I have been promising for years to take my friend Armando Arorizo to my hometown in the Philippines, and it finally happened last month. We traveled together to Dumaguete City, on the central Visayan island of Negros Oriental, and Armando brought along his friend Eli Reed, a member of the famed photographic collective known worldwide as Magnum Photos.
We spent a week immersing ourselves in the local scene, capturing daily life as it transpires in a small town at the far-flung edge of Earth. We shared our images and exchanged ideas, and the experience gave me a welcome shot of renewal and inspiration.
In exchange for the island hospitality, Eli was gracious enough to give a presentation of his work to students and townspeople alike, who gathered one morning at Foundation University, a school founded by my grandfather 64 years ago in Negros, a rural province situated some 300 miles away from the seat of Philippine power, money and culture in the capital, Manila.
Eli, the author of some great photography (including “Beirut: City of Regrets,” “Black in America” and “Homeless in America”), showed a body of work spanning the last four decades. And for almost three hours, the audience was mesmerized, paying rapt attention to virtually every image projected on the screen. It’s safe to say they had never seen masterwork like that before.
For the last six years, I have made annual trips to the Philippines to teach and apply my knowledge of photography, which can be a tool of political, economic and social empowerment, especially in emerging nations. There’s just something about an image that says so much about what is good, what is bad and what needs to be changed.
Eli also took time to mentor my students, having them tag along and allowing them to look over his shoulder on our daily walkabouts. I am deeply grateful for his gift of wisdom and action, and helping out.
The following is a gallery of our images and includes the work of Eli, Armando, my former student Hersley Ven Casero and myself.
Maybe someday we can all do it again.