Veejay Villafranca


Why do you take and create images?

To tell stories. To learn more about other cultures. To make my life richer. To make other people’s lives richer.

How do you define your photographic/artistic body of work? What subjects do you often explore in your work?

It is Visual Storytelling, a set of images bound together by a narrative and pitched to the audience through a platform (digital or traditional). The current issues that I am engaged in covers issues from the adverse effects of climate change and the communities displaced by the rising sea level.

What motivates your work?

History. Apathy. Curiosity. I want the next generation to inherit a visually rich and informative history.

What relationship does your work have with reality?

It greatly deals with the real word, in the real sense of the word and almost in real time. The images and narratives that I produce and send out to the audience is greatly bound by ethics and the highest standards of journalism. Even if the style or visual approach may be different from the traditional reportage style, it still draws information from facts.

For you, what is the purpose of art?

To escape certain realities and create their own. Art gives the audience a break from harsh truths, it provides entertainment but also gives a platform for issues to be discussed other than the traditional mediums.

How do you want the public to respond to your work? Do you have a particular audience in mind?

I just want to reach as much audience as I can. On how they will react is beyond my concern, if they feel moved and be prompted to act, well then good. Otherwise just to reach a wide audience in different age groups.

What is your training? Were you trained as a photographer?

I was trained in advertising arts but never got the hang of selling products so I never really practiced, but I was exposed to journalism at a young age so this is where I got my inspiration later on to pursue visual reporting.

How do you define your actual professional situation? What are your expectations?

Freelance is complicated specially today where the competition is tough. One must posses more than one skill in order to get work. My expectations is that this digitalization of the craft of photojournalism will continue and will create interesting fusions with other disciplines.

It’s hard to live off art. Does this affect you and your work?

Yes it is but its not the ‘art’ but the act of producing work that makes gets me going. The actual work now is comprised of about 20% producing and the rest goes to editing, marketing and other technical and administrative tasks. Ideally, it would be great to have someone manage you ala-musicin/artist but that hardly happens specially in a saturated photographic industry.

Have you worked with gallerists, curators, institutions and other art professionals? Can you discuss more about this particular relationship?

I have learned the discipline of curation and editing for a space by collaborating with gallerists and curators. Since I am not tied to the usual mediums in photojournalism, I often seek the ideas of art professionals on how to use my work in other platforms such as galleries and other alternative spaces.

In your opinion, what is the current state of contemporary photography in the Philippines?

I think it is growing and starting to get more recognized in galleries and publications but also needs more institutional support with regards to showing work and sharing portfolios.

How do you want contemporary photography to develop in the Philippines?

In general, we need more outlets and exposure to photography as an art form more than what we are used to (commercial, salon and news photography). I believe the discourse on the photographic medium has evolved already and we, as a visual society, should embrace that and nurture new trends but also strengthening what has been established by early adapters of the medium in the Philippines.



Name: Veejay Villafranca

Location: Lives in Manila, Philippines, and works around the Asian region




  • 2000-2005 Bachelor of Fine Arts and Design Major in Advertising Arts. Royal Pontifical University of Santo Tomas.
  • 2005 Angkor photo festival – workshop for young Asian journalists with mentors Sarah Caron (Cosmos Paris), Patrick Chauvel (Paris Match) and Antoinne D’ Agatta (Magnum Photos)
  • 2007 – Full scholar at the Asian Center for Journalism Diploma in Photojournalism course under the World Press Photo Foundation and Konrad Adenaeur Foundation.


Awards and Recognition:

  • 1st Prize winner – Newsbreak and British Embassy Muslim photo contest 2007.
  • 1st Prize winner – European Union and Phil. Center for Photojournalism photo contest on UNDP funded projects 2005.
  • Honorable Mention – World Bank photo contest 2006.
  • Nominated for National Geographic All Roads documentary program 2008 and 2010.
  • 2008 – awardee of the Ian Parry grant, London, United Kingdom. The first Asian to be given the prestigious award for the documentary project “Marked: Gangs of Baseco” exhibited in Getty Gallery in London, United Kingdom.
  • Grantee of the 2nd Crossing Point residency program during the 20th anniversary of the Visa Pour l’image photojournalism festival in Perpignan, France in 2008.
  • Honorable mention in European Union’s climate change photo contest with his essay on ‘Monsoon nights’ in 2010.
  • Grand winner  – Asian Photo Prize Sagamihara Photo Festival 2011 Sagamihara, Japan.
  • One of the 12 recipients of the 2013 Joop Swart Masterclass program in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
  • Save the Children media awards 2015 – Reportage on malnutrition in Mindanao 1st place


Selected Exhibitions:

  • Getty Images Gallery London August 2008 – Marked: Gangs of Baseco
  • National Museum of the Philippines May 2008 – Marked: Gangs of Baseco
  • Getty Images Gallery London August 2009 – A race divided: Illegal Burmese migrants in India
  • Silverlens Photography Gallery February 2010- Marked: Gangs of Baseco
  • Metropolitan Museum – Manila, Philippines – May – July 2011 – Marked: Gangs of Baseco and Faith above fate.
  • Nikon salon gallery – Tokyo, Japan – January 2012 – A race divided: Illegal Burmese migrants in India
  • Chiang Mai Documentary Arts Festival – Chiang Mai, Thailand – February 2013 – Displaced Earth: Climate refugees in the Philippines
  • Perpignan, France – Photojournalism Festival – June 2014 – Signos
  • Metropolitan Museum – Manila, Philippines – September 2011 – Signos
    Pineapple Lab, Manila, Philippines – July 2015 – Signos
  • Alliance François Manila – October 2015 – Signos
  • Vargas Museum, Philippines – October 2015 – Signos
  • World Humanitarian Summit Peru – May 2016 – Signos
  • VETRO Gallery Manila – July 2016 – Signos
  • SUWON Photo Festival Korea – November 2016 – Signos and Burmese Migrant project
  • Metropolitan Museum – Seascapes exhibition – June 2017 – Signos

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