A conversation with Jed Bacason and Julie Batula, founders of WIP, and Photoma

(Image courtesy of WIP)

“WIP SlideFest is a collaborative project that aims to show the diversity of photographic art coming from emerging photographers and be recognized by a broader audience locally and internationally. The name of the event itself – WIP or work in progress – connotes this cause. In contrast with other photography-related events, WIP caters mainly to the newcomers, the new breed of photographers who share the same passion as that of veteran and established photographers. We would like to think that WIP can become the jumpstarting point in their photography career.”

(From the WIP Website)

(Image courtesy of WIP)

Photoma: I think it’s essential that initiatives like WIP SlideFest happen. It contributes to the development of photographic practice in the Philippines. How did it start out?

Jed: The concept of WIP was to give the Filipino photographers here in Dubai a chance to show our works to the public without asking for help from the established photo groups here headed by other nationalities – Indians, Pakistanis, Emiratis. The norm is that Pinoys just follow whatever large photo groups decide on and there’s no initiative headed by fellow Pinoys that promote the interest of Filipino photographers. So that’s how it started, but the current mission of WIP is really far from what it started with.

Photoma: And this was in 2016?

Jed: Yup, last year.

Photoma: Jed, so you are based in Dubai, and the first WIP was held both in Dubai and Manila?

Jed: We did a Dubai x Manila SlideFest for WIP 1. Simultaneous slideshows of all works from both sides, which sounded really progressive and doable, pero di na nasundan because of lack of materials from Dubai side.

Photoma: And when did you guys bring the exhibition to Manila? Can you and Julie please tell us how it initially happened?

Jed: Julie has been handling the Manila side since WIP 1. She pooled the Manila submissions while I handled the Dubai side. Julie handled all the succeeding WIPs and it’s been really successful.

Photoma: So WIP is an open call?

Jed: Our current format is we look for a curator of the show and he/she looks for participants. Our focus right now is to provide space to emerging or relatively unknown photographers to show their works.

(Image courtesy of WIP)

Julie: Jed forgot to mention that we also invite professional photographers to present para may interaction between them and the emerging ones.

Jed: Yes, we want to build a bridge between established and emerging photographers.

Photoma: How do you define “emerging” or “relatively unknown photographers” because this is something that might be problematic?

Jed: Most photographers you might know are the same photographers everyone else might know. Most of them from Manila, too. The others who are not “famous” but have great potential, those we’d like to give a stage. I spent 10 years in Manila and got to know the photography scene firsthand. We at WIP love the underdogs.

Photoma: I gather you are not from Manila?

Jed: I’m from Bicol.

Photoma: For the curators in each WIP, how does that happen? What is your selection process?

Julie: We ask for help from professional photographers. We ask their POVs. Kat Palasi volunteered. Jay Javier naman got invited. Luis Liwanag naman, we invited him as one of our guest speakers for Manila platform. Then Donell Gumiran naman for Dubai platform for WIP 1. WIP 3 naman, we asked for JL Burgos’ help to collect groups that were focused on Human Rights issues. Then he asked Jes Aznar’s help na din.

Photoma: Do the curators decide on the theme of each WIP show?

Julie: With WIP 1, it was mine and Jed’s idea. WIP 2, Kat’s idea. WIP 3, mine and Jed’s. WIP 4 din. Mostly kami ni Jed. Then we look for people who specialize sa naisip naming theme. We decide on a theme then we look for an authority on that subject and we work on the details. We give the curator a free hand on how the show goes, we just take care of matters like the venue, promotion, logistics.

(Image courtesy of WIP)

Photoma: Julie, you mentioned that WIP is looking for a physical space?

Julie: Yes, for our slideshows.

Photoma: You guys recently held WIP at Mono8 Gallery. A wonderful, new gallery space that is open to experimental modes of art practice, how did that come about?

Jed: Julie started the communication with Mono8.

(SlideFest 4 at Mono8 Gallery. Image courtesy of WIP.)

