Why do you take and create images?
I first started taking interest in image-making while learning about materials in my undergrad. We were given concepts on how materials were structured and how certain processes transformed these materials. When I finally was able to observe these phenomena, I felt awe, optimism and happiness.
At first, image-making was simply used as a documentation tool. Eventually, as characterization of materials became important in my studies, image-making became a new way to sense and experience the world. Working with microscopes, spectrometers, spectrophotometers, ultrasound, and other testing equipment, I eventually saw the world in a way unusual to most. And the world I saw (not necessarily literally through sight) was amazing.
Creating images helped me express these experiences in a form sharable to others, who I hope benefit from seeing the world the way I have.
How do you define your photographic/artistic body of work? What subjects do you often explore in your work?
Very literal. Not much need for grand metaphors, moral dogmas, or illusions. My works sometimes seem surreal, but they are only like that because the natural world is truly surreal.
I usually explore materials or dissections and reconstructions of objects and ideas.
What motivates your work?
Cool things, especially cool physical phenomena or technologies, friends, or sometimes a feeling that a certain body of work will be important
What relationship does your work have with reality?
Since my works are very literal, and they draw from an understanding of physical phenomena, they actually have a close relationship with reality.
For you, what is the purpose of art?
Art is a celebration of our humanity. With or without a market or a function for an artistic practice, people will continue being compelled to search for it.
How do you want the public to respond to your work? Do you have a particular audience in mind?
In general, I want a feeling of awe and optimism through experimentation. So far, I don’t have a particular audience in mind because I’m still trying to find out where I fit in all this.
What is your training? Were you trained as a photographer?
I did not learn photography formally. I did take up Materials Engineering, which has influenced my approach to materials and machines.
How do you define your actual professional situation? What are your expectations?
I am currently interning for a photographer. I’m learning that there are so many ways to make a living as a photographer. I’m expecting that as the concept of photography broadens, so will the jobs related to photography.
It’s hard to live off art. Does this affect you and your work?
Yes. Thinking of surviving financially paralyzes ideas that require huge budgets. Because photography has a close relationship with technology, investment for most ideas is huge, and the equipment bought might not useful for future projects.
This close relationship with technology was actually considered in my exhibit, The Animation of the Visible Spectrum, where the works explored the materials and machines available to me in Bacolod.
Have you worked with gallerists, curators, institutions and other art professionals? Can you discuss more about this particular relationship?
Yes, MILF (Moving Image Lab Filipinas) curated my show in Bacolod and taught me so much about being an artist. A talk years ago with MILF on materials and art allowed me to see the rest of my undergrad experience through the lens of an artist. My early exploration into the art world involved participation in projects with 98B COLLABoratory.
In your opinion, what is the current state of contemporary photography in the Philippines?
In the local art market, it is still struggling. Local collectors still put a premium on paintings. However, by discovering more contemporary photographers, I realized that contemporary photography in the Philippines is very much alive and still is growing and experimenting. It should have been expected since we consume so much photos online and in print, and more people have access to various technologies. Whether or not the local art market will accept it, contemporary art in the Philippines will be a very powerful force in the near future.
How do you want contemporary photography to develop in the Philippines?
I’m hoping that contemporary photography gains more consciousness on photography’s accessibility and versatility so that photography can play new, relevant roles in contemporary civilization.
Name: Joseph Oliver Yap
Location: Lives and works in Metro Manila, Philippines.
2011-2016 BS Materials Engineering, University of the Philippines Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines
2017 The Animation of the Visible Spectrum, Paderna Art Space, Bacolod City, Philippines
2016 SPAM video exhibition, Escape 2016: I Love You Virus, First United Building, Manila, Philippines