 and 2” along with the “Barong-barong” studies have such strong abstract qualities that they maintain their relevance for a contemporary audience. Likewise Mario Co’s colour portraits have a contemporary feel which would make them at home in today’s fan magazines. That being said his portrait of Daria Ramirez has a timeless quality about it that would do Cleopatra proud.

The other colour photographs in this predominately black and white exhibition are by Silverio Enriquez. Although not as vibrant as Co’s photographs, in “The Chinese in the Philippines” and “Stella Suarez”, Enriquez’s use of colour enhances the abstract qualities of his subjects. Whilst in his “Malacanang, the Palace” the interplay of the black and white shapes glimpsed through the front gate intrigues the eye.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Romy Vitug must feel truly justified. For much of his subject matter is the raw material from which modern photographers draw their inspiration. Variations on “Cool Water Games”, “Strange Summer School” or “Beasts of Burden” abound. Whether they will look as fresh 30 to 40 years hence is another question.

The “5 Photographers” exhibition, a tribute to 5 pioneering masters of Philippine photojournalism, although a trip down memory lane it does speak eloquently to a contemporary audience. For as Mark Twain is accused of saying "History may not repeat itself, but it rhymes a lot."

The exhibition continues at the Silverlens Gallery, 2320 Pasong Tamo Extension, Makati, until 20th December. For more info see

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