Am I a Sea by 22 year-old Filipino Vancouver-based photographer Rydel Cerezo is a series of images that, in Rydel’s own words, “attempts to visualize my personal relationship to the Roman Catholic Church. I not only utilize my younger brother’s body as a reflection of myself but also my Lola’s (grandmother in Tagalog) body to shed light on the impact of Catholic imperialism and Spanish colonialism on the Philippines. The work investigates the church—how it was once used as a colonial instrument, and has then become a gathering space for Filipino people in the diaspora.”
The images of Am I a Sea were shot right inside a church: “I knew I wanted to make work in the church, yet I also tried to net let its architecture and decor overpower my visual style. With that said, I didn’t want to make images that either denounced Roman Catholicism or, on the opposite, were completely complicit with its doctrine. My position being on the knife edge is what excites me“. Some photographic references Rydel had in mind include while shooting this project were the works of Deana Lawson and Jeff Wall.
Rydel has received different feedback from the people who have seen Am I a Sea, something which surprised him since “my perspective as a queer Filipino person who is making work regarding religion might offer a very specific point of view“. In general, he observed different reactions from Catholics and non-Catholics. Non-Catholics expressed “a sense of wonder, as it tends to be the first time for these people to see certain objects or gestures that exist within the Catholic church. On the other hand, those who have been raised with Catholic upbringing recognize the scenes depicted instantly: a moment of curiosity for one person can suddenly transform to memory and/or trauma in the next. This split reaction is of interest to me as I think it holds testament to the multitude of very affecting experiences group of people share.”
As a photographer, Rydel is interested in “the ways in which things can be complicated and all the same simultaneously. I think Sufjan Stevens does this beautifully in his music—there’s a a lot of articles questioning whether his songs are about being gay or about God, and this nuance really propels me.” In addition to music, Rydel was also influenced by sports and literature: “I think Tae Kwon Do has influenced my work. For half my life I was heavily trained in that sport up to a national level, even before I came to art making. It imparted me with an awareness of my own body and its physicality. Literature has also shaped my practice as well—whether it be the Bible, critical texts or fiction.” Some of his favorite contemporary photographers are Paul Sepuya and Eva O’Leary.
Rydel’s #threewordsforphotography are:
Time. Will. Pass.