24
Apr

Angeles City

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Personal Work, Travel

This is the fifth post in this series. You can see all of the posts by clicking on the Arts Aftercare tag.

Required Reading: I highly recommend reading the Wikipedia page on Human Trafficking in the Philippines.  It will give you better context for my story and the situation in places like Angeles City.

The final destination of our trip was Angeles City, the second largest sex tourism destination in the world.  This was a difficult way to end the trip, but at the same time, I’m really glad I didn’t start the trip with this.  It was a dark, heavy place, and I was definitely out of my comfort zone.

While I was taking pictures in front of a bar on the Walking Street, a man approached me and asked me to take his picture with a group of bar girls (pictured below).  After the group shot, and an off-color comment, the man introduced Becker and I to his girlfriend, who is in the next picture.  He told us what a great time was waiting to be had in Angeles, and we chatted with him for a few minutes.  Before we parted ways, he asked how he could get copies of the pictures I took.  He gave us his email address, and after we returned to our hotel that night, we looked him up on Facebook.  Turns out, his name is Michael Wiener, and he is a former New Mexico State Senator, and the current County Commissioner in Bernalillo County.

Angeles was a strange place, because for the previous 8 days in the Philippines, we saw very few caucasians.  As soon as we arrived in Angeles, we saw hundreds of middle aged and older white men everywhere we went with young Filipino women.  I saw some extremely disturbing things, and felt a heavy darkness in Angeles.  I don’t really know if it is necessary to go into any detail about all of that stuff, but I also don’t really feel like talking about it any further.  I think these images say what I feel needs to be said.

This is the one picture from this series that is not from Angeles.  Pegasus is in Manila, but it fit so well with this series, and I had to find a way to show it.  The sign says it all.  Pegasus is a high end club that is known for selling very young girls.  They charge $500 just to get in the door.

Bernalillo County Commissioner Michael Wiener.

04
Apr

Arriving In Manila

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Personal Work, Travel

Last month I wrote about an upcoming assignment in the Philippines for an organization called Arts Aftercare.  Here is a link to the post if you are interested in the backstory, but basically I was working with the story of sexual slavery, human trafficking, and the work people are doing to help survivors.  I was gone for 10 days in the beginning of March, and  I got back to the States a few weeks ago.  After taking some time to rest, and reflect on the trip and what I saw, I finally feel like I am at a point now where I have processed enough of the trip, and I can share my thoughts and more importantly, my pictures.  I feel like this project makes the most sense when split up into 4 or 5 different stories.  The first part of the story is arriving in Manila and getting somewhat acclimated to my surroundings.

I have never had to think so much about an assignment as I did on this trip.  There are so many variables to consider, which I have never had to think about on past assignments.  One of the things I found myself thinking about a lot on this trip was journalistic integrity.  Thankfully I was traveling and working with my close friend, and filmmaker Eric Becker who I learned so much from.  It would have been a totally different experience for me if I didn’t have him there for support, and just overall great companionship.  When I was in Liberia last year, I took pictures of anyone, because everyone in the entire town I was in, was effected in one way or another by the lack of clean drinking water.  It was something that had a broad reach, and just about any person, place or thing seemed relevant to the story.  In the Philippines, I was trying to tell a story about sexual slavery.  Although prostitution seemed to be everywhere I turned, it is not so easy to create a visual story without being painstakingly careful.  For example, we stayed at the Holiday Inn Resort when we visited Angels City.  Just in the short time I spent in the lobby during a 24 hour period, I saw 20 or so men bring back, or meet prostitutes in the lobby.  Everyone knows what is going on, but at the same time, seeing a 65 year old American man and a 20 year old Filipino girl walking to a hotel room is not proof of what is going on.  Sometimes the age difference was not so great, and it certainly isn’t fair to assume every white guy and Filipino girl are in anything other than a serious relationship.  Being a portrait photographer, I wanted to photograph so many different people, but I knew I needed to be careful what I was implying by including someones portrait or picture in a series like this.  I didn’t photograph the bellhop at the hotel I was staying at and say he is somehow a part of the story, anymore than I would want someone photographing me in the Philippines and saying I was somehow involved.  There is actually a lot of human trafficking that happens in Seattle.  Seattle is a major player in human trafficking unfortunately, but that doesn’t mean you can photograph anyone in Seattle and say they are part of the story.  Some of you may be thinking what I am saying seems pretty obvious, but it was  new for me, and took a lot of thought to work through.

With all of that being said, these images are from our travels to Manila from Seattle, as well as wandering around and exploring Manila after we first arrived.  Which I might add, we didn’t have much time to explore.  None of these images are linked to or are intended to be linked to prostitution or human trafficking, but they help set the stage for where I was in the Philippines, and what my surroundings were like.

I am really excited to share more from this trip in the coming days and dive into the images I am most excited about.  As always, thanks for your interest!

On another note, all of these images were edited with VSCO Film which is an amazing image editing tool for Lightroom, Aperture, and Camera RAW.  It has totally sped up my workflow, improved my images, and is one of my favorite tools as a photographer.  Check it out for yourself here.  I also wrote a couple of reviews here and here with processed images if you want to find out more.