Eduardo Masferré the father of Philippine photography

Saturday May 30, 2020 ()

Eduardo Masferré was a Filipino-Catalan photographer who made important documentary reports about the lifestyle of native people in the region of the Cordillera in the Philippines at the middle of 20th century. He is regarded as the Father of Philippine photography.

Eduardo Masferré
(Eduardo Masferré)

Born on April 18, 1909 in Sagada in Mountain Province in northern Luzon, his father was a Spanish soldier who had emigrated from Spain in the late nineteenth century. Eduardo's marriage to Nena Ogues blessed him with six children - Roland, Jaime, Nena, Pancho, Leonor, and Eivira.

In 1914, his father took their family to Sant Feliu de Guíxols, Catalan, Spain, so that their children could study in Catalonia. But in 1921, they returned to the Philippines. Eduardo finished his studies on the islands. His father eventually became a farmer and an Episcopalian priest.

harrowing a field, 1948
(Harrowing A Field, 1948)

In his early years, he became interested in photography. He was a self-taught photographer. When he returned to his hometown, he was devoted to take pictures of his surroundings among which were the native Igorots. His photos are mostly pictures of people rather than landscapes. At the same time, he began working with his father on the farm and in Episcopalian evangelism.

Butbut, 1951
(Butbut, 1951)

When World War II ended, he opened a photographic studio in Bontoc. His portraits are a visual documentary of the life stories of indigenous peoples in the Cordillera Central. His subjects included ceremonies, rituals, and everyday life. There are estimates that place have some seven million photographs on this subject in the fifties made in Bontoc, Kalinga, and Ifugao. His photographs are intended to show the life of the natives from the point of view of someone who lives with them and with which it identifies, so it has a type emic ethnographic value.

Sagada, 1952 (Sagada, 1952)

Masferre's first exhibit was held in Manila in 1982. After a second exhibit in Manila the next year, his work traveled to Copenhagen (1984) and Tokyo (1986). In 1988, his third Manila exhibit was mounted, and the book of his works, E. Masferre: People of the Philippine Cordillera, was produced. Funding from Mobil Philippines provided 1,500 copies to Philippine schools, museums, and libraries. Mobil also funded the touring exhibit of Masferre's works to Baguio, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, Davao and Bacolod.

Butbut, 1953
(Butbut, 1953)

In 1989 he was invited to exhibit his works at the world's most prestigious photographic exhibition: Les Recontres International de La Photographie, in Arles, southern France. He is the only Filipino to have been accorded this honor. In 1990, the Smithsonian Institution purchased 120 of Masferre's original prints, and exhibited them for six months in the main rotunda of the American National Museum of Natural History, in Washington DC. The original prints are now carefully archived in the world's premier facility for their preservation, while superb replicas travel. The traveling exhibit first went to the University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia, and is now at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

Eduardo Masferré passed away peacefully early in the morning of June 24, 1995. He was 86 years old.

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