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:

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