Photoma: Can you please tell us what your plans are as of now?

Julie: For the next WIP, we asked Veejay Villafranca and Rony Zakaria to give a talk on book publishing. Veejay through a publisher, and Rony (from Indonesia) self published book. Since we’re looking for a space, we asked PCP (Philippine Center for Photojournalism) to work with us so they could help us get a free space. So we’re targeting the National Press Club for WIP 5.

Photoma: When is it gonna be?

Julie: December 16. Always a Saturday. We tried Fridays before, okay naman kaso we get feedback from people na gawin Saturday especially because Malate area pa kami lagi noon (WIPs 1&2).

Photoma: Julie, Jed, so WIP is not an open call but it depends on the curators you invite for each WIP exhibition. Are you open to creators reaching out to you guys?

Jed: What do you mean by creator, sorry.

Photoma: Jed, thanks for the question. For Photoma, we’ve been debating about the definition of three things: creator, photographer and artist. In terms of photographic practice, not everyone sees themselves as artists or photographers. It’s not a generic term, but an open-ended definition. It also allows us to question certain identity-practice issues related to photography.

Jed: To answer your question, WIP is an open format platform. We do not follow a specific format really, we go with whatever is at our disposal and work hand-in-hand with the guest curator. We might do an open call, we might go with the curator’s list of artists. We have plans to do WIPs in Cebu, Mindanao. The thing that kept us going so far is the possibility of evolving WIP into something we haven’t done before, that makes it fun.

Photoma: I think it’s essential that initiative like WIP happen. It contributes to the development of photographic practice in PH.

Jed: Agree. We started with slidefests. The last WIP we tried our hand in doing print exhibits, next up we will try to do workshops and try to expand our horizon. The participants learn new things. We also learn new things. It’s a win-win for all!

 

To learn more, visit the Facebook page of WIP or their website.

Physical Form of Photographs

by Joseph Yap

Part of Photoma’s mission is to pose questions on the photography, including on the materialization of images and alternative image-making equipment. The platform takes a passive stance, often simply observing and sharing information in the hopes of catalyzing relationships and critical discussion. This essay hopes to make sense of recent observations and spark discourse.

Within the past few months, there seems to have been many developments in contemporary Philippine photography with regard to the physical manifestation of photographs. A few days ago, WIP (Work-in-Progress) hosted its fourth slideshow presentation, and guest curator Jay Javier discussed the printed photograph: the relationship between the creator and the beholder, the tangible experience of the object, and the grounding of context through details in the choices of its physical manifestation. Basically, the choice of physical manifestation of a photographic image is a major artistic decision.

In Jill Paz’s exhibition, “The Past is a Foreign Country,” various materials like canvas, cardboard, wood, and matte paper were laser etched with images. Her use of laser cutting was integral to her story of connecting the present, the past, and home. Meanwhile, Karl Castro explored chlorophyll prints in the group show “Dissident Vicinities.” His use of leaves suggested the ephemeral movement of people in a forest.

The physical manifestation of a photograph also affects the economic systems an artist must work with. An article that Thousandfold shared a month ago discussed why photobooks are relevant in this digital age: they offer economic and institutional alternatives for budding photographers. In Photobook Club Manila, photographers can distribute their works to various enthusiasts at a relatively low cost compared to other art objects, making their works quite accessible, even though photobooks are still niche.

The choice of how a photograph is given a physical form affects its aesthetic properties, context, economics, accessibility and the relationships it can form with people. This insight might not be new, but it is crucial in how photography might thrive in the Philippine context. How else might the physical form be explored?

Related Links:

WIP 4
Jill Paz’s “The Past is a Foreign Country”
Karl Castro’s works in “Dissident Vicinities”
Thousandfold
“Why photobooks are booming in a digital age”
Photobook Club Manila

About This Section

This space is reserved for essays and dialogues on photographic practices and photography in the Philippines. If you have something to share, please email photomainfo@gmail.com