pau villanueva photography
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Pau Villanueva
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November 8, 2021
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Celebrating The Most Vulnerable: A Snapshot of Pau Villanueva’s Work

Photography is a wonderful tool to celebrate people and communities. And it is even more powerful when it is used to put the spotlight on the most forgotten and marginalized people.

Pau Villanueva’s work does exactly that. This queer Filipino photographer documents the suffering and issues of the most vulnerable. He works at the intersection of queerness, gender and ethnicity to carry the voices of those who have been silenced. His photographs are a journey through the human experience: the exploration of self, of others, and of the empathy that links them.

Pau has notably worked on the conditions of the Lumad communities, Austronesian indigenous people living in the southern Philippines, and who are often evicted from their lands and displaced. They have faced several humanitarian crises, notably due to armed conflicts in the Philippines and global warming - recurrent droughts and typhoons are threatening their access to food security and endangering their health. The COVID pandemic has sadly been no exception, and members of the Lumad community have been under threat, yet again.

He has also taken a series of photographs, titled ‘Castles in the Sky’, following the life of a gay drag queen performer who planned on opening a bar with his partner. Sadly, his partner passed away before they got a chance to live their dreams. Pau’s series contains photographs portraying the performer in full drag queen gear, as well as in his everyday life. He explains:

‘​​With the glitz and the glamour of the mainstream drag culture, the audience is conditioned to perceive performers in the show business and entertainment industry as people who always live free, openly happy, and vivid lives. We fail to look beyond the barrage of masks and costumes that these colorful characters bring on stage because of these preconceived notions. Perhaps, behind the ethereal and alluring armors lie the vulnerabilities of a truly human life.’ (Pau Villanueva, 2019)

Pau is a 2020 National Geographic Explorer and he has been recently announced as a mentee for 2021 Women Photograph Mentorship Class. His latest project is a documentary exploration of ‘gender expansive Lumad from Mindanao, exploring the intersectionality of queer and cultural identity in indigenous communities that have suffered from displacement, loss of ancestral land, and conflict.’ (Pau Villanueva, 2021)

You can browse the gallery down below to discover a snapshot of his work!

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