PHOTOGRAPHS tell more stories than we can dare imagine. It could tell us of a historic past we have not been able to witness. But with the still images and the impeccable capturing of the moments, we are somehow given the chance to peek into the past and perhaps get a general understanding of what the past looked like with these photographs.
Last Friday, for the first time, Davao’s Art Portal, Gallery for Contemporary Arts along Legaspi St. opened its first photography exhibit.
Tagged as “Davao City, Early Eighties,” the exhibit featured the works of visual artist and photographer Arnel Villegas.
Curator Angely Chi went over Villegas’ archive of photos and negative assets before coming up with the 15 black and white photographs that are put up in the exhibit. These photos were taken in Davao City from 1981 to 1985, a time when socio-political and cultural shifts under the Marcos Martial Law were taking place.
With Chi selecting the 15 photographs, she wanted the photos to form a narrative of the city streets and the people during this specific momentous time.
“It is important to unpack the historical contexts of the photos. It is how we can connect and reconnect the younger and older generations of Dabawenyos to the city's past, and help make light of where we are and how we are now,” Chi said.
Aside from this, she had also gone through the archives of Mindanao Times, the oldest community paper in Mindanao for news, feature articles, and movie theatre schedules among others to get materials which will allow her to give the audience a glimpse of what was really happening in Davao City in the early 80s.
The opening of the exhibit was well-graced by known artists in Davao City, of Dabawenyos coming from different generations marveling at how life in the 80s were captured in Villegas’ photos.
Villegas is now a celebrated pen-and-ink artist but before this he was a photographer most of the times using his 35mm black and white film. With his solitary photo walks around the city, he was able to document the street scenes, practicing do-it-yourself archiving of his photographs and negative assets.
Villegas was not only known to take photos of the street scenes in the city. He also took pictures of known personalities in the city like the late National Artist Victorio Edades.
“Davao City, Early Eighties” will run from September 7 to October 6 with an artist talk scheduled on September 15 and a historical forum on September 21, the anniversary of the Marcos Martial Law declaration.
Viewing hours at Art Portal, Gallery for Contemporary Arts is from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays.