Vicente Jaime Villafranca Manila, Philippines

VICENTE JAIME VILLAFRANCA (b. 1982 Manila, Philippines)

He started his career as a staff photojournalist for the national news magazine, Philippines Graphic and then going freelance in 2006. He then worked with international wire agencies such as  Agence France Presse, Reuters, World Picture Network and the United Nations IRIN news wire before concentrating on his personal documentary projects.

His project about the lives of former gang members in one of Manila’s dangerous slums, BASECO compound, garnered him the 2008 Ian Parry Scholarship grant in London. He is also a full scholar at the Asian Center for Journalism Photojournalism program managed by the World Press Photo Foundation in 2007-2008, and the 2nd artist to hold residence in the Crossing Point program held in Perpignan, France in 2008. He was also part of the 2013 Joop Swart Masterclass in Amsterdam covering the theme of ‘hope’.

His images has been exhibited in London, Lithuania, Hongkong, Phnom Pehn, France, Portugal, Norway, Thailand, Turkey and Manila. Veejay’s continued effort in producing in-depth and personal stories has brought him to different parts of the Philippines and Asia.

Veejay’s ongoing projects evolve around the Filipino faith as a dying culture and other religious/spiritual practices, the reserved space and ancestral land for ethnic tribes and migration due to climate change in Southeast Asia apart from his project with the gangs.


Veejay Villafranca


Veejay Villafranca was chosen by photographer Gareth Phillips


Laatikkomo’s interview with Veejay Villafranca June 6th, 2016

L:  Where are you from? What cities, and/or countries have you lived in – or what places have influenced you?

VV:   I am from Manila, a massive city of about 20 million (and growing) inhabitants. I’ve never lived anywhere else outside the Philippines’ capital but there are a few places that have influenced and continue to have their ‘pull’ on me. India, particularly the Northeast – for its peculiarity and indifference from the rest of their country but shares similarities to the Northern Philippine territories. Myanmar – My first encounter with an environment that was trapped in time and seemed to be slowly moving out of its shell (this was back in 2008).


L:  What is your earliest memory of photography?

VV:  Earliest memory of photography was when my father would hang is old Nikon F on my neck during school activities and let me shoot several frames. This was maybe 25 years or so ago.


L: Most (if not all) of your photography is black and white, what interests you about black and white film?

VV:  Because it draws more emotion rather than giving a ‘factual’ representation of an event/subject. That’s just how I feel about it as I continue to explore this medium. I can focus more on creating images and narrative instead of being distracted by color. That’s just me, probably a romanticized mantra in my head. But since there are no rules, apart from journalism ethics that I abide, technique and medium is part of the freedom of expression.


L: Many of your projects are photographed in harsh environments and deal with difficult subjects such as climate refugees, gangs, storm victims, etc.. One of your projects is named ”Against the dying of the light”. Where do you personally find the light in these kinds of places? 

VV:  Interesting and important question. Most people would have a dark feeling and melancholy when looking at my work, add that to the grit and contrasty feel of the images. One message I’m trying to impart is endurance and strength of the human sprit. Light and refuge is usually found in the stories of the people I photograph, how they keep on living amidst uncertainties. These experiences/stories is what I want to share through my work.


L: Photography, and documentary photography in particular, is often a tool for telling stories. Do you have an overall (Global) story or message you want to tell with your images?  And is there a specific story you would like to tell in the future?

VV:  Like I have mentioned earlier, I’m very much interested in personal stories, small stories that evoke experiences. I think that’s the strength of documentary photography, a reflection of a personal experience and how the readers react to them and hopefully trigger something within them.


L: As with your project ”A Race Divided”, photography can be a way of communicating a message. Can you share some thoughts about making these photographs/stories, more accessible to common people?

VV:   Since mobile technology has become more accessible to people, I think the best way to reach a wider audience is to make (social media) platforms publish these stories. With the dwindling spaces for traditional print publications, I think we have to explore these new spaces and make use of them to reach our audiences.


L:  Could you list five or more words related to the work you are showing in Laatikkomo?

VV:   I take photographs because our differences as human beings can also be beneficial to each other. 


Thank you so much Veejay!!