Veejay Villafranca: Speaking Documentary Photography

Through the Lens: Veejay Villafranca’s Speaking Documentary Photography

Veejay Villafranca’s Speaking Documentary Photography

Capturing the reality that hits after the natural disasters happened in his hometown, Veejay put all honesty in his every photos. 

The Jakarta International Photo Festival (JIPFest), Indonesia’s first international photography festival was held on June 25-July 9, 2019 at Taman Ismail Marzuki and dozens of public spaces in Jakarta. JIPFest aims to enrich photographers’ skill and expertise as well as to facilitate a forum in which photographers can exchange ideas. In line with our value to enhance the synergies within creators, CoHive thus partnered with JIPFest ’19 to support the Indonesia’s photography ecosystem in raising awareness on photographers’ important role in the society.

Creative minds are what always inspire us to grow, especially those CoHive team met at JIPFest ’19. When we first stumbled upon Veejay Villafranca’s photos, we were in awe of how he could transform the emotion of a subject into beautiful set of photographs. Capturing the reality that hits after the natural disasters happened in his hometown, Veejay put all honesty in his every photos. 

Started out his career as a staff photographer for the Manila-based national news magazine, The Philippines Graphic, he then put his career on a whole new level by entering the world of documentary photography. His latest release, “Signos: Climate Change Aftermath in The Philippines” granted him as the first Asian photographer receiving Ian Parry Award. 

During the first Jakarta International Photo Festival (JIPFest) 2019, we finally had the chance to talk to the man behind the lens. 

CoHive: Most people now recognize you as a documentary photographer. Why choosing documentary photography? How did it start?

Veejay: After 4.5 years working for The Philippines Graphic, I started to feel the urge to experience other things. After going around to different places, I encountered several stories on the ground that I want to pursue more. So I consciously made a decision to pursue a long-form documentary photography. I started to invest my time and a good amount of energy to produce a body of work.

CoHive: Now talking about your latest work, “Signos: Climate Change Aftermath in The Philippines”, what is it actually about?

Veejay: I covered stories on disaster areas in the first two years of this work and I gravitated more toward the communities and how they are actually living after those disasters happened. So it was more about their living conditions, shelter, access to food and security and so on. All of that dissected stories about the effects of climate change. When I was doing research on how to put these things together, one of the questions that I had in mind was, ‘How the Philippines actually survived the typhoons’ I saw a lot of people from the communities, aid organizations, media or personalities are smiling because they have this kind of resilient, and I kind of hated that. So it became one of the thoughts for ‘Signos’, to re-examine the word ‘resilient’. 

The word ‘signos’ itself comes from Latin that means ‘a sign’. That became my main theme for the whole project. These are the signs. If you look at the book, you can look at any photograph and the style makes it look like it could be taken yesterday or in the ‘50s. That is the message. I’m showing all these images as a warning sign that this is not going to change and this is going to be the new normal for people who are affected. Whatever you believe in, these communities are always affected. They’re the ones who bear the impact of our lack of actions.

CoHive: If you could pick five advice for young photographers, what would it be?

Veejay: 1) Respect your subject, 2) Be responsible for all your actions and all the effort you put out there, 3) Discipline, 4) Grit, 5) Professionalism. 

It’s already a privilege to take on the camera and pointing it to a subject and be given the chance to represent something through our photographs. So get that, own that, use that, complete the cycle, show it to other people, tell the story. Another tip would be to always put your feet on the ground, no matter how many awards you get or how much money make, at the end of it all, all of us are in the same field. Maybe some would have more privileges than others, but in general it’s all about the stories that we tell. Always tell the stories well, honest, true and creative.

CoHive: Now there are a lot of young photographers out there who want to pursue photography as a career. What do you think of the emergence of companies who provide creative spaces such as co-working spaces and studios? How does it help photographers?

Veejay: I believe it’s very important. The business model for photographers have changed with time. It’s not always about working from home or formal office nowadays. I believe these kinds of space would foster that new business model. A good part of photography is also still about the business. A lot of photographers still have limited knowledge on business practice, sometimes they don’t understand how to push forward, including myself. This kind of places would help overcome that challenge. On the creative side, these places would be a good place to distant photographers from distractions and also inspired them with all the creative aspects. 

CoHive: Last but not least. Could you tell us what you think about JIPFest 2019?

Veejay: I’m very happy and very humble to be a part of the first JIPFest in Jakarta. Indonesia photography community is not totally new to me, and I have a lot of good friends within this community. So coming here to JIPFest and being a part of this festival gives me honour because I get to see all this great works and great projects from the photography community in Indonesia, the organizers and all other people who have collaborated with them. I’m very thankful for JIPFest!

Check out for more information about Veejay Villafranca. 

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