Photography is the art, science, and practice of producing images using light or other devices, whether chemically or electronically. The word is from the Greek word photos meaning light, and grophos, meaning drawing.

The National Museum of the Philippines (NMP) holds a photographic collection from the National Fine Arts Collection (NFAC), and three photographic exhibitions are currently in its regional museums.

The Filipinas exhibition features 30 black and white photographs of artist-photographer Isa Lorenzo of a select group of Filipino women leaders representing the arts, education, social work, civil society, and politics. These photographs were exhibited in March 2016 at the National Museum of Anthropology as the highlight of its Women’s Month celebration.  The artist generously donated the Filipinas photographs to the NMP as a gift to the Filipino nation in 2016.   The Filipinas exhibition toured at our NM Ilocos Regional Museums Complex in Vigan City and then to our NM Western-Southern Regional Museum in Zamboanga City in 2019.

Another photographic exhibition is Chasing Waterfalls, comprising of photographs of landscape photographer Benigno “Bengy” Toda III. These photographs feature large-scale photographs of remote Philippine landscapes. It was launched in June 2015 at the National Museum of Fine Arts and the Ilocos Regional Museum in 2016.  The same exhibition was relaunched from February to September 2020 in its regional museum in Boac, Marinduque.

Moreover, in October 2016, an exhibition organized by the Leica Club Manila led by Jake Lagonera opened When Lens Meets Brush at the National Museum of Anthropology (NMA), combining their art photography with paintings by collaborating with contemporary artists. These