CULTURE

Filipino female and queer photographers reflect on the state of the industry

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Photographers (from left) Pau Villanueva, Kimberly dela Cruz, and Niña Sandejas talk about the different perspectives female and queer photographers bring to journalism and media.

“Look at the most powerful photographs in the world — until now [they’re] shot by men,” says photojournalist Kimberly dela Cruz of the status quo in the photography world. Speaking about the conditions she faced as a female photojournalist starting out in the industry, she says that “there was a lot of pressure to conform and at the same time prove you don't need to be taught.”

Dela Cruz, whose work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, Time, Al Jazeera, and Buzzfeed News, is one of many Filipino female and queer photographers striving for diversity and inclusivity in a media industry that has historically been dominated by cis straight men.

Her thoughts are echoed by music photographer Niña Sandejas, who stresses that “this is just how it is” isn’t a phrase that should cut it anymore — the call for diversity is a call to open up perspectives. “The only way to make things better is by introducing contrasts to things. So when you're telling one narrative from an overused perspective then you introduce the details, for example the female or the queer perspective, it branches out to more dimensions. A deeper story,” she says.

It’s these stories that need to be told to encourage more change — a fact known too well by documentary photographer Pau Villanueva. Early on in his career, the 2020 National Geographic Explorer was unsure if he had a space in the profession in the first place. “Here in the Philippines, ang hirap makahanap ng support, particularly for a queer photographer like me dahil sino pa yung magkukuwento noon, eh kung hindi ako na naka-experience noon hindi ko iku-kwento?”

In a video interview below with CNN Philippines Life, dela Cruz, Villanueva, and Sandejas talk about the importance of female and queer perspectives and reflect on their experiences navigating the industry.

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Interview and video by SAMANTHA LEE