In his series Manila Gothic, Filipino artist Lawrence Sumulong (b. 1987) presents an interpretative documentation of the current state of Philippine President Duterte’s war on drugs and the trauma left in its wake. While the war has been brutal, Sumulong says it’s not his ambition to traffic in spectacle, but rather, “to report, analyze, and interpret trauma and its portrayal in a personal light and different spectrum”.
Sumulong’s images depict the men, women and children who lost loved ones in the killings by revisiting former murder sites and reconnecting with the families and individuals going through the process of despair and grief. These feelings are accentuated by Sumulong’s use of a forensic camera and filter that captures a mixture of IR and UV light, resulting in eerie colours – an effect that makes reference to altered states. Throughout the series, the colour yellow is ever-present, which Sumulong explains holds significant value in Filipino history as a symbol of unity and defiance.
The work overall is a mixed-media production which includes handwritten letters from the victims, ephemera and site-specific street art. The photos included here speak to the opiate affect that violence is having on the people of Philippines, and its perception. Although the individuals seem to be mourning, Sumulong’s imagery projects complex feelings of optimism through his use of colour, emphasising how unity can help to transcend, or numb, such a situation.