Dansk Santos // Raul Policarpio // Zairene Yeoh // Miguel de Quiros
The director noticed photographers who were working on aspects of the theme around intimacy as the list developed it was noticed that four were born in The Philippines, two now live there, two here in Melbourne. The gallery has brought these artist/photographers together.
An Introduction by Nancy Sherrard Oro
Intimacy or “talamitam” in the Filipino language is a profound word that means close and intermingling relationships with others. As a culture, Filipinos are very blessed to enjoy intimacy in their lives. However, due to the influence of Western culture and romanticism, intimacy has become solely associated with having a romantic and sexual relationship to fulfil intimate needs. Four Filipino photographers, namely, Raul Policarpio and Zairene Yeoh who both live in Melbourne; and Miguel de Quiros and Dansk Santos who live in Manila and Cebu respectively, captured the images to interpret what “talamitam” in Filipino culture means as opposed to the Western meaning of intimacy that people were made to understand. These artists capture photos to cross the barriers and enlighten everyone that there is a much deeper meaning about intimacy than what is normally defined by society. That being “intimate” is not something frightening or shameful, but something beautiful when we really open our hearts and minds to it. TALAMITAM In the Philippines, “intimacy” about romance is a delicate topic that is often taboo. This is due to Spanish colonialism’s heteronormative beliefs, religiosity, and shyness. Whilst several cultural factors influence the way many Filipinos, especially how the older generations view love lives and relationships. There are also underlying social attitudes that create a sense of discomfort when talking openly about sex and desire. Thus, the word “intimacy” about romanticism and sexuality is locked inside a box because there are certain rules that say Filipinos must “behave” in order to be accepted by others and are therefore frightened of being judged negatively as well as having relationships tainted by others. At a young age, children are taught to be respectful by saying “po and opo” and doing the “pagmamano” wherein they raise the back of the older person’s hand and place it on their foreheads. These are forms of respect when responding to older people. But these traditions are slowly being forgotten in the modern era, especially among millennials. Yet despite these changes, it is still relevant that any form of reasoning and angry retaliation against the elders is considered disrespectful and rebellious. Thus, self-expression and emotions must be hidden and even the normal thoughts about having a crush or falling in love can be unorthodox to some people when you’re at a young age. Many traditional Filipinos still shy away from the notion of being intimate because they think it’s something extremely personal, exclusive, and difficult to explain – particularly in an Asian context. Intimacy can be tricky to go about in an orthodox, and religious Filipino family where dating has become more complicated over time. For conservative families and because of unchanging religious beliefs, women are expected to marry and have children at a certain age, at least before 30 years old. And old traditions dictate that a woman must remain a virgin before getting married, while men must be circumcised before they become teenagers. There is a strong tradition to value the opinions and advice of elders because they have more experience in life. Nevertheless, for the new generation especially the millennials, being older does not necessarily mean being wiser. New beliefs emerge, especially with the evolution of social media and the digital world, replacing the usual norms and the old ways. Though times are changing, still, close family ties and close friendships abound. Family always comes first, whether you belong to the next of kin or up to the 3rd or 4th generation, you are considered part of the family. Kin-like closeness is part of the culture because even close friends and neighbours are treated like family. It is quite normal for neighbours to share simple gestures like exchanging food and snacks, sending out invitations for special occasions, celebrating special feasts or “fiestas” together, and welcoming visitors and new neighbours. This is what “talamitam” is all about. On our journey in search of the true meaning of “talamitam” as reflected in our photo gallery, our photographers captured the images to shed light on different things that define intimacy. The photos portray the images of “talamitam” and intimacy in its pragmatic and purest sense. Intimacy is the most natural form of human need. Intimacy is not equal only to sex, nor is it just a romantic attachment. Intimacy between friends, lovers and partners, husbands and wives, between a parent and child, self-intimacy (body and self), and even familiarity with living in a new city or finding happiness in everyday tasks are all forms of intimacy. Moments of intimacy in different forms are captured in the photos of Raul Policarpio. The photos are candid shots of the everyday lives of people being intimate in the actual moment of what they are doing. Whether being alone thinking and doing some self-reflection, walking down the street, sitting on public transport or being with friends and strangers in random places. There is wisdom that intimacy is something universal because it can mean even the simplest things we do in our everyday lives. Being intimate in the exact moment transcends the beauty of enjoying what life has to offer day by day in the limited time that we have. Snapshots of husband and wife, parent and child are how Zairene Yeoh portrayed the meaning of intimacy. The precious moments of making love and being a parent, and spending time with our children can be neglected in the busy rhythm of our lives. Our multitude of distractions and responsibilities steal our attention away from the people who matter most, even ourselves, and then we become strangers. Time is not something that can be rewound, and children grow up, while spouses can grow apart. Intimacy is love nurtured to continue thriving, to be whole and unbroken. Dansk Santos captures intimacy in the discovery of human desires, to make us realise that nothing is wrong with loving yourself and loving someone, even when society dictates that we shouldn’t ever do so because there are rules to be followed. Intimacy is as prevalent in this world as pornography, we just don’t talk about it. It’s almost as though if we bring it up, people will think we’re dirty and there’s something wrong with us. Behind the dark façade shows that there is a part of us that wants to be seen and be accepted. The fear of being naked and vulnerable drives a lot of us to try to keep ourselves hidden or “secure.” If we all look beyond the images and the emotions that they convey, we will understand that we all yearn for love, and find comfort in our sexuality despite our imperfections. Self-intimacy (body and self) is captured by the photos of Miguel de Quiros to show that every person is uniquely beautiful in their own nakedness. While one person may think that it means giving up a piece of who they are, another may think of it as embracing every part of them. How do we see ourselves when we look in the mirror? Can we see past our imperfections and still love ourselves? The photos allow us to have a broader understanding to be kinder, to ourselves and to other people. Intimacy just like love starts from within. This is our solace and our peace.
Miguel de Quiros
Collaborators would always ask how long my shoots take, and always, I would respond, “4 hours, 3 to set-up and talk, and just 1 for the actual shoot where I would take around 24-36 shots.”
I find my work in my subjects. I arrive on set with nothing but my camera, my ability to communicate, and my keen observational skills, and at the door, I leave all pretension behind.
I take portraits and commit emotions and experiences to memory. It is a memory that is physical.
Intimacy with the self is such a complex and difficult subject for anyone, and it has challenged me to hold space for people just to be themselves, naked. I believe there is a greater truth in accepting and understanding the self, which is seen through the body.
What does it mean to love yourself truly? What does it take to look in the mirror, find one’s own delicate, decaying skin, and see past it?
As a photographer, I’m an observer, interviewer, and note-taker. Through the photos I produce, I serve as a reminder that in the barest moments, one can feel perfectly self-satisfied.
My work is a mirror. And though it is just an imitation of reality, it presents a much more honest perspective than the dim perception of the self.
Behind the mirror is where I discovered my personal truth. Through the process, I have defined how I regard myself and others. I became more gentle and kind. I found solace away from the hounding shame brought upon me by self-doubt. I found my peace.
I think of my photos as presents to my clients. My presents to them in the future. And i genuinely hope that when the time comes that they will look at it again they will feel a sense of gratitude and feel proud of how far they have come.
Some people are quite lucky to have time as their greatest ally. However most of us including myself for many personal and practical reasons are slaves to time. We think that we just need to "get some stuff done"... albeit by getting these stuff done we become less sensitive to our children's, spouse's, friend's and even to our own needs. We fail to enjoy our precious time with the ones we love, including ourselves, because our minds are elsewhere.
So whenever I get the chance to take someone's photos I try my best to tell them not to worry about how they look, what they need to do next, what is expected for them and what may happen next. Just be. Experience what is happening "here and now". Be aware that this exact moment will no long happen, that this stage is fleeting. The way we look at each other, how we hold each other and how we feel about ourselves will changed, and that's ok. What is important is that we get to fully experience and appreciate how imperfectly perfect each moment is.
I am a street photographer, and I take street photos of random people, doing things in their everyday lives. I put their stories in a frame without titles because I would like the viewers to interpret the meaning behind the images that I have captured.
There are no poses or set rules because for me there is no such thing as beautiful and ugly. Every captured moment defines beauty in what is real, and what is happening, and they convey real emotions. This is what I call the “slice of life into our limited time in this world.”
I capture life in action whether they’re a picture of order and chaos, of togetherness or being alone, in random places, both old and new – it doesn’t really matter. Candid shots are moments in every ticking of the clock that we all cannot go back to. Depicting life and the importance of time that most of us take for granted. Ignoring the contentment in waking up every day, alive and well, and staying humble with whatever life has to offer.
My work is a reflection and appreciation of what living without prejudice truly means. That everyone who looks at every image will see and meditate on their innermost emotions to understand and empathize that we are all different and we all lead different lives. And even when some of us can hide behind our smiles and poses, my candid shots reflect the soul, and I aim to touch the hearts and minds of whoever looks at them to be kinder, and not judge others by how they look. We live different lives, but in all of life’s chaos and challenges, we all have a purpose and we all deserve to be happy.
There’s a question I often ask myself when I sit alone, quietly, in my comfort space. Sometimes this question appears when I come across strangers after dark, drowned in probable intoxication, and certainly swimming through the tides of my own discontentment.
There’s is a greater and deeper longing within, perhaps an attempt to understand what we consciously bury and try to forget because most of us are too frightened to face this truth.
Who are we without the clothes we put on? Who are we when we bare naked our vulnerabilities for others to see? Who are we really with all our fears, insecurities, doubts, pain, and traumas?
There is one truth I’ve found in all these. No matter how desperate we may seem in our ways, underneath all the façade, we are, after all, human beings – imperfect, battered, scarred and yet we constantly yearn for love. To feel love and be loved.
This work speaks for each of us who are terrified baring those things that truly matter because we were told as children that intimate thoughts ought to be spoken within the confines of our small secret worlds, that whatever we are naturally feeling is not as important as achieving success in the consumerist society, that we, as creatures, still, should completely disregard our intuitive behavior that essentially prevent us from falling into that senseless void, and that we can bend and twist ourselves to suit what other people deem fit when, in fact, our truest self tells us otherwise.
If we only let our deepest desires surface and be acknowledged for how they are, it would be similar to witnessing a flower blossom into its utmost natural and beautiful state.