Pinoy photographer showcases differently-abled artists

Filipino photographer Nico Sepe is holding a photo exhibition, “Co-Labs: The Collaboration”, until April 24 at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center (BACC). 

The series is part of BACC’s concept of the same title, “Co-Labs: Collaboration”. 

“Beauty, pure without vanity!” is how Sepe describes the show that features 10 Thai artists with special needs who have learned to express themselves using different media. 

 Sepe photographed each artist using the wet plate collodion process, or ambrotype, a type of photography that dates back to 1854 and uses glass as negative.  

Sepe started his career in photography in the late 1970’s documenting lives in the underground movement and the fall of the Marcos dictatorship. He did mostly commissioned work by non-government organizations and some self-funded documentary projects.  

He co-founded CENTERPHOTO (Philippine Center of Photojournalists) and worked for newspapers and magazines. He was also involved in several book projects including “Philippines: A Journey through the Archipelago,” the Philippine Navy’s “Tides of Change”, and the University of the Philippines’ “Sipat”.  

Currently based in Bangkok where he practices and teaches the wet plate collodion process, he has done several joint exhibitions and one-man shows.  

  Sepe started the Co-Labs project last year as part of the ongoing “Language of the Soul” series of exhibitions in BACC to showcase artists with Down Syndrome. The series aims to bring a new perspective to art and encourage families to help people with special needs reach their full potential. 

 Collaborating with artists with special needs was challenging especially because of the corona virus disease 2019 (Covid-19) restrictions.  

Sepe coordinated with the Rainbow Room Foundation (a special needs awareness center) and BACC in putting the project together. The first plate was done in October 2021 and he finished the last one this February. 

 The artists featured in the show include weavers,  painters, sculptors and musicians. Featured artists are painter Catleeya Asavanant, weaver Krailas Skuldist, miniature sculptor Pakchanya U-Pratya, poetry reader Petchlapa Chevamongkol, sculptors Yaipoeng and Naipran, kor krachao (a round neck traditional-style top) maker Peerach Panayothakul, khim (also kim) musician Chanita Thamthatpimol, eurithmy (expressive movement art) performers Korakot and Tanayu Teerasawad, saxophone player Jittipat Thongprasert  and painter Pasin Singhasaneh 

 The exhibit was officially opened by Than Phu Ying Sirikitiya Jensen, granddaughter of the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej and niece of the current King Vajiralongkorn of Thailand.  

Sepe, in his speech during the opening, said he chose the wet plate collodion medium because it had historical relevance. After the discovery of Down Syndrome by English physician John Langdon Down, wet plate was used to record the people with the condition. 

  Sepe said the exhibit aimed to raise awareness and recognition of people with special needs. He dedicated the  project to his nephew Emilio Sepe who also has Down Syndrome. 

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