Monday, September 29, 2008

The Plight of Photography as Art

For many of us working in the culture industries, we can only dream of a day when a large majority of the population takes an interest in the arts. And while only a tiny percentage actually wield paint brushes or genuinely even look at the various exhibits held at the malls, millions of Filipinos own and carry a medium used by a number of artists today: the camera.

No other medium has taken off to incredibly popularity as photography. Unfortunately, however, the number of camera-owning people has not translated into an equal number of people interested in photography as an art. In reality, the camera’s mass appeal has become like a curse on photography-based art as it has become less valued than art of more traditional media like painting and sculpture.

As Robert Quebral, one of the owners behind Blacksoup Project Art Space, an independent venue that shows photography, puts it, "Every Tom, Dick and Harry can shoot and print photos nowadays."

Tom, Dick and Harry may shoot and print and may even call themselves photographers but for those like Wawi Navarroza, the title "photographer" simply isn’t enough. Preferring the terms "artist working with medium of photography," "artist with camera" or "photo-based artist," Navarroza, who has staged solo exhibits at Blacksoup and Silverlens and is off to Russia in June to teach at the Fotomasterskie Petersburgskie School of Photography, is quick to point out that not all photographs can be called art. "The problem is oftentimes people forget that the words ‘creative’ and ‘artistic’ are two different things. The word ‘art’ is not a cosmetic you can apply to anything that happens to look ‘good’ or was superbly done." Navarroza also differentiates between commercial and art photography: commercial as being made inherently for the purpose of making you buy, while art "makes you question things, to think, to feel, to be in touch with what is ‘human’ in you. Contrary to commercial goals, art doesn’t sell you bottled dreams and aspirations; it actually smacks you in the head and wants you to wake up and be aware."

Silverlens Gallery, the result of owner/photo-based artist Isa Lorenzo’s inability to find a gallery in Manila which understood the photography medium and process, is one of the few venues solely committed to showing photography as an art form. Lorenzo shares, "I think that people in the Philippines have gotten used to seeing cliché images of sunsets and kalesas and understand those as ‘art photographs.’ In their way they are, but the photos we at Silverlens show are images that go beyond cliché and are really about a body of work with a strong idea and shown with curatorial cohesion." Seeing a further need, Lorenzo has set up the Silverlens Foundation, a grant-giving body that is offering critical support for photo-based artists to finish bodies of work and that is providing the backbone for a collection of contemporary Philippine photography.

Aside from Silverlens and Blacksoup, the only other venue this author can think of that exclusively shows photography is the Alcove at Filipinas Heritage Library with the three spaces each defining themselves distinctly. Silverlens banners being the only museum-quality space dedicated to photography and photo-based art; Blacksoup, as an independent art space, offers a more laidback setting and is ideal for quirkier work (such as the lomo exhibit last year); Alcove sets itself strictly for black-and-white photographs. Other venues which have developed a special focus for photography are Lumiere and One Workshop Gallery, although both places also show more traditional art forms, too.

That there are so little venues for photography-based art is testament to a very small market for this art form. The art industry is driven largely by the exclusive nature of pieces — of that one prized artwork unlike any other — which the very quality of photography defies. As a print, it can be continuously reproduced and while the artist only prints a select number, the easily replicated aspect, especially precarious in the age of the digital camera, can be rather a turn-off for art collectors. It "doesn’t sound seductive at all," Navarroza admits. For a living, many turn to event and commercial photography while only occasionally being able to show their photo-based art. Lorenzo smiles at this, saying, "Fortunate is the photographer who gets paid to do personal work."

While photo-based art is a long way off from being essentially appreciated as art in the Philippines (especially by those with antiquated ideas of what art is), there are signs that its recognition as an art form is increasing. A few years ago, a number of these spaces focused on photography didn’t even exist. Silverlens only launched in 2004, Blacksoup opened in 2005 and One Workshop only commenced its gallery and new studio last year. And while most photography exhibits in malls are commercial, cliché or tied to celebrities, a recent exhibit at the Mall of Asia, "Large 8," which featured photo-abstract works blown up to staggering scale, appears to herald a growing appreciation of photography as art.

Navarroza says, "Appreciating pictures for their sheer pleasurable aesthetic value, yes, we do have a lot of those. We all enjoy looking at pictures. But appreciating pictures further for their mental/spiritual/sensual/artistic implications or as critical mirrors to provoke thinking is few and far between. It requires a certain sensitivity of thought and depends on the viewer’s willingness to see beyond the 2-D image."

Appreciating at deeper levels? Seeing beyond the image? It seems that the plight of photography as art is the plight of art, indeed.

Philstar Today- The Plight of Photography as Art -
By Clarissa Chikiamco

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

G4M LMS Round 4: The Retro Glam Look

Round 4 : "The Retro Glam Leading Man" Judges Critiques



In this category, we will be looking for models who will be able to create a certain character not necessarily their own but a character they will own. We are looking for expressions that will bring out the model's flexibility from downright fun to classic sophisticated charm, all in the spirit of fashion and glam.



The photo must show the model in a FASHIONABLE CLASSIC RENDITION / POSE like that of a 50's Hollywood leading man (like Cary Grant, Gene Kelly, etc.). The model should be able to create his own look and not copy the existing pegs of the celebrities. The photo should show the model as if he was a contemporary of the 50's movie era. ENTRIES FOR ROUND 4 MUST BE IN BLACK AND WHITE WITH A WHITE BORDER.


Here are the Judges Critiques for the Entries:

Finalist 1 (Oni)

Highs: Great Facial projection. Nice editing.
Lows: It was just alright for me.

I can see that you focused so much on projection, which is a good thing, but you missed on having a fashionable look. The picture looks old instead of being class and classic. You need to be cohesive.

Are you just trying to get this round over with? And this one almost look the same as your first entry. Its not too interesting, and its boring. The sepia, and All, Clothes and hairstyle, worked for you.

Now, remarkably improved. I like seeing you in that pose. The gauntly etchy lines at the border of your photo simply evokes the feeling that it is very old. Short of saying amazing, your picture is one of the best entries in this round. You looked as if you were really born from that era. Very realistic!

It lacks retro-glam appeal. It could have been better if the hair was combed neatly in a pompadour.

I don't get the feel of the '50s from this photo despite the rendition in sepia. The model's sparkling youthful eyes were swept away by the zigzag lines on his '60s long sleeves and the floral cushion on his neck. It is neither fashionable nor classic; merely a rendition in sepia when what is required is a photo in black and white.

If it is purely technical, your entry would have been disqualified since it is specified that the entry should be in black & white (and not sepia). Good thing you gave some effects of the picture being really old and your pose was quite ok. I would like to see a more vibrant look (like that in your audition pics) on the next round if you get past this round.

Love the old picture effect. Pose was a bit safe but interesting enough. Would like to see you in a more out-of the-box look.

Finalist 3 (Rafee)


Finalist 4 (Njames)

Highs: Nice smile.
Lows: It doesn't even look old. The model looks old. I don't like the photo. It's not even compliant to the theme.

Where is your entry? I think you submitted the wrong picture. Next!

I am reminded of the practice of giving pictures with dedication at the back or at the front and yes, it simply depicts the practice of those times. Except for the cool projection and the dedication, I cannot relate how this photo became a part of the 50s.

I was hoping I'd see something like "The King & I" Where is Yul? The photo is good but it doesn't look retro.

The '50s is marked by opulence especially in the US when the country was still on a roll from the spoils of the second world war and emerged as the new global power. The model's toothy smile might have belonged to the '50s but definitely not his unglamorous dark-colored shirt. He should have looked for a pic of Yul Bryner as a source of inspiration.

Nice touch with the signature and MGM logo on the lower left portion of the entry. Smile was casual glam but the standing shirt collar as far as I’m concerned is not really a 50’s thing. You could have worn a much better attire.

Finalist 5 (Chris)

Highs: I like how soft your expression looks.
Lows: Boring.

I can see a leading man but you lack the Glam factor. Your outfit is wrong especially the shoes. The facial expression looks uneasy. The picture is lifeless.

This is safe, its not the best But average. This is a great Shot. You look lovely and handsome. That’s sort of aura leading man must have. Great.

I cannot find anything remarkable with this entry. I did not find anything compelling statement with the photo. One good though, is that the model is being natural and relaxed in his pose. And being a nonprofessional model, he passes with flying colors.

Nice shot … but where is my leading man?

Apparel badly worn. The model seems to have lost his sense of fashion in this photo. The penchant for not wearing socks was not an attitude of the period. It is more of the here and now than the '50s.

Bad angle of the model in this shot. What happened? Looks like you gained weight and what’s with the no socks look?

Finalist 6 (Khalel)

Highs: Nice contrast.
Lows: it looks creepy to me. Bad photo…

The editing looks nice because you look iconic but it also reminds me of a post card of our National Hero. I just wished your hair is not parted and turtle neck is not a 50's touch and feel. I also would have enjoyed the picture if you used contrasting outfit like a Black and White.

Its all about the face are we? Its not my favorite, but it looks old alright. The thing is, if you submitted a whole body picture, it would have given you wide playground for creativity for this certain round.

Very vintage. The entry is exciting, though simply executed. Seems as if we are thrown back to the era of the 50s. I like the simple lines and the faded texture of the photo. Simply amazing.

mmmm… it doesn't look so hollywoodish but Khalel looks retro … Did you use Tancho Pomade? Hahaha … reminds me of the Japanese models in that barbershop where my dad used to bring me for a haircut … circa 60's … hahaha

This is neither Cary Grant nor Gene Kelly but Rogelio dela Rosa brought back to life. Save for the creases on his turtle neck and suit, it is picture perfect.

Retro yet looks a bit creepy with just the head shot and those eyes. It could have been better if this is a whole body shot. Work it some more Khalel.

Finalist 8 (Maki)

Highs: Great facial expression. I didn't think you could pull this off but you did.
Lows: I don't like the editing.

Your edge over your competitors is your commanding presence infront of the camera but again I did not like the hairdo and outfit. A plain polo will look better, shiny hair is a classic, and the nails should be cut short just for this picture. I like the cigar but a tobacco will help you look manly.

This One Looks more of a picture taken from A 1060's gangster Movie, and this is actually The first one MAKI submitted a more masculine side of him. That’s effort,

Fairly safe though I wanted to see more from you in this round. You however have a good projection and this is something different from your previous entries. You know how to play with your eyes now.

mmmmmmm… I just don't like the hair … like I've said you keep changing your clothes, not your facial expression and you could have given that hair a sleek look with pomade … combed it close to your scalp …

Hello, Rock Hudson? Good choice of clothes, bad hairdo. No leading man, too, ever holds a cigarette that way; it's either clipped between the thumb and forefinger or tucked way into the middle finger and the index finger. Your neck, your neck!

Interesting to see Maki’s male persona. Nice composition except for the hair which could have been more slicker and the cigarette which should have been a cigar / tobacco. Over-all it is a good concept for a bad-boy role for a leading man. Good work and transformation. Keep on working it.

Finalist 9 (CJ)

Highs: Great photo. I love the overall feel of your photo.
Lows: The facial expression is a bit boring to me.

This is the best picture amongst the entries in terms of theme adherence and originality. The outfit looks crisp and classic, the curtain and furniture looks vintage, and the total look is just phenomenal.

Now this is authentic, well almost. You look, you dressed up well, Your neat, and authoritative. That’s my leading man. Congrats, Claim this round yours!

Wonderful. Everything looks perfect from the clothes up to the accessories and the background. I think you may have made your mark on this round. I like your boyish charm. If makes one see that you are very very relaxed.

I love that gangster look, nice concept … but then your face look so boyish ...

Definitely a glam shot.

You nailed it for this round CJ. Nice concept and composition. Truly Retro Glam. Congratulations !