Arts and Culture

Looking and lingering: Tom Epperson and Denise Weldon at Art Fair PH

Pristine L. De Leon - The Philippine Star
Looking and lingering: Tom Epperson and Denise Weldon at Art Fair PH
“Things are on the rise with photography in the Philippines,” says Tom Epperson. “It is so much better than it was 30 years ago. It is now more accepted as art and people are seeing value in buying images. It will only get better and the Art Fair serves as a great venue to show one’s work.”

MANILA, Philippines — Photography today has largely been about quickness, that split-second shot of a player launching a ball into the hoop, or the habit of instantaneously clicking the phone shutter then posting, sharing, and promoting, until an image is only data and content. In this age saturated with speed and spectacle, Tom Epperson’s and Denise Weldon’s photographs read like visual pauses, drawing us to things that are minute and overlooked: drops of water on glass, objects suspended in melting ice. Through their lens, the world is either still or gradually unfolding. 

For the upcoming Art Fair Philippines running from Feb. 22 to 24, Epperson and Weldon have come together for their first two-man show, titled “Works.” Done with the help of Migs Rosales and Gino Eraña of Caramel Art Advisory and Creative Consultancy and Baby Imperial Anne of B&C Design, the show samples a selection of photographs. “I believe Denise and I have known each other for the better part of 20 years,” says Epperson. “The only thing we collaborated on in the past was for the Philippine Yearbook. We both shot portraits.”

Both raised in the US, Epperson and Weldon have made their names as commercial photographers working in publishing and advertising. Lifestyle shots, fashion portraits, advertising campaigns, and corporate projects were part of the daily grind. Epperson first landed in Manila in the ‘80s, while working for Sydney-based animation studio Burbank Films. A photography major from Wheaton College Massachusetts, Weldon worked in magazine production in Hong Kong where she met her husband and eventually settled in the Philippines.

“Through the years we have shared stories about our lives as photographers and working in the Philippines. We have great respect for each other and our work,” says Weldon. Epperson adds, “I admire Denise’s work so much so I remember telling her not to bother with commercial assignments and to shoot fine art work. I like the way she views the world around her.”

“I am grateful to those private collectors who have seen the value of photography,” says Denise Epperson. “It is my wish that Philippine and Asian art collectors broaden their perspectives and understanding of photography as a creative medium and a form of artistic expression.”

Following Art Fair Philippines’ photography highlight last year, the highly anticipated art event is now set to exhibit Epperson and Weldon’s latest series. Both are excited to see how their works will manage to converse when shown side by side and how it will be received by the fair’s growing audience. Quiet and focused, their photographs often appear like meditations on small things, the ones that drip, melt, and dissipate like soft ephemera. They’re concerned not so much with telling, but rather looking, pausing, and lingering.

“I’ve always tried to communicate through my work the idea of slowing down and taking a good look at what we are surrounded by. Most people only see the big picture and miss the details,” says Epperson. In 2007, Epperson began a series of photographs capturing flowers frozen on ice, and has since shot other objects — the balisong, toys, and sampaguita garlands — on blocks of ice, like fossils on crystals. “This is the first time in a very long time that I will be showing color images with a couple of black and whites,” says the photographer, who in a 2014 interview with The STAR, confessed he’s color blind and he realized the importance of color when he discovered William Eggleston’s enigmatic 1970’s portrait of a tricycle. “This series of work (for the Art Fair) takes me back to when I first started shooting, for the pure joy of shooting with no set agenda. In fact, I was on vacation in the US with my family and I took a walk with my son and came across a dried riverbed.” Rather than scenes and objects meticulously set up, Epperson’s series shows images discovered and chanced upon. He says, “I went out and had fun like the first time I picked up the camera as a kid.”

Weldon’s body of work reveals photographs that are delicate and quiet. In a 2010 group show, “Six6,” that Weldon was part of, its curator Isa Lorenzo writes, “(Weldon’s) personal work has always been about finding the spaces in between life’s daily grind, and harvesting the good out of them.” In 2014, she released a series focusing on drops of water, highlighting order, symmetry, and the play of light. Titled “Water Spirit,” her previous series imagines the artist standing still, crouching, peering in, and hounding smallness. For her work at the art fair, Weldon returns to nature and this state of contemplation. “I have been a quiet observer of life, via the innate connectivity and cycles that transcend faith, color and creed. What are our common threads? How are we more similar? How do we live? How do we love?” she says. “This collection of my recent work is an extension of these themes, and of falling deeper into that state, into that awareness.”

Weldon’s many interests involve the study of faiths, healing modalities, yoga and meditation. Although she never shows them directly, her photographs carry the sense of calm we get from the act of looking — be it at patterns made of water or at the organic contours of flora and fauna. Like in meditation, it is as though her photographs tell us to pause, promising a fullness that comes with those pauses. And in a busy Art Fair, it seems like just the thing we need.




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