Photographer Alonso Nichols spent six months documenting Filipino life, on the streets and in the country
When Alonso Nichols saw four small boys walking closely beside along a wall in Intramuros—a historic section of Manila, the capital of the Philippines—he knew they were up to something.
He stopped and watched, and as one boy climbed onto his friend’s shoulders with an old basketball hoop, Nichols remembered how he and his brother used to cut the bottoms out of plastic milk crates in
“I knew exactly what these boys were trying to do and what that felt like,” said Nichols, director of Tufts Photo. There was something universal in it.” He captured the moment in a photograph now posted outside the Alumnae Lounge in the Aidekman Arts Center along with 17 others, in a semester-long exhibit titled The Philippines: America’s Former Colony on the Eve of Change.
The moment was a metaphor for the country, Nichols said. “Filipinos work together and find ways to deal with the difficult challenges that come with living in a densely populated metropolis subject to flooding and power outages and things that otherwise stop daily life,” he said. “I thought, they’re going to find a way to hang this hoop come hell or high water, and they’re going to have their game.”
Nichols documented many such scenes of Filipino daily life during 2015, when he and his wife, Tufts lecturer in English Grace Talusan, J94, lived in the country while Talusan did research as a Fulbright Scholar. A self-described documentarian, Nichols said he’s interested in portraying not just beauty, but how people live and connect.
But in another jeepney on another hot night, Nichols saw a young couple smiling at each other, oblivious to the world. “People find ways to pass the time and enjoy one another’s company,” Nichols said. “It’s not all misery.”
In addition to Manila, Nichols visited the beaches of Palawan, the Chocolate Hills of Bohol, and the tuna port at the City of General Santos, among other sites.
Nichols said he was happy to be able to share his photographs of the Philippines, which he said are closely related to the work he does for the university. “Whether it’s the illumination ceremony during commencement, or parents dropping off their children during matriculation, I’m interested in seeing those moments of connection,” Nichols said. “If I can show something compelling and revealing in that sense, I feel I’ve done my job.”
Monica Jimenez can be reached at email@example.com.