The People of Bantayan

During super Typhoon Yolanda, or Haiyan, in November 2013 the people of Bantayan, a small island in the central Philippines, took shelter in schools and government buildings. After the storm the residents of these impoverished fishing communities returned to the site of their villages to find a devastated landscape, littered with felled coconut trees, corrugated iron, and twisted palm fronds.

International aid flooded in to help the victims in the form of food, medical supplies and temporary shelter. After six months the tents and tarpaulins are gradually being replaced by swiftly erected plywood houses, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. Kerry Dean, a British photographer, and Alex McIntosh, a member of Centre for Sustainable Fashion, a research centre at London College of Fashion, recently travelled to the Philippines to photograph and interview the residents of Bantayan, many of who are still living in donated tents or temporary shelters, cobbled together from the wreckage of their former homes. The result is a beautiful and insightful series that captures a conundrum, a vibrant, colourful community, welcoming and open but fearful of and unprepared for a future where little seems secure.

The images are a visual diary of life in the Philippines post typhoon; achieved by allowing ourselves the time to travel and document the people and places we were most drawn too, responding intuitively to the environment and investigating the stories we were moved by. The images are not intended to describe the vast devastation of Yolanda, which has been well documented but rather the detail of individual experiences and the difficult process of recovery.

Disturbingly many of the people interviewed seemed utterly disempowered when faced with questions about the future. Each interviewee was asked how they might prepare for another Yolanda and most just laughed nervously, or muttered a few words about evacuation. One woman simply said ‘I will pray’ an uncomfortable but eminently understandable response in an environment where access to resources both financial and material is so limited.

Alex McIntosh and Kerry Dean are a husband and wife duo and have been working together on sustainability-focused projects for a number of years. Their biggest project to date i-Sustain for i-D explored the future of fashion through the work of twelve emerging designers. A yearlong series of monthly features, i-Sustain presented the possibility of a fashion industry that places sustainability at the heart of design, communication and image making. Shot in evocative locations across the UK i-Sustain was also a visual exploration of the relationship between people, clothes and the environment.

Words by Alex McIntosh.

For more information on the Centre for Sustainable Fashion see here.

For more information on the work of Kerry Dean see here.