As pride month draws to a close, the colors of the rainbow continue to spill onto the streets where this vivid and vivacious Instagram filter is making the queer community and its allies walk with pride.
Filters, especially in its earliest introduction, have had the reputation of skewing towards concealing. Engineered to hide everything from blemishes, background, and even bodies, it has been a point off hot contention to this very day, especially taking to account the unavoidable toll it takes on one’s mental health. While some may dismiss the use of an Instagram filter as mere playtime or persistence of unnatural perfection, it isn’t to say that no good ever comes out of these patches of augmented reality on social media. For every blurring overlay, oddly satisfying animorphing, and cute virtual masks, it has become an expansive landscape where creative expressions of passion, purpose, and even protest can exist.
Take for example the Walk With Pride Instagram filter that has most likely colored your timeline over the weekend of celebration and coming together in the name of the LGBTQIA+ community. For some, it was just another option to choose from on the reels tab, but for the good folks at Meta and Propel Manila, the digital crossing encouraged users to turn every simple step into a rampa-ready runway—out, loud, and proud. Introduced just in time for the culmination of pride with the many marches that took place in different parts of the country, the filter was also meant to bridge the spirit of joy and dissent even beyond June.
“The people from Propel Manila reached out to me to collaborate on this project with Meta Philippines for Pride 2022. I wanted to be part of this meaningful project with Propel, which has been doing initiatives for the LGBTQIA+ community. Plus, I’m gay so there’s no way I’m going to turn this down,” details queer Filipino artist Brent Sabas of this passion project created together with Filipino Spark AR artist Mitsuko Ono specifically for the LGBTQIA+ community.
Online And Off, Pride Is A Protest
“I’m proud of the work we produced,” asserts the advertising art director, which is why with the rigors and requirements in place, he made sure that his design aesthetics weren’t compromised in the process. “The objective of the AR filter was to highlight the LGBTQIA+ community and our allies, and generate engagement and conversations around this cultural moment by turning any walkway into a pride runway. The agency and I were aligned with the idea of pride being a protest, so that really had to come out.”
With his signature strokes, intricate detailing, and unmistakable whimsy, Brent Sabas imagined a visceral world of color that when matched with one’s sassy soundtrack of choice and a stride of confidence, would reveal, even for a fragment of the algorithm of inclusion, acceptance, and equality. “I incorporated statements like Love is love, Love Wins, and Trans Lives Matter (with a pink fist) on the Instagram filter. I also included a flying Stonewall brick in honor of the Stonewall riots in 1969. I was also watching RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 8 when I was working on this so a lot of elements were inspired by drag—the wig, the makeup, stilletos, etc,” details the proudly queer Filipino artist. “There’s also a disco ball to represent the bars that became our safe spaces, and Sailor Moon’s wand called Moon Stick, to honor our gay childhood. I wish I was able to put more elements that represent other genders in the spectrum, but we have limited space.”
Trained in the tradition of pen and paper, Brent Sabas was able to extract a sense of liberation in the design of the AR filter. “The strokes are not as detailed though, but when you zoom in each piece of the drawing, there are visible details to each element,” he says. “Doing digital art for me is way easier than creating things on canvas or paper. There’s so much commitment and decision-making needed on manual work because you can’t just ‘undo’ it.”
Walk With Pride
It may not seem so much, especially for the rah-rah-rah obsessed, but the proliferation of modern-day extensions of art such as Instagram AR filters are a subversive way to get the message across, especially when we have unfortunately come to a point of regression in society. From restrictions to liberties, the apparent decay of democracy, and overt dismissal of human rights to autonomy of women and the queer community, every opportunity to dissent and strike the all too important conversations on the issues that riddle the world we live in today matters. “I feel that creative work makes tough issues easier for the human mind to understand. It’s like a lubricant,” Brent Sabas says with a sharp laugh. “It will lessen the friction, at papasok at papasok ang idea, because creativity is a universal language. They may not fully get the whole message, but we’re planting seeds that hopefully bear fruit of understanding, acceptance, and love eventually.”
More than the fun, frills, and fabulosity of the filter that continues to stretch the space of social media even beyond pride month, this creative effort underscores the all too important conversations that falls under the arc of the rainbow. And even if the stories eventually expire from the perforations of many timelines, the reminder that the protest of pride continues. “In a world where you are seen as a mistake, a curse, and an abomination, and that you have to conform to its unfair standards just to earn basic human respect, the most rebellious thing to do is to exist, love yourself, and be proud of who you are,” asserts Brent Sabas. “And by walking with pride, we’re not just doing this for ourselves, but for the future generations of queer and trans people that they may experience real equality and acceptance that we truly deserve.”
People are going to talk, especially slowly and surely, in ways most don’t realize just yet, we are turning the world on its head. And sure, some will talk, but as a wise glamazon once said: pay them b*tches no mind. Walk, now walk.