Apr 18, 2017
Ever since women like Eve Ensler published the controversial play called "Vagina Monologues" in 1996, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave a powerful TED talk entitled, "We should all be feminists" in 2012, and Malala Yousafzai published the bestselling book, "I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban" in 2013, and Emma Watson made a memorable speech at the UN in 2014 -- women are starting to be heard little by little.

Like these three Bisaya women who started a fine art photography pop-up exhibition featuring womanhood in a different, darker, light. Their B&W collection aims to highlight photography as 'fine art' and not just a hobby or a craft.

The exhibit they call "Umbra", which in literary language means 'darkness' or 'shadow', aims to promote self-image awareness, garnering the concepts and sentiments of women through their works.

As if the universe conspired for them to meet virtually and in the art scene, the three fine art photographers namely Jan Sunday, Banawe Corvera, and Gail Geriane collaborated to put up the exhibit for women, as women.

Here's our short interview with them.

1. Can you tell us the main idea behind your exhibit?

Image may contain: one or more people and close-up
Photo credit: Jan Sunday
"We wanted to show the woman in her darkness in another form since most of the time, women are always portrayed and presented 'in the light' -- like, they should always be beautiful and attractive. But, how about if we show them the darker side and the mystery of a woman?" shared Jan.

2. What prompted or inspired you to start this exhibition?
Gail is from Northern Samar where women are seen as sexual objects. For her, she wants the people to see that women have feelings, too. She wants to show the real body of a woman, not the bodies that we see on magazines and billboards. "I want people to show that, 'This is what we look like' and that we shouldn't be ashamed of it. I want people to see that we are all beautiful in every size and every way."

For Banawe, Jan approached her with the concept of the exhibit who was looking for a partner to collaborate with. Since she respects Jan's work as an artist and musician, who eventually deviated to abstract photography -- she gave it a shot. "We have the same style when it comes to portraying women in their nittier sides, but in a beautiful and enigmatic way."

For Jan, any artist would want their work to be seen, heard, and felt. As a woman and an artist, she wanted people to see what a "woman" really is.

3. It is interesting whenever you get to discover another facet in another person's life besides the labels that we so easily tag people, especially if they are artists. They could be musicians, sculptors, painters, photographers, poets, authors - but who they really are outside of their craftzone, is a mystery. So, we asked them, since all of them are artists, what keeps them busy besides working for their craft.

For Banawe, she's a government employee who is into fine art photography.

For Gail, she's a freelance photographer and event producer.

For Jan, she's a vocalist and songwriter, but is still studying photography and painting. Art keeps her moving.

4. Since it is rare and challenging to be a Filipina and an independent artist at the same time, we asked them if they have ever encountered issues while pursuing their craft.

For the three artists, part of the whole reason why they started Umbra is to prove that photography is not just a lower form of fine art -- if it is even considered a fine art in the first place. "Since Umbra is (comprised of) women and most who are in the photography scene are men, it is so ironic (whenever I see) men portray women in their photographs," said Jan.

Image may contain: one or more people, night and outdoor
Photo credit: Banawe Corvera, Photo Diaries
For them, women are the ones who truly understand a woman's sentiments so, how are we not able to present our own view as women to the world? Why don't we have these kind of avenues for women? "We want to be heard, seen, and felt," shared Jan.

5. How do you handle the pressures that you get from the society as Filipina artists?

For Gail, passion keeps her going so you just have to disregard the pressure and focus on what makes you happy.

6. Who are the women you look up to?

In Gail's hometown, it's a taboo for a woman to be strong. A woman is seen as a wife - and nothing more. Her friends, whom she look up to and who have had the opportunity to study in the city, taught her about women empowerment.

Banawe's inspiration is her mother who never doubted her creative path and has always been supportive in her art. She also considers Jan as an inspiration who, for her, is the driving force of Umbra. She also admires American photographer Sally Mann.

For Jan, what keeps her alive is the existence of women in the world since without them, there will be no balance in the world.

7. What keeps you inspired to continuously pursue your craft?Image may contain: 2 people, close-up
Photo credit: Gail Geraine
For Gail, what keeps her going are the women who don't have a voice. She wanted to act as their voice, especially the discriminated ones. "I have also suffered from discrimination and objectification and I want to empower women through my photographs."

For Banawe, she believes that artists do what they do because that's what they're supposed to do. She admitted that she has romanticized the darkness and shadows for so many years, but despite the highs and lows of life, she said that art is her driving force in life. "Art is a home that I go back to," shared Banawe.
"Women in general keeps me inspired," added Jan.

8. Can you give a message to aspiring fine art photographers and the young artists?


G: Just keep doing what you love. Take some risks. I gave up a lot for this. You just need to do what you love. It takes time since you can't get what you want right away. Always, always, always make art.

J: Through my pursuit of photography, every year I've gone through a cycle of depression and being detached from my art. But, it's perfectly fine to go through these lows. There are times that you can't produce, you can't create, or your creative juices are dry. But what helps, if you really know your photographic style; the kind of photographic imprints that you want to leave on people, that also helps you to get back on your feet.

B: We're still not established artists, but for those who wanted to make art - whether they call themselves artists or not, art is a luxury and a responsibility. Whatever you put out to the world, you're sending a message. Leave a good impact to the world, and not just for vanity's sake.

9. If you are fine art photographers by day, "sino kayo sa gabi" (who do you become at night)?

B: I'm a government employee by day, I am an artist by night.
J: I'm a lover at night, a housewife that you go to.
G: Since I love the beach, Sirena ako sa gabi (I'm a mermaid come night).

 
Support their art and follow their online portfolios!
Gail  |  Jan  |  Banawe

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people standing
Photo credit: Banawe Corvera