What's On Our Radar

This photo collective wants to create regular exhibits for Filipino photographers

For the founding photographers of Fotomoto, it’s important to help tell your story right.

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With the growing list of creative outlets that have emerged in the last year and a half, another up-and-coming collective is ready to carve a place for itself in the local arts scene: Fotomoto—a play on the Filipino phrase “photo mo ‘to”—is a photographers’ collective that aims to promote the different facets of Philippine photography by celebrating the unique perspectives that make up the nation’s identity.

Founded by 15 veteran Philippine-based photographers from different backgrounds—including acclaimed photojournalists Jes Aznar and Veejay Villafranca; visual artists Raena Abella and Wawi Navarroza; and GRID’s very own Miguel Nacianceno and Francisco Guerrero—Fotomoto aims to be a vehicle for Filipino photographers from across the country (and around the world) to showcase their works. The collective also aims to spark engaging conversations on the ways photography expresses Filipino culture and identity.

“The dream is to make [Fotomoto] a more regular, stable platform for Filipino photographers to show [their] work,” says Fotomoto co-founder Veejay Villafranca.

While there have been a few outlets over the years that annually exhibit the work of local photographers—such as Art Fair Philippines—there hasn’t been a steady effort put into creating a platform that specifically caters to Philippine photography and highlights the different practices under it.

“I’ve been to other festivals [in Asia] and even in different parts of the world, and may konting inggit, I guess,” says Veejay. “[Filipino photographers] almost always participate in foreign festivals, but we don’t have our own. Yes, there’s a bit of glamor [in there] but at the same time… where do we celebrate Filipino talent and Filipino photography here in our own land?”

With its origins in Metro Manila, the team behind Fotomoto is also consciously looking to expand its efforts in cities within and outside the Philippines, to encourage groups and communities within the local photography scene to eventually start their own exhibits. “If we can create some sort of guidebook on how people can create their own Fotomoto exhibit, that’d be fantastic.”

Its inaugural exhibit Fotomoto 21 Invitational: Portraits—which also serves as the collective’s official launch—opens on November 20 at Kondwi Art Space in Poblacion, Makati, and will run until March 2022. Showing nearly 300 works from over 100 photographers, the exhibit comes at a time when social distancing, face shields, and face masks have largely defined the early 2020s, bringing into question our sense of familiarity, estrangement, and even solidarity.

Subsequent openings will be held in different venues around Makati and BGC, including Agimat, Asterisq, Café Fleur, Casa Bella, La Colina, Commune, FUTUR:ST, Metiz, Oto, Spirits Library, and The Alley at Karrivin.

One of the featured photos in this year's exhibit. Photo by Artu Nepomuceno

A series of online events will also be made available throughout the exhibit’s run, including a livestream of the opening reception and recorded interviews with photographers on relevant industry topics. Prints will also be up for sale at Fotomoto’s official website.

“Hopefully, Fotomoto can also reach [audiences] outside of the photographic or artistic bubble; not only as a source of inspiration but also an educational tool for other communities like science, history, culture, even governance,” Veejay says.

“That’s one of the key assets of photography; the intention of the creator is represented in the image. We can’t control how the audience absorbs our work, but [hopefully] it creates a dialogue.”

    What's it like to be a photographer in a global pandemic? In this special edition of the GRID Open Call, we invited guest photographers Gio Panlilio, Joseph Pascual, and Eloisa Lopez to do a roundtable discussion on all things photography with GRID Executive Editor Paco Guerrero and Photo Editor Sonny Thakur. Watch the full video here. The GRID Open Call is a recurring event where we invite photographers to share their portfolios with mentors, creative directors, and magazine editors.

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