The highly acclaimed global World Press Photo Exhibition, which is seen in over 60 cities around the globe each year, returns for the first time since 2019 to Auckland to showcase and celebrate photojournalism and documentary photography of the last year. 

The exhibition includes winners from the prestigious World Press Photo Contest, first founded in 1955. One of this year’s winners is photographer Hannah Reyes Morales from the Philippines for series Home for the Golden Gays, which she originally captured for The New York Times.

The Golden Gays are a community of older LGBTQI+ people from the Philippines who have lived together for decades, sharing a home, caring for each other as they age, and staging shows and pageants to make ends meet. The Golden Gays community was founded in the 1970s by lawyer and activist Justo Justo, who opened his home to shelter ‘lolas’  – a local word for ‘grandmothers’, an affectionate term members of the group have adopted. When Justo died in 2012, the community were evicted and some experienced homelessness until 2018, when they began renting a house in Manila.

Photo | Hannah Reyes Morales for The New York Times.

YOUR EX spoke to Hannah about The Golden Gays. Have a read below and get along to see Hannah’s photographs, along with other winning photos, at the World Press Photo Exhibition in Auckland on 22 July – 20 August.

How did you first hear about The Golden Gays? What made you want to photograph them and share their story?

I grew up near the Home for the Golden Gays in Manila. They have been icons of the LGBTQIA+ community in the Philippines, and are beloved and supported. I had known about them from their reputation and seeing images of them during shows, but I was curious about the way they had built their home. Neither the LGBTQIA+ community nor the ageing population have infrastructure or policy to support or safeguard them in the Philippines. But traditionally, the ageing population receives social support in the form of caregiving by their children, and the legal rights and benefits of marriage. For those seeking refuge in the Home for the Golden Gays, these safety nets are unavailable; and prejudice is further sharpened by their socio economic class. I was curious about the chosen family in the context of this – and knew I had much to learn from it. 

How much time did you spend with them to capture this series of photographs?

I would come in and out and communicate with them over the course of a few weeks, sometimes not photographing, just sitting with them and listening to them. 

Photo | Hannah Reyes Morales for The New York Times.

What do you think the exposure of your series being part of the World Press Photo contest means for this community?

I think visibility for people who are within marginalised communities – and subverting expectations of what that looks like matters. I wanted to show them in their beauty and grace, showing people what we can learn from them whilst also not looking away from the challenges they face. 

Do you have a favourite memory from your time spent with this community?

For me it’s the moments in their home, laughing and eating with them, the openness they showed me. I am always very grateful to the people who let me into their homes, and for the Golden Gays, they embraced and welcomed me like their own granddaughter. 

World Press Photo Exhibition in Auckland on 22 July – 20 August at Smith & Caughey’s Level 5 Gallery Space: