Here’s the proof: Instagram didn’t kill fashion photography

Fashion photos projected to music —IRENE C. PEREZ

Vintage celebrity photos shot on film by photographer Ricky Villabona for 90s fashion magazines have people on social media excited. There was intimacy in the raw, mostly black and white photos of Regine Velasquez, Melanie Marquez, Eric Fructuoso, Piolo Pascual, even the late rapper Francis Magalona “who volunteered to take his clothes off” .

“There’s a slowness to it, an anticipation,” Villabona said of the works he posted on Instagram (@rickyvillabona) for fun. Before the advent of digital photography, there was this challenge: “How would you do without Photoshop?”

Villabona, who now does commercials, dug up her archive of contact prints to take part in the art fair’s ongoing photo exhibit, “Tattoos, Ternos and Couture: A Celebration of Philippine Fashion Photography.”

  Seated: Tom Epperson, Neal Oshima, former Lifestyle Editor Thelma San Juan, Michael Salientes, Jo Ann Bitagcol.  Standing: Mark Nicdao, Regine David and BJ Pascual
Seated: Tom Epperson, Neal Oshima, former Lifestyle Editor Thelma San Juan, Michael Salientes, Jo Ann Bitagcol. Standing: Mark Nicdao, Regine David and BJ Pascual —PHOTOS BY EUGENE ARANETA

The curators, established photographers Neal Oshima, Michael Salientes, Mark Nicdao and Gio Panlilio, asked their colleagues to submit their best works and obtained generous material from the Who’s Who of Filipino Fashion Photography: Nap Jamir, Lilen Uy, Steve Tirona, Jake Versoza, Sara Black, Jo Ann Bitagcol, Francisco Guerrero, BJ Pascual, Jay Yao, Shaira Luna, Ryan and Garovs Vergara, Regine David, Jack Marion Kapuno, MJ Suayan, ESL Chen, Geric Cruz, Ralph Mendoza, Renzo Navarro, Veejay Villafranca, Tom Epperson, Cenon and Mav.

The tricky part was deciding which photos would be displayed through April 1 in the limited collage panels along the covered serpentine walkway of the Ayala Triangle Gardens in Makati City, which would be accessible public art.

“It’s not that hard to say what a good photo is,” Oshima told Lifestyle. “We didn’t look at who was the fashion designer or who was the photographer. It was just based on the image.

The photos were a mix of old and new shots with these common themes — tattoos, ternos, and couture — categorized into niche topics like sexuality, counterculture, portraits, Studio Lahar, and nostalgia. Some panels were accompanied by short quotes from writers; all showed the amount of work that goes into fashion photos before they go to print. unique situation

“The fashion is there and when there’s no stock, there’s no more… the stuff I shot in the 60s, nobody wears that stuff these days,” said Oshima: “I think the images were strong, but you have to show them in the context in which they were taken.”

Jo Ann Bitagcol photographed by Neal Oshima

He continued, “People really relate to the photos even though they weren’t there at the time. They understand that it was a unique situation when you had a certain model, photographer, clothes, lighting, makeup and everything came together. It’s not like a portrait; it is a unique situation that was photographed.

A powerful fashion photo, Oshima added, should have meaning outside of the context in which it was taken, so even if it was a commission, “The photographer always tries to do something that violates the rules…to make it something special and unique with a vision, that’s the beauty of the medium.

Is there a misconception about fashion photography in the Philippines?

“That it’s kind of dead, because nowadays everything is Instagram. People just take selfies and I understand that’s completely democratized. And I think that’s good,” Oshima said. “But something is lost, and we wanted to show that there were practitioners doing great things at all levels, and I wanted people to understand that in the future.”

  Melanie Marquez
Melanie Marquez, photographed by Ricky Villabona in 1994

punk fashion

In the “Meetings and Memories” panel, Yao shows fashion photography outside of commercial work. He interviewed local fashion designers about their childhood memories and the creative spaces that inspired them, revisited these places and took photos of locals wearing the designers’ works.

Punk fashion is featured in the counterculture panel, which highlights raunchy parties and raves, subjects wearing mohawks, leather and spikes.

Photos of indigenous tattoos were shown in the pintados bodysuit by designer Inno Sotto and Kalinga mambabatok artists. Oshima’s portraits of more than 500 members of ethnolinguistic groups were also shown, with the footprints given to the subjects as tokens.

The Art Fair exhibition validates Filipino fashion photography as an art form, and for Nicdao to organize the exhibition “was an education”.

“Not everyone knows, especially now, that other photographers existed before and were doing it before us,” he said. “It adds pride to fashion photography.”

The works that didn’t reach the panels were collected in a looping video projected onto what Nicdao called a “freedom wall,” which is more of an installation made of layers of stretched white fabric that act as screens. , accompanied by music. .

“Epson lent us the projectors to showcase photos and short films, and that ‘wall’ just had to be at the entrance,” he said. “It’s great to be part of the art fair because we’ve always gone before, and having fashion photography part of it is really cool and amazing.”

As Villabona said, “I never thought fashion photography would be part of the art fair because I thought it wasn’t as respected as art, but thinking about it, I saw works by American photographer David LaChapelle exhibited in an art gallery.”

“Tattoos, Ternos and Couture” gives fashion photography the respect it deserves and reaches Art Fair’s young audience who have never used or even seen film.

As the exhibit note says, it’s a “tribute to the models, stylists, hair and makeup artists, producers, agents, drivers, grippers and assistants, who worked tirelessly on the sets that made these images possible.”

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