Tuesday, November 26, 2013

That iconic print by Eduardo Masferre.

Masferré: Soul of Sagada
Written and Photographed by JUN REYNALES.

Sagada, Mountain Province, November 4, 2013This was a different journey for me. Not the usual “travel and tell” adventure like what I’ve previously gone through and enjoyed. From the start, I’ve already set my objective why I wanted to go to Sagada, Mountain Province. It was all about wanting to see and learn about the country’s foremost pioneer and master in Philippine Photography – and his name is Eduardo Masferré.

            In a hindsight, Eduardo Masferré was born in 1909 in Sagada, Mountain Province (died June 24, 1995), of Catalonia (Spain) descent from a spaniard soldier and Nena Ogues (local lass from Sagada) in the late twentieth century, was also a self-taught photographer. This self-taught photographer focused taking photographs of the Igorots – their characters and lifestyles – and was estimated to have at least seven million photographs that he took. From the different faces of these wonderful indigenuous people of the Cordilleras  to their celebrations, rituals, and the normal everyday life.  
E.Masferre's print.

            In the late 1980s, there were few times the public was able to view his photographs through the different exhibitions:  in Manila (1982, 1983), in Copenhagen (1984), and in Tokyo (1986). The year after, the Smithsonian Institution bought 120 prints of his works for National Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of Yale University made some interests of his works.

            Likened to the prominent names to some of the photography masters of the early 19th and 20th centuries namely Manuel Alvarez Bravo (cultural and surreal images from Mexico), Eugene Atget (documentary photos of Paris), E.J. Bellocq (prostitute portraits in New Orleans in 1912), Margaret Bourke-White (photojournalist of Nazi concentration camps), Bill Brandt (surrealist and working class in Britian 1930s), Julia Margaret Cameron (Victorian and soft portraits), Roy DeCarava (African-American experiences), Jacques-Herni Lartigue (child photographer in France before World War I), Ansel Adams (American landscape photographer), and so on and forth.

            Going back, arriving in Sagada, after a few hours of rest from the gruelling travel on the road, I wasted no time to visit the place of the master – Masferré Country Inn and Restaurant – operated and managed by the children of Eduardo Masferré, I was fortunate to have met and talked with Monette Masferré.  Monette told me about her father-in-law’s affection to the culture and traditional activities of the Cordillera people, and how he, being the first photographer to be able to document such wealth of these wonderful and colorful people. She told stories of the different photographic equipments of her late father-in-law that are still kept in pristine condition from the cameras, tripods, dark room equipments, and others.
E.Masferre's print.
            Monette Masferré gave me some upcoming good news and plans of the family: to have another coffeetable book launch and will be focusing on their father-in-law’s life as a photographer, his private equipments and collections, and private photographs this time to be part of that collection (remember that his father-in-law has more than seven million prints that are not yet seen by the public). Another family’s plan would also be the renovation of the current Masferré Country Inn and Restaurant into a more intimate one and adding a museum to showcase never-before-seen photography equipments. All these plans are heading up for public appreciation this coming 2014!
            Trivial stories about the daily chores of the children of the master was shared also by Monette, like the new business of pasteurizing goat’s milk and labeling them under Masferré Cheese (or milk) that’s keeping them busy, aside from the exciting chores operating their inn. I told Monette that I can’t wait to see their plan materialize next year, and would love to be of an assistance – being a photographer myself – in the creation of their upcoming coffeetable book and their plans for the photography museum.

Getting an inspiration from the master’s life and stories, my perspective in capturing photographs gave me affirmation, that capturing the people and their culture in their moment in time, that in some decades from now when everyone in this generation became dusts and earth, only through my captured photographs one can surmise how life was lived and how we lived with our soul... once in our generation.


            Thank you, through the invitation of Jb Quemado and Vincent Ray Hallig of Travel Mode Philippines, that this worthwhile adventure came about. It was a fun trip with such a wonderful team, all logistics were taken cared for, and albeit the long drive it was an enjoyable trip none the less. Life is Good!


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