Jan Mayo Reveals Nature’s Secrets in His New Exhibit at the National Museum of the Philippines

Jan Mayo Reveals Nature’s Secrets in His New Exhibit at the National Museum of the Philippines


At Faces and Flora: A Philippine Native Plant Photography Exhibition, photographer Jan Mayo showcases the beauty of these botanical treasures and sheds light on the pressing environmental issues threatening their existence

The morning dew glistens on the heart-shaped leaves of the Anahaw palm and the fragrant aroma of Ylang-ylang perfumes the air. Waling-waling orchid’s velvety petals open like royal robes under the dappled shade of ancient trees. Alongside it, the hues of the Gumamela bloom, each scarlet blossom a fiery declaration of nature’s passion and vitality. These are all threatened by escalating human encroachment. Photographer and winner of the prestigious 2022 Fujifilm GFX Challenge Grant for the Philippines Jan Mayo sets out to capture the essence of these botanical treasures, taking his creative eye and passionate heart to shine a light on the beauty and importance of native flora at his new exhibit, Faces and Flora: A Philippine Native Plant Photography Exhibition.

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The latest exhibition presents a powerful statement about our interconnectedness with nature and the urgent need to preserve it. With a focus on Philippine indigenous plants, the photographer’s work celebrates the botanical diversity of his homeland, seeking to raise awareness about the critical role these plants play in sustaining ecosystems. With each click of the shutter, he immortalizes not just flowers, but a cultural heritage deeply rooted in the soil of our islands.

“I wanted to create a series that is uniquely Filipino and at the same time, innate to what I do best: photographing the human face,” Mayo explains. “The goal of the project is to help promote and conserve our endemic and native flora that is relatable to the human experience.”

Amongst those who modeled for the exhibit are Iza Calzado and Nadine Lustre. Moreover, collaborating closely with botanists and researchers from the National Museum of the Philippines and the University of the Philippines – Institute of Biology, Mayo ensured that his images captured the botanical essence of the plants so they could resonate with viewers on a deeper level.

“Everything was done first in consultation with scientists,” Mayo shares. “I had the Filipino children, who are the main visitors of the museum, in mind when photographing the plants. I made sure that I captured the plants in a way that they were still recognizable, direct to the point, devoid of any distractions; hence, educational.”

The outcome is a collection of mesmerizing portraits that skillfully intertwine artistry with scientific accuracy, encouraging viewers to perceive the beauty and variety of Philippine indigenous plants from a fresh perspective.

However, the photographer’s vision transcends the confines of the gallery walls. He holds the conviction that art, specifically the medium of photography, possesses the transformative ability to not only captivate audiences but also to catalyze public involvement and enlightenment on pressing environmental concerns.

“Beauty and fashion photography can extend beyond commerce and open conversations on critical issues,” he emphasizes. “I hope that my work can inspire more awareness of our beautiful and diverse flora in the country.”

Mayo recognizes that collaboration serves as the cornerstone of manifesting his artistic vision. By forging close partnerships with scientists and researchers, he gained invaluable insights and access to their extensive knowledge and collections. Reflecting on his experience, Mayo expresses a sense of kinship with his alma mater, the University of the Philippines, where this collaborative spirit feels like a return to familiar ground. 

He envisions that his collaborative efforts will catalyze other artists to recognize the untapped potential of merging art and science, inspiring them to embark on similar collaborative endeavors. Mayo firmly believes that scientists are eager to lend their expertise to creative projects, emphasizing the symbiotic relationship between art and science in fostering greater awareness and appreciation for the natural world.

And as his photographs grace the walls of the National Museum of the Philippines, through the Museum of Natural History, they serve as a poignant reminder of the delicate balance between mankind and the natural world, urging us to cherish and protect the precious bounty that surrounds us. For in the intricate petals of the Waling-waling and the graceful fronds of the Anahaw, we find a reflection of our humanity, a reminder of our shared responsibility to nurture and preserve the wonders of our land. Through Mayo’s lens, we are invited to appreciate, protect, and celebrate the remarkable biodiversity that surrounds us.

The Faces and Flora: A Philippine Native Plant Photography Exhibition is currently running from February 15 – May 31, 2024, at the National Museum of the Philippines, through the Museum of Natural History.

Photography BIMPOMAN

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