Why this photographer quit as Canon ambassador after brand got flak for inclusivity issue 2
Former Canon brand ambassador Jilson Tiu. Photo courtesy of Jilson Tiu

Why this photographer quit as Canon ambassador after brand got flak for inclusivity issue

Photography needs a diverse view of the world, young lensman Jilson Tiu tells ANCX, especially photojournalism. 
JEROME B. GOMEZ | Jul 23 2021

One of the photographers we love working with here at ANCX is Jilson Tiu. He shot one of our early collector portraits which gave us our early taste of big page views. He followed the esteemed lawyer Chel Diokno for a day during the 2019 campaign trail. We once asked him to shoot a visual essay close to his heart—about the changing face of Manila’s Chinatown—right around the time all everyone could talk about was the influx of Chinese workers in the country. What we got was a stirring update on “Maynila Sa Kuko ng Liwanag.” 

Recently, Jilson gave us another reason to admire him. At the height of the backlash received by Canon Philippines’ marketing campaign celebrating an all-male lineup of photographer brand ambassadors, Jilson, who was among the gallery of chosen male shooters, dropped out of his partnership with Canon. “It’s been a long time coming (3 years) and this is the tipping point,” Jilson wrote on a Facebook post. 

The Canon campaign was criticized for the absence of women on its lineup, at a time when inclusivity has become a significant global concern, and as if the country was lacking female photographers doing relevant, exemplary work. (Here, the Filipina Hannah Reyes Morales, herself doing impressive visual stories for major publications like National Geographic, has a few awesome names in mind.) The backlash even got more furious online when Canon issued a statement that did not include an apology.

Why this photographer quit as Canon ambassador after brand got flak for inclusivity issue 3
The controversial Canon Philippines campaign had an exclusively male gallery of photographer ambassadors. Image from Canon Philippines on Facebook

On Thursday, Jilson broke his silence over the matter on his Facebook page. “Hello, I’ve been quiet these past few days about the debacle regarding Canon’s ambassador launch campaign,” he started. “I was even asked by my colleague if I know the remaining blurred portrait in the poster. She asked me if there’s a woman in [the] roster, I said ‘yes, maybe, I’m sure meron yan.’ And I was wrong. To be honest I do not know what’s happening inside. I am seeing the same window as you. As of today, I am dropping my ambassadorship with Canon Philippines.” 

Jilson explained his background with the camera brand. “So far, it’s been my partner for a decade of my photography career,” he said. But the brand offering no apology for the campaign didn’t sit well with him. “They should make up for it and apologize publicly,” said Jilson. “Thank you Canon for the three years, I will continue to use your camera as a tool, but I don’t want to be an ambassador to a brand that doesn’t align with my principles. Paalam at salamat, magkaiba tayo ng daan na nilalakaran.” 

In a week where an artwork of a fist standing up is going viral, Jilson put the “tumindig” art into action.

And his move was met by messages of admiration from friends, family and colleagues, ranging from “Proud of you” to “Respect,” from “Mabuhay ka” to the very au courant  “Jilson lang sakalam.” 

The 29-year old photographer believes stories should be told in a myriad of perspectives, and should not be dominated by a single point of view or gender. “Men and women have different perspectives, shaped by their personal experiences and struggles,” he tells ANCX. “Photography is obviously a visual craft and a powerful medium of storytelling—it needs a diverse view of the world, especially photojournalism. Stories made by different genders render different outputs and points of view. There are topics that are best told by those who can truly emphatize with and understand their subjects.” 

Jilson has been working as a professional photographer since he was a 19-year old student. His first assignments appeared in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. It was thru working with the University of Santo Tomas’ student publication The Varsitarian that Jilson, using only a borrowed camera, learned how to take pictures. “I didn’t know how to use a DSLR when I became a photographer in Varsi,” he recalls to ANCX. He was taken in by the school paper as an artist but was eventually assigned to take photographs. 

In his young career, Jilson has shot for most of the local dailies and magazines, as well as for foreign titles. He’s covered the Papal visit in 2015, the current administration’s war on drugs, and the Taal explosion of 2020—three of his most unforgettable coverages so far. 


A post shared by Jilson Tiu (@jilson.tiu)

We’ve always been fans of Jilson’s pictures here at ANCX. We love looking at his Instagram feed and love having his photographs on our site. He is one of those guys who always delivers. He knows the pace and discipline of editorial work and is attuned to what a good news or lifestyle picture is about, without being told.

Despite being one of the youngest among the working photographers, or maybe because of it, his pictures show a real point of view about the city he captures. “Known for his street scenes that neither romanticize the Filipino condition nor denigrate it to the kind of poverty porn expected of us by the international market,” we once wrote of his work, “Tiu has always lovingly portrayed his city and the Filipino way of life.”

Indeed, it’s never just the camera; it’s the shooter behind it.