This collections of portraits were made in collaboration with the Tula-Tula community in the mountainous highland region of Southern Palawan in the Philippines. It is part of a larger long term project about the struggles of marginalised communities living close to the land and the threats that divide and displace local groups.
The Tula-Tula community are Pala'wan one of several of the indigenous groups that are the ancestral inhabitants of the island of Palawan. Groups throughout the island are involved in a continuing battle to gain ancestral domain rights, to have basic needs met by local and national government and to protect their land from the interest of mining companies and developers.
Semi-nomadic the tribes are still largely hunter gatherers, apart from small agricultural activity and minimal livestock. Isolated from the lowland towns sometimes as far as a 10 hours away into the mountains, groups are cut off from medical needs, electricity and education. Groups living closer to the lowland have more access to modernity but live for the major part, off the land with limited job opportunity and activity, the groups live far below the poverty line, yet manage to survive due to their relationship with the land and their interaction with other communities.
Environmental change and threat of displacement from mining activity and development is of great concern to the groups with the real risk of forced migration and in the face of increasingly dire circumstances in cities or areas far from their homelands.
Originally beginning as an exchange with community members to take their portrait in their remote locations where photography is still a novelty and a instant photograph becomes a treasured item. The images aimed to capture the community as they are everyday, depicting their proud poses, their laughter and their comradeship. As the collection of photographs I kept increased, I began to see the kitschy nature of the instant photographs as a parody of traditional colonial imagery depicting indigenous peoples.
In them I saw the members of the community I came to know with fond memory but also, an outsiders eye... bold colours and an exotic location show us realties far from our own. It fascinates me how quickly photographs can capture their subjects offering them up to the viewer, however this can be dangerous, confirming or adding to the ambiguity of already existing notions of the other.
Ultimately these images are a portrait of a community asking people to identify with their struggle, their culture and their daily lives. There is no pretentiousness is their poses, just themselves.