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All in good time: Through the lens of Hersley Ven Casero

Since the pandemic, seemingly perennial norms have become variable. The only surfacing constant was art and the need for healing.

The Island Special “All in Good Time: Through the Lens of Dumaguete Artist Hersley Ven Casero” capped the year-long V-CON 2 webinar series. The speaker was supported by moderator Onna Rhea Quizo and ExCon Director Mariano Montelibano.

Multidisciplinary artist Hersley Ven Casero was on a roll pre-pandemic. His 2008 laughing boy photo, “The Sound of Laughter,” was the focal point of the global art initiative “Ha?: The Laughing Boy Project.”

This initiative was launched in 2012, when Casero’s iconic photo had a brush with false claims by a Filipino food artist on national TV. Despite friends suggesting legal action against the said artist, optimistic Casero decided on a more constructive option. He reclaimed the work through collaborations. Starting in his hometown Dumaguete, Casero organized a number of “Ha?” workshops and worked with artists of all ages, all around the world.

Local and international participants of the project have produced over 500 versions of the photo, including the largest Laughing Boy mural in Sonoma County, California which Casero painted on the façade of the Fulton Crossing Gallery during his 2019 Chalk Hill Artist Residency.

Almost a year after his residency, the pandemic reached Dumaguete City. Casero confessed that his months of lockdown were cropped by anxiety, so badly he can barely paint.

Prior to the health crisis, he worked with acrylic, denim cutouts, oil on canvas, and related media, and had considerably few internal and external strains. Resolved to cope, he employed gradual transitions to photography. With the use of light and the classic Rule of Thirds, Casero stressed that photography is still painting though there were clear distinctions in approaches.

His paintings were surreal, his photos a take on reality, but his candid shots of people and pets were the best of both. Casero finds life and substance in fleeting, unchoreographed moments. Scuffling with this pandemic, the artist’s healing and saving grace was street photography.

Since last year’s lockdown, Casero has been patrolling the streets of Dumaguete while taking moment shots of locals running errands before the late night curfew. He faithfully caught the pandemic’s early phase, when dentists tarried in hushed clinics and when all was in abstract isolation. After a year in quarantine, Negros Oriental recalibrated as seen in the artist’s recent photographs of pedestrians walking the new normal.

These are some of Casero’s 2020-2021 exhibitions:

  • “On The Rocks,” a solo art show at Space Encounters Gallery, Manila
  • “City VS Quarantine,” a traveling group photo exhibition in European cities
  • “Fujifilm Moment Street Photo Awards 2020,” a group photo exhibition in Poland
  • “Organic Magic,” a one-man show
  • “ATOA,” a group show
  • “All in Good Time,” a book launching and photography exhibition, all at Dakong Balay Art Gallery, Dumaguete City.

“All in Good Time” is Casero’s 120-page photobook in collaboration with Pinspired Philippines. It features two decades of his photographic strolls in Negros Island.

In the book’s introduction, videographer Toulla Mavromati wrote, “All in Good Time” is a phrase that encompasses the idea of patience, of reassurance, of making peace with a lack of control, and of a trust that the Universe will always provide in good time.

It is a sentiment that many of us have had to befriend during the past year, and one that may stick with us for some time as we approach the light of normality at the end of a seemingly endless tunnel, and transition into the next chapter of humanity.” Casero mentioned producing more copies of the photobook, as his first 100 got sold out internationally.

Urban life in this pandemic is a bustling, lonely crescendo but one still hears the steady, gentle rain, the song of cicadas, and a child’s laughter in the silence of Casero’s photographs.

V-CON 2 on “All in Good Time: Through the Lens of Dumaguete Artist Hersley Ven Casero” was conducted virtually last June 26, but is available for virtual viewing through the website vivaexcon.org.

With V-CON 2 wrapped up, VIVA ExCon 2020 moved to its exhibition phase. Features on the artists’ works are up for browse on VIVA’s website and Facebook page until “Kalibutan: The World in Mind” opens on August 2021.* (Vincent Rose Cassiopeia Sarnate)

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