The empty barongs featured in Maguindanao Memorial commemorates the victims of a 2009 massacre of a convoy of 34 journalists and 24 civilians in a southern province of the Philippines. The victims, political rivals of a powerful political dynasty in the Maguindanao province, were ambushed on their way to file candidacy papers for governor of the region. The slaughter of the media workers covering the candidacy filing represents, according to Reporters Without Borders, the biggest massacre of journalists in history.
I chose to memorialize the victims with barongs, a formal Philippine shirt made of piña (pineapple leaf fibers) or cotton, having their emptiness represent the void left in the wake of their murders. The brown emulsion of the Van Dyke Brown photographic process and the irregular coating allude to the chaotic mass grave dug by a government-owned backhoe that buried the corpses and vehicles. The goal of this series is not only to serve as a remembrance of the victims, but also to highlight the fragility of democratic elections and press freedoms around the world.
Jason Reblando is an artist and photographer based in Normal, Illinois. He received his MFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago, and a BA in Sociology from Boston College. He is the recipient of a U.S. Fulbright Fellowship to the Philippines and an Artist Fellowship Award from the Illinois Arts Council. His work has been published in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Financial Times. His photographs are collected in the Library of Congress, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Pennsylvania State University Special Collections, the Midwest Photographers Project of the Museum of Contemporary Photography, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He is an Assistant Professor of Photography in the Wonsook Kim School of Art at Illinois State University.