Faces and Flora: A Philippine Native Plant Photography Exhibition

National Museum of Natural History, Philippines

February - May 2024

Faces and Flora: A Philippine Native Plant Photography Exhibition highlights the deep connection between art and natural science through this display of images that show a creative embodiment of Philippine indigenous plants. Winner of the prestigious 2022 Fujifilm GFX Challenge Grant, photographer Jan Zoilo Rafael Mayo produced this series of portraits that combine his passion and advocacy for native plants and his unique ability to capture the human gaze.

This exhibition materialized through a collaborative effort with botanists from the National Museum of the Philippines (NMP), the University of the Philippines - Institute of Biology (UPIB), and the Philippine Taxonomic Initiative, Inc. (PTI). The aim is to contribute to ongoing conversations about our profound interconnectedness with nature, emphasizing the pivotal role of both native and endemic flora in our ecosystem.

Plants are essential for our survival and well-being, and for some like Mayo, a source of inspiration. They have been known as the primary source of natural pigments necessary in the textile, food production, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic industries. Native plants are crucial in sustaining a healthy ecosystem and have ethnobotanical and conservation value. In the Philippines, Noni (Morinda citrifolia) and Tayum (Indigofera spp.) are native plants traditionally used in dyeing textiles. Tabigi/Piyagaw (Xylocarpus granatum) is also known for its important cosmetic properties.

Mayo's intersection of fashion and beauty photography extends beyond commerce, acting as a catalyst for public engagement. By seamlessly merging scientific knowledge with artistic expression through photography, this exhibition seeks to educate Filipinos on the importance of indigenous plants, urging a collective effort against introducing non-native species into our landscapes. The native species featured in this exhibition were among the many species in the living laboratory of UPIB - Energy Development Corporation BINHI (EDC-BINHI) Arboretum, which were cultivated for public education.

Creators, partners, and artists involved in this exhibition aspire to further strengthen collaborations with scientists and researchers. Their overarching goal is to facilitate dialogues on environmental issues through the lens of popular art media and contemporary approaches, ensuring the education, appreciation, and enjoyment of generations to come.

Using Format