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Focus on the female gaze

By MARBBIE TAGABUCBA, The Philippine Star Published Jul 23, 2021 6:00 am

What does it mean to be a woman in photography today? We ask six of the country’s top photographers.

Regine David

It means being a female photographer instead of being a photographer that is female. Last year, I was asked whether I felt any discrimination working as a female photographer and I said ‘No, I don’t think so.’ I was never made aware of the opportunities I could have had to begin with.

Unfortunately, glass ceilings exist, especially in the Philippines. We have worked within a community where established voices would much rather question our place in their world instead of supporting the prospect of diverse narratives.

To be honest, I think we would love to create without the burden of gender, age, or nationality and have our bodies of work seen without signifiers but the reality is that these privileges do not exist for women today.

There are a few: The shared tenderness and vulnerability in our images, which I can attribute to our presence as a woman. This tenderness allows us to see our subjects differently since we ourselves are aware of the vulnerability of being a woman. This same tenderness is weaponized and seen as weakness and pigeonholed as to what the female gaze can be; only soft and tender, nothing more.

The truth is that there are multitudes to what the female gaze can be: rough, aggressive, honest, sensual, emotional, logical, desirable, fearless, powerful. It is this very reason why it is essential to have our narratives heard, as having only a limited representation of what we see means having an inaccurate representation of what we experience as humans.

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Hannah Reyes Morales

It means lifting others up. It means finding ways to care for other women: finding ways to uplift your community, especially when you’ve found ways to lift up yourself.

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Andrea Beldua

My unique experience of being a woman shapes my view as an artist, and to be female artists means our experiences shape our narrative. As a female photographer today, I understand how women want to be perceived. This builds a trust that lets us exist freely and share our stories in their most authentic form.

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Gabby Cantero

Being a woman in any industry is tough. It’s a given that we have to work twice as hard just to be given the opportunity to work. As a female photographer and director, I’d like to think we’ve proven ourselves enough; that whatever a man can do, we can, also. I truly wish for the day we aren’t labeled anymore as female photographers but just simply as photographers.

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Cru Camara

We are currently working in an industry that either ignores or devalues us both as professionals and as people, so being a female photographer today means challenging expectations, proving ourselves, and removing barriers that were made to keep us in place.

Joann Bitagcol

I’ve always believed that photography or any other field and skill is open to all. Everything and anything deserves to be experienced by everyone. Like this barong top that I designed and photographed, it’s for everyone!

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Visit for a library of Filipino women and non-binary photographers and relevant reading materials on the subject gathered by the photographer Colin Dancel.