I started my career as a photojournalist, and my love for documentary storytelling continues. Below is a glimpse of some of the projects that I gravitated towards in my early days. A significant portion of my early work centered around the culture of empowerment and oppression surrounding sex and sexuality, and the subsequent manifestations of rebellion or obeisance to the accepted societal norms. Some projects are an examination of the paternalistic treatment of women across different cultures and regions. The rest of my photojournalism archive can be found in Getty Images.
Sex in the City
An amalgam of cultures and sensibilities has made New York City a haven for many who want to escape societal taboos. This essay explores the “unconventional” sexual recreations that have become accessible to anyone who wants to explore the many ways of coitus.
For the Maasai tribe of Kenya, female circumcision (currently refered to by law as Female Genital Mutilation or FGM) is considered a rite of passage. It is a prerequisite to marriage as it is believed to turn a girl into a woman and cleanse her blood, which will finally make her worthy of a man’s touch. It is also believed to stifle her libido thus ensuring her fidelity to her husband. Girls undergo this rite from as early as 8 to 15 years of age.
Immediately following circumcision is marriage, which brings in a significant amount of livestock and cash flow to the girl's family. For a poor pastoral family, a girl’s dowry will mean a rise in status in their community because property commands respect. Property however, is not limited to inanimate objects. Girls and women are considered property. They can be exchanged, married off or banished at the will of the husband, father, brothers or even uncles. The man is the final decision-maker and to contradict him would be an unfathomable act of disrespect. A girl cannot scream or cry when her clitoris and labia minora are cut off for she is not to disobey the will of her father. Once she is married, she can no longer proceed in her studies as she is to tend to her obligations as a wife. She is to cook, clean, and procreate.
In Atlanta, a ten-year-old girl kneels at the altar and cries passionately while praising her Lord in song. In Colorado, an all-girl ballet troupe dances around a 6ft wooden cross where they, along with their fathers, will eventually lay a white rose (symbolizing purity) by its base. In Tennessee, a father prays over his daughter and proceeds to slip a promise ring on her left ring finger. The promise: chastity until marriage.
Some of the younger girls weren't quite sure exactly why they were making the promise but understood its religious connection since most of them grew up in the church. These father-daughter purity ceremonies are a growing phenomenon across the United States. They attract families of all races and varied socio-economic levels. Their common bond however, is to protect the girl's vow of abstinence until marriage under the watchful eye of her father and their God.
Miss Gay Philippines
In a predominantly Catholic and conservative Asian country, the popularity of gay beauty pageants would seem an anomaly. Such is the idiosyncrasy of the Philippines, owing its matriarchal values from precolonial roots and its religious fervency from later Spanish influence. The country's history could explain why some social observers note a general ambivalence towards homosexuality in the Philippines.
Despite open criticism by some right-wing religious groups against the LGBTQ rights, the Philippines is hailed by many foreign internet tours as a haven for the LGBTQ community. Yet others argue that a western view of "openness and equality" is not analogous to the experience of gays in the Philippines. According to Filipino essayist, J. Neil Garcia, this attitude is based on the country's class based culture where the openly gay "bayot" (who he argues are more visible in many low paying "pink collar" jobs) are not taken seriously and thus not considered a threat to the "social order."