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Poetry in Pictures


At the age of 22, Ryan moved to Paris to rejoin his mother who had not been present in his life for quite some time. Wide-eyed with wonder, the young man from Laguna explored the streets of Paris. His immersion at the picturesque capital of street art with its historic bridges, squares, and landmarks brought him to study photography independently.

Little did he know that this path will lead him to worldwide acclaim with his socio-political art, illuminating the daily repertoire of working Filipinas in France and migrant Filipinas in Italy. His "accidental" art brought him to be the first Filipino photographer to exhibit his work at the very prestigious Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris. His nine-piece photography collection presented Filipino women and their hands damaged by their housekeeping work. The masterpieces were creatively taken from an angle that magnify the hands that serve as the main medium of livelihood. Aptly titled "Chicken hands", the photos is his paean to the Filipina working woman whose voices are stifled by the economic dislocation from their motherland and the working conditions in a foreign country. In an interview article by Renee Ultado of ANCX, Arbilo reflects, "I wanted to pay homage to my mother, and on a bigger scale, to highlight the Filipinos' conditions here in Europe," says Arbilo. "The Filipino spirit. Our work ethic, strength, and dedication."

His work became a big sensation in French art circles, which led him to more exhibits in Dubai, Milan, and Manila's homecoming exhibit at the Yuchengco Museum. His next artistic sojourn was Italy in search of more "chicken hands" subjects. However, the art muses led him to discover a new theme - the vibrant racial mix of Filipina women married to Italian husbands. The antecedent compilation shows mixed-culture families composing the Italian father, the Pinoy mother, and their Europinoy offspring photographed in an Italian ambiance. The fitting title was "Halo-Halo" a Filipino dessert with shaved ice and many different layers of sweet beans, fruits, and other treats. Sylvana Lorenz, a gallerist and Arbilo's staunch mentor, says, "Halo-Halo follows different Filipinas who have claimed their rights to happiness, to be surrounded by a family, to be held, to be loved, and to be a woman."

Ryan Arbilo is currently working on more exhibits in different parts of the world, as he champions the Filipino diaspora's causes through Poetry in Pictures.

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