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Xyza Bacani, the Filipina domestic helper who won the prestigious Magnum scholarship, is in town for the opening of “Unscripted…Unpredictable.” It is a group exhibit that photographer Rick Rocamora fixed, and of which she is a part.
“Yes, I think she is in town for the opening this afternoon at 4pm. I’m excited to meet her. This is the first time I’ll be meeting her,” Rick tells Coconuts Manila over mobile.
Rick Rocamora, of course, is the guy who discovered and mentored Xyza. Through the years, he’s done the same for a lot of young Filipino photographers scattered across the world, and he does this online, specifically Facebook. “I’ve been monitoring Facebook and social media. I join a lot of these street photography groups where I find really good Filipino street photographers,” says.
Over at New York Times Lens Blog, Rick says the snag is: they’re doing all the same thing. “They go to areas to photograph poor people lying on the street.”
As a way of paying forward, he started mentoring these young ones. In 2012, he, along with journalist Howie Severino thought of putting together a group show. “But it lost structure. I gave up the idea, but never the mentoring,” Rick says. He’d monitor their output on Facebook, send them links, introduce street photographers, and the like. This was how he discovered Xyza. “I thought she was doing something important and something good. My concern at that time was: Where do I bring her work?”
In Nov 2013, he had an exhibit at Vargas Museum in UP. “I called them up early 2014 and booked a space, not knowing what I’m going to do with it. Later in 2014, Vargas called me to say I have the space in Feb 2015.” Quickly, he put together “Unscripted…Unpredictable,” the first-ever street photography exhibition. It is comprised of 40 prints by 16 Filipino street photographers, including Xyza (she contributed 4 images for the exhibit).
The 40 photographers are based all across the world: There’s of course, Xyza Bacani, who works as a domestic helper in Hong Kong. Jomel Bartolome, who works as a chef in Kuwait. Elpidio Juan, who is a draftsman in Hong Kong; Ben Molina, who is an amateur photographer based in California, Arthur Quejadas II who is an OFW based in South Korea, Jojo Pensica who is a teacher in China.
Of course, there are a number living and working in the Philippines.
“My goal in putting up the exhibit is to motivate and to inspire them further. To go beyond their usual circumstances, to look outside, and see what else is out there in the world.”
Strangely enough, the photo sharing social network Instagram isn’t a major resource in Rick’s endeavor. “I have a very limited universe,” Rick admits. “I don’t monitor Flickr or Instagram. It’s really just Facebook.”
It was through FB, too that he asked his photographer contacts to submit at least 8 images for “Unscripted…Unpredictable.” “It wasn’t an open submission of work. I asked the likes of Xyza to submit. I asked the FB group Daan to submit also. And then I selected the 40 images with the goal that reflects wide range of styles of street photography. So I take full responsibility for that wall.”
Like street photography, Rick’s only guideline was that it stirred a gut feeling in him. “That’s street photography. It’s free for all. You capture moments of daily life. I looked at the photos and I like how they relate and connect to each other. That became the body of the exhibit.”
He says it’s a difficult style of photography because you never know what’s going to happen. “You just walk around and look for images. Sometimes, it works. Sometimes, it doesn’t. It’s really hard to define. What’s important are often what’s unscripted and unpredictable,” Rick says.
“Unscripted…Unpreditable” opens today, 4pm at the Vargas Museum, UP Diliman, Quezon City. It will be on view until Feb 28.
Photo by Jayvee Mataro
Photo by David Marquino, an OFW based in Kuwait
Photo by Gian Maagad, who is based in Cagayan de Oro