When Filipino photographer Cindy Aquino won the Pride Photo Award 2013, her submission besting over 3,250 other entries, “It was an overwhelming feeling, and I was shocked to find out I won the competition,” she recalled in an exclusive interview with Fringe Publishing for Outrage Magazine and Fringe Magazine. “I was not expecting to get the Grand Prize. I only wished that one of my photographs will be included in the shortlist.” Having won, though, “I consider it as a big achievements as a photographer.”

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More than the winning, however, Cindy was also thrilled to have helped provide glimpses of the LGBT community in the Philippines. “A lot of my friends are experiencing discrimination based on their sexuality and gender identity. I want to show society that lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders are perfectly normal. Like everyone else in this world, they just want to find love, bond with others and live a happy life,” she earlier said when she was given the award. She added to Fringe Publishing that she admired the goals of Pride Photo Award, “and its goals are close to my heart since I have friends and families who are lesbians, and (I know of) their experiences of discrimination in our conservative country.”

CindyCindy’s winning photograph (above) was titled “Bond”. It was actually originally from a photo series called “Bondage”, somewhat of a play with “bandage” as used by the photo’s subjects. “(When) I asked my subjects about the normal things they do, the use of a bandage came up, though not in the BDSM (context). Instead, in the series you see some photos of the two lesbians (helping each other) wrap a bandage to (conceal) their breasts, to flatten their breasts, and both of them (were) laughing to each other,” Cindy said. The piece she submitted (i.e. “Bond”) was chosen because for her, it highlighted that “in a society where lesbians are highly discriminated, this photograph delicately tells their very personal and intimate moment. They show affection, they have feelings, they love. This photo depicts that they, too, are normal, just like everybody else.”

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For Cindy, capturing a very personal moment was not arduous. “It’s not difficult taking a photograph of this kind of concept,” she said. “For me, taking portraits of a person has nothing to do about with gender. I think it’s a matter of getting the trust and respect of your subject to capture a great photo.”

Cindy believes that photography can do a lot in advocating for LGBT rights. For instance, “photographers can show a different way of looking at LGBT people in just one photograph,” she said, as this photograph can show people that “they can appreciate a subject (without judging his/her) gender.” Photography, added Cindy, can help provide a “wider perspective in understanding LGBT people in our society.”

Cindy’s series was also awarded the second prize in this year’s theme category “Extremely Normal”.

For the third edition of the annual Pride Photo Award contest, photographers submitted photographs in the categories of Documentary, Gender, the theme category “Extremely Normal”, and an Open category. The initiative is annually done in cooperation with COC Amsterdam, International Gay and Lesbian Information Center and Archive and the Homomonument Foundation. For 2013, Foam (Amsterdam photography museum) and World Press Photo supported the effort. The 2013 international jury included chairman Stephen Mayes (UK), Isabel Muñoz (Spain), Colin Jacobson (UK), Giovanna Calvenzi (Italy) and Jane Jackson (US).

Cindy was one of 408 participating photographers from 48 different countries.

For winning the award for 2013, Cindy’s work will be featured in CNN’s photo blog, and her work was exhibited for a month at Oude Kerk in Amsterdam, among others.

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From November 5 to 10, Cindy will be holding an exhibit at Kanto Artist Run Space in Makati City. Titled “Dos-Espiritu: Isang quadro triangulo sa sulok ng mundo”, it tackles “gender-related issues faced by our LGBT in a culturally conservative Filipino society,” Cindy said. “It aims to break through the social barriers and create a culture free of discrimination.”

Cindy’s winning photograph, “Bond”, will be included in the exhibit.

Another piece included that Cindy is proud of is titled “Tago/Taguan”, which she said is “for all the closeted LGBT (people) who can’t come out because of their own personal reasons and because of the prejudice of the people around them.”

This is Cindy’s first solo exhibit.

According to Cindy, “I can’t understand people discriminating LGBT people – that people judge LGBT people and choosing not to respect, love and accept them because of the way they look, act or what their gender may be.” She hopes that with her photographs, at least some people “realize that LGBT people are as normal as they are. That they are human beings who need to be accepted without being judged… (for them) to be loved and respected for being themselves.”

Outrage Magazine and Fringe Magazine are media partners of “Dos-Espiritu: Isang quadro triangulo sa sulok ng mundo”.

Kanto Artist Run Space is located at The Collective, 7274 Malugay St., San Antonio Village, Makati City.