Fine Art photographer Marlon Despues is a graduate of the College of Environmental Design, University of California at Berkeley, USA, Class of ’81 where he studied architecture, science, poetry, and where he was classically trained in photography almost thirty years ago.
In July 18 – Sept. 9, 2006, the Instituto Cervantes located at 855 T.M. Kalaw St., 1004 Ermita, Manila presented 800 + of his nude photo images in a solo exhibit entitled LA PIEL COMO METAFORA, Fotografias de Marlon Despues.
Collecting images for this 800 plus photo exhibit began in 2005 with the gracious support from a host of volunteers, most of whom joined the project through referrals from other participants – including doctors, directors, teachers, politicians, tricycle drivers, models, artists, diplomats, many coming from Spain, the United States, Australia, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Egypt, Korea, China, India, Japan but mostly from the Republic of the Philippines.
Sofia Guillermo observes in her blog http://umbrellasewingmachine.org/writing/lapiel.html published in August 2006:
“In his landmark exhibit at Instituto Cervantes, over 800 photographs have taken over walls and part of the ceiling to form, as it were, the building’s inner skin……Admittedly, the exhibit overwhelms at first viewing and must give the most jaded exhibit-goer pause. After all, on how many occasions are we confronted with hundreds of photographs–not to mention skin portraits–placed edge-to-edge? Yet this is the intended effect. Current commercial nudes have an all-look-same tendency and it is this that the exhibit’s massive attack approach ironically plays on. But to zero in on one portrait is to realize the subject’s individuality and each photograph tells a story–a chapter of autobiography, perhaps–as written on the skin and body. Every curve, every body part, every pose, was chosen by the model to represent his or her entirety, as in synecdoche.”
“It cannot be helped that a photography exhibit of bodies unidealized and individualized should evoke intimations of mortality. In the past year since the earliest photographs were taken, not one of the models–and not even the photographer–can say that nothing has changed about their bodies. Yet the sheer number of people who participated in this collaboration transforms what could have been just another show of skin into a celebration of our vulnerable humanity and an affirmation of the beauty in simply being alive.”
In an interview with lifestyle journalist Oliver Quingco II in the latter part of 2004 for Art Manila QuARTerly Magazine published by the Manila Times, Marlon Despues elaborates on Fine Art Photography:
“My methods are both classic and contemporary – classic because I learned by apprenticing with some of the best black and white photographers in the West, and contemporary because my approach is spur of the moment, capturing a fleeting but interesting arc of human experience. As such, my images are spontaneous and never contrived.”
His nudes exude life – revealing, intimate and playful. He says that part of his motivation in doing nudes is to test its limits within the context of Filipino culture. He explains that unlike other photographers who pay their models to disrobe, his is a collaborative effort between him and his “guests.” He credits his good fortune to the fact that he is not afraid to ask people, even strangers, to pose for him and when they agree, he never dictates on them. Regardless of their status in life (from executives to household help), or gender orientation (heterosexual or gay), or physical condition (fit or obese, pregnant, with scars from surgery or amputations), or marital status (singles, couples, separated, in between), or age (teens to octogenarians), he always asks for their input during the pictorials. Some are at ease showing their faces while others prefer to reveal only certain body parts for the exhibits, but Despues ensures anonymity for all collaborators in deference to their privacy.
When asked to elaborate on what role photography has in his life, Despues waxes poetic.
“When you read a poem and are moved by it, you cannot attribute that to any one particular element. It is in its entirety that the power of inspiration is at its strongest. I can’t say where photography begins and ends in my life. It’s a continuum. You see, it is no longer just an art form. It intertwines with life itself. It now takes on a different meaning. My goal in life is not to make a name for myself or become one of the highest paid photographers in the country, although I may become that somewhere along the way. My goal is to do things which are of significance (benchmarks) that would allow me to find my place and become one with the continuum of photography. Like those who have come before me, I hope to draw others into it and contribute to its development.”
Short of realizing his dream photography exhibit of 1,000 nudes, Marlon Despues died of a heart attack in February 5, 2007.
He was 46 years old.