Fourth-year Fine Arts student Ranz Bontogon unveils reflective photobook

12 Apr 2024
Recipient of the Marjorie Young Bell Fine Arts & Music Award aims to bridge cultures through a visual journey

Fourth-year Fine Arts student Ranz Bontogon recently released a photobook capturing his journey of reconnecting with his roots in the Philippines.  

Bontogon’s book, Sa Pilipinas, which translates to “In the Philippines,” showcases 132 pages of black and white images of the Philippines with essays to introduce each chapter discussing the history of the Philippines and its culture. 

Sa Pilipinas is available for purchase at the Owens Art Gallery, Struts Gallery, and Tidewater Books & Browsery. 

“My main practice as an emerging artist is film photography,” says Bontogon. “I spent many hours in the photo studio producing photographic prints and developing films. I started my project in the summer of 2023 by rolling films to get ready for my trip back home.” 

This reflection comes after he was awarded the prestigious Marjorie Young Bell Fine Arts & Music Award. Ranz received $6,000 to fund his project under the supervision of Leah Garnett, associate professor and head of the Pierre Lassonde School of Fine Arts. 

Once he arrived in the Philippines, Bontogon spent six weeks within the community where he was raised and returned to Sackville last summer to begin an internship at the Owens Art Gallery.  

“Every day that summer, after my day at the Owens, I went straight to the Purdy Crawford Centre to develop the films I had taken when I was back home. I ended up scanning and editing about a thousand images for the photobook project,” he says.  

Bontogon was inspired by Robert Frank’s work The Americans, a photobook that explores American street scenery through a series of black and white candid photos taken in the late 1950s. 

“Winning the Marjorie Young Bell Fine Arts & Music Award meant the world to me. It was my opportunity to show my home and represent Filipino culture, its people, and the Filipino community that lives here in Canada,” says Bontogon. 

His book aims to foster a deeper understanding between the Philippines and Canada by bridging their cultural gap. 

“After finishing this project, I’ve never been prouder to be a Filipino,” he says. “I feel incredibly privileged to have my images shared with everyone to see.” 

Bontogon is pursuing a degree in Fine Arts, minoring in art history with a certificate in Visual Literacy and Culture, and is set to graduate in May 2024. 

The Marjorie Young Bell Fine Arts & Music Award funds projects outside of regular University activities, focusing on fine arts, music, and other visual and performing arts, focusing on outward facing, collaborative, interdisciplinary, or community engagement projects. 

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