Brian Sergio (b. 1980, the Philippines) is a Manila-based artist with a background not only in photography but also in painting and graphic design which is directly reflected in his imagery. Sergio’s oeuvre can be described as a raw and shocking representation of his daily life.
Now he brings to the forefront his second publication ‘Dios Mio!’ done in collaboration with Dienacht Publishing – a book combining materials from different projects, featuring pictures of Christian devotees practicing their penitence, behind the scenes pictures of porn shoots, and Sergio’s personal Kinbaku sessions.
We sat together with Sergio to discover more about his latest photobook and talk about its intricacies.
In the description of your book, you mention that the images selected for this book come from different projects, photographs that you couldn’t categorize or simply fit other work. Discarded images of sorts…Could you elaborate on the sequencing process when combining the different images together?
When I’m not working on a project, my method is to just shoot pictures constantly. Thinking comes later. That’s why I put my pictures in files to categorize them, like pictures of my private life, my lent vacations, etc. Then I never really look back. When I found out about these pictures, I somehow realized that they somehow connect. They reflect both pain and pleasure, the same taboo but in different contexts. At first, I wasn’t really sold on the idea of combining them; but Calin from Dienacht saw their potential and pieced them together. He sequenced them in a way that the narrative is about image relationships and how the meaning relates to each other.
Black and white, high contrast and sharpness combined with shocking content can perhaps be defined as your signature style. Why do you opt for this aesthetics?
I’m drawn to this kind of content. It’s not shocking to me because these are the things I see and live by every day. As for the use of high contrast black and white processing that’s my choice of aesthetic. It also helps because of my colour blindness. I like images that pop out, and colour is getting in the way of my vision.
In ‘Dios Mio!’, you juxtapose Filipino Christian traditions with Japanese bondage. What were your intentions when combining religious symbolism with graphic and sexually loaded imagery?
To be honest, there are no intentions behind it. All I know is it discusses topics such as inflicting pain as a form of religious penitence to repent their sins and making them feel fulfilled by the end of the day. It reflects a topic about bondage and S&M on how they use pain for pleasure. They have the same methods but contradicting ideologies yet somehow, religion and sex meet at the end. No matter how different they seem, they all boil down to achieving human desires.
Would you say that your work can be additionally understood as a critique of religion and the conventional lifestyle that comes with it, instead, suggesting more unconstrained ways of living?
No. I don’t really see my work as a critique of religion. It’s how people cope up with their hardships. Some people pray and repent while others have sex. It’s really about their choice on how things work for them. I am simply taking pictures of what I experience in my day-to-day life.
Besides people, cats, dogs and food also play an important role in the publication. The animals combined with photographs of people connote to me the animalistic behaviour of humans, particularly primary instinct in relation to sex and desire. While the food, it’s stripped off colours, so you merely see its texture and form, making it almost unappealing. Why did you decide to include these two elements?
The inclusion of animals and food has something to do with breaks in reading the pictures. I never intended for food to look unappealing, nor did I connote animalistic behaviour to humans. I included them there because they’re cute. And the food? Well, with all the sex and religion going on we all got to eat sometimes.
What were the crucial editorial and design decisions you took together with Dienacht Publishing when creating ‘Dios Mio!’?
In making the book, Calin and I did video chats and discussed the book design. Japanese binding somehow reflects Japanese bondage and including real photographs as covers made it look more personal. I let Calin do most of the design and sequencing for this book because he sometimes sees something in my pictures that I don’t. I got that idea from Daido Moriyama when he did “Bye bye Photography” and his “Printing show” where he let people decide, which pictures go where. I only picked the paper.
The publication can be considered as an intimate insight into your unusual daily life. What would you like to achieve with your book?
I see my books as a public invitation to my life’s existence outside of the public’s idea of the norm. My intentions are to show people my world and to understand how Filipino subcultures and traditions are more related as to how they seem.