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Burying the Lead
Following Typhoon Haiyan, 60 Filipino families were forced to move into Leyte Provincial Jail after being left homeless and destitute. For close to a year, they lived alongside their incarcerated relatives, some of whom were accused of rape and homicide. I gained access to the prison and verified that families continued to live in the jail after 6 months.
Since this series was shot, the families have long since left the jail, but their fates are unknown to me. I began to question where these images fit into my own life as a result. It disturbed me how quickly news breaks and inevitably disappears while one’s images remain interred in the archive.
For an upcoming survey and exhibition of contemporary Filipino photographers in Manila, I was presented with the opportunity to show new work, but decided to move backwards, revisit this series, and create one of a kind ambrotypes (photographs on glass) using the 19th century wet-plate collodion process out of my original digital files with the help of The Penumbra Foundation.
Everything about this series is outdated or rather obscure from the aesthetic to the location itself. As captions, I’ve used traditional Filipino riddles in various dialects that I’ve collected.
As opposed to an exercise engaging in nostalgia, my decisions emerged from a need to consecrate and imbue these seemingly generic and direct images of Filipino faces with the fragility and unseen idiosyncrasies of that traumatic moment in time.
Lawrence Sumulong (b. 1987) is an emerging photographer based in New York City. He received his B.A. from Grinnell College in Iowa where he studied creative writing and won the James Norman Hall Aspiring Writer Award as well as the Lorabel Richardson American Academy of Poets Prize.
His work has appeared in The GroundTruth Project, a global journalism initiative supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, Le Monde’s M Magazine, the Milk Gallery, The New Yorker: Photo Booth, The New York Times, NPR, and Verve: The New Breed of Documentary Photographers.
His postcard series for the publication, Abe’s Penny, is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art Library and the Brooklyn Museum Library.
He is the photo editor at Jazz at Lincoln Center.