The Agony of Living and Dying: Photographs from the Existentialist Perspective
Source: Danny Castillones Sillada’s Selected Photographs
“There is, almost always, an air of intangible sadness in the paintings if not in the poetry of Danny Castiliones Sillada,” wrote the late art writer Lorna Revilla Montilla in her 1996 PDI article “Sillada Returns from the Landscapes of Nightmares.”
“The stark loneliness that his art evokes,” she continued, “is almost done with exactly the same intensity as his written prose. They tell of the looming shadows in his soul, of the pitfalls that wait for him at the edge of a precipitous journey toward fulfillment, as though he is bound inside a steel cage without hope of ever getting out.”
One such compelling image that reveals the darker side of Sillada’s art is a 2010 photograph titled “Red,” which was taken in his hometown in Mindanao. It depicts a lifeless man lying on the ground covered with his own blood; he was still clutching a cell phone in his right hand. Instead of presenting the photograph in a grisly manner, Sillada diffuses the mood and texture of the image in such a way that it won’t appall the viewers, but he retains the color of blood to symbolize life and mortality.
“Before I took the picture, the man was fighting for his life after an assassin shot him three times, just a few meters away from our house,” Sillada recalls about his dreadful encounter with his subject.
“I wanted to rush him to the hospital, but one police officer told me not to get involved and that his chances to live were nil. After I was granted to take photos at the crime scene, I almost fainted amid the sight of crimson blood oozing from the dead man’s body. And for days, that horrible scene would never leave my mind. Although, I have seen dead human bodies in the past, during the encounters between the military and the rebels, but this one was different because I saw the man still breathing before he died.”
Oblivious to some, Sillada grew up in a belligerent environment of Mindanao, the Southern part of the Philippines, with diverse cultures and religious beliefs from different ethnic groups, not to mention the Muslim and NPA rebels, the professional assassins, and the paramilitaries of the politicians.
Inextricably, he has that belligerent Mindanaoan blood running through his veins. However, instead of brandishing kris (wavy
sword) and guns into the battlefields, in a manner of speaking, Sillada uses his art to conquer the internal and external demons of his troubled land.
Unlike the feisty forms and colors of his paintings, his photography explores the dark landscape of human psyche, capturing the banal, the abandoned, the tragic, and the ordinary life of people, places, and objects—poignant and haunting images that were allusive to his frightening childhood and adolescent experiences.
The manner in which he takes photographs can be characterized as spontaneously exigent, voyeuristic, intrusive, and, at times, whimsical. But behind his instinctive and impulsive apertures is a surrealist and existentialist artist who painfully searches for meaning and beauty even in misery and death.
The following selected and unexhibited collection of photographs echoes the “looming shadows in his soul” and that sense of regret and aloofness from the “inconvenience of human existence,” to borrow his words. The images are laden with human foibles, longings, despair, loneliness, and abandonment—you name it—Sillada chronicles the anatomy of human anguish with such overtly piquant autobiographic force, an almost obsessive propinquity to the repulsive human condition.
To quote one of his philosophical essays “The Beauty of Despair” (Manila Bulletin, 2008), which summarizes his proclivity for bleak themes in photography, “As a shared experience, despair can be transformed into a shared vision of hope, love, unity, and understanding. From there, the unbearable existence will become bearable, the impossible will become possible, and despair will become a celebration of joy because everyone is there to comfort and listen with sympathy and compassion.”
Red, 2010, by Danny C. Sillada
Marilyn Arsem, 2005, by Danny C. Sillada
Where is My Home, 2009, by Danny C. Sillada
Indefinable Loneliness (MK Sobrecarey), 2010, by Danny C. Sillada
The Sound of the World, 2009 (New York), by Danny C. Sillada
Looking Through, 2008, by Danny C Sillada
The Mestizo Boy in Black Shirt, 2012, by Danny C. Sillada
While You’re Sleeping, 2010, by Danny C. Sillada
Dave Pitin (Before and After I Found Him), 2009, by Danny C. Sillada
The Survivor, 2011, by Danny C. Sillada
Stranded, 2010, by Danny C. Sillada