The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Art Chatz with Lawrence Sumulong

Lawrence Sumulong ’10 majored in English, receiving the  Lorabel Richardson Academy of American Poets Prize as well exhibiting his photo project Levee in the Smith gallery . Since graduating he has dedicated himself to a number of photograph projects both in the US and the Philippines, one of which is slated for the 2012 Philippines Arts Festival. He is currently based in New York and recently had an image published in The New Yorker.

I guess first I’d like to know a little bit about what projects you’ve been up to since graduating. You’ve been in New York, Manila – what all have you been working on?In terms of personal projects, I’ve finished two photo projects and one short video since graduating.  China Trace (2010) was a series of black and white images observing the effects of gentrification on Chinatown in New York City.  That series was selected for one of Asia’s largest photography festivals, Chobi Mela VI: International Festival of Photography and allowed me to attend a Canon-sponsored workshop through VII Photos.
The second series, Thanks to the Bearer, is actually an ongoing project revisiting the architectural spaces and monuments created by the New Society, which was a cultural movement spearheaded by the Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his wife, Imelda during the 1980’s. It’s “ongoing” in that I need to re-shoot a good portion of the series during my upcoming trip to Manila.
Finally, my short film, Culiat, is a black and white assemblage of clips that I took of an impoverished Muslim migrant community in Metro Manila.  The film was selected for the Sinehan sa Summer: Shorts, a Filipino film festival that took place at the Philippine Consulate here in Manhattan.
As for other noteworthy experiences, I had time to work as a photo assistant this summer for my mentor, David Alan Harvey, who is a member of Magnum Photos, and a long time contributor to National Geographic.

Are these projects separate or do you see certain things tying them together formally or thematically?
I view what I’ve done artistically to be thematically tied together, but I don’t think that is apparent to anyone besides myself or maybe my loved ones.  Despite their roots in the category of the documentary, all three of those series end up pushing a narrative by means of impressionistic techniques and compositions. The use of black and white is a visual abstraction that is also shared in all three works.
Speaking quite generally, all three projects were invested in a particular perspective regarding the passage of time as traumatic and history as an alienating presence.

What venues have you then been sharing this work? Magazines? Gallery spaces?
Since returning to the United States in May, I honestly haven’t pushed this work towards any particular venue. At the end of the day, I look back and just see weak, indecipherable work. In the past year, I have sent my work out to maybe two or three web magazines. I had something published via The New Yorker, but that was just a single that I submitted.
Thanks to the Bearer is possibly going to be included in the 2012 Philippine Arts Festival, which is a touring national exhibition.

What projects do you have on deck, what do you hope to accomplish in 2012?
My last trip abroad was quite intense and I learned so much about myself and the Philippines as a nation, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into making great pictures. With that said, I’m returning to the Philippines this winter with a definite focus and resolve.
The most ambitious project will follow the journeys of Filipino migrants from the conflict ridden island of Mindanao, to the Muslim quarter of Manila, and finally to the Middle East.
We’ll see where that goes, but I’m thinking that body of work will be the culmination of 4 years of experimentation as well a project that will be worth showcasing.
In regards to my “career,” my close friend and I recently started our own video production company, which has already done promotional work for several A-list chefs and a Michelin star-rated restaurant.  We plan on incorporating and I’ll probably have my hands full with that after I return to the States.
Finally, I’m probably going to apply for the 2012-2013 one year certification course at the International Center for Photography in New York City.

Do you have any advice to someone at Grinnell who is interested in pursuing an independent creative career similar to yours?
You can only profit from “pre-production.” Coming from someone who is impulsive and disorganized, I grudgingly admit that having a storyboard will make any creative endeavor so much easier.     – compiled by Nic Wilson

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
Donate to The Scarlet & Black
$0
$500
Contributed
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Scarlet & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *