As a child growing up in Daly City and San Francisco, Ann Borja relished taking her grandmother’s photographs out of the metal cookie tin in which they were stored and pondering the images. Aside from being curious about the actual process of making the sepia-toned and black-and-white photos, their subjects intrigued her.
“Most importantly, I was curious about the people in the images,” Borja says, “how life was like for them in the Philippines, their worlds and stories.”
Then, at age 7 or 8, a relative gave her a Christmas gift that spurred her interest further – a pink Kodak Ektralite 10. By the time she turned 15, Borja headed to the Phillips Academy in Massachusetts on a full scholarship to study photography. There, she also experimented with her first manual camera, a Pentax.
But it’s that early childhood experience that continues to guide her today. Influenced by photographers such as Richard Avedon and Diane Arbus, Borja creates intimate black-and-white portraits of Filipino Americans.
“For me, black-and-white images are contemplative,” she says. “Black-and-white photos allow me to explore the tones and curves without the sensation of high saturated colors.”
More than 60 such portraits in the “Balikbayan” exhibition at Bindlestiff Studio feature current and previous leaders of this performance venue, dedicated to Filipino and Filipino American cultures through the arts. It’s one of several stops during Urban Solutions’ 2 Blocks of Art art walk, part of the 24 Days of Central Market Arts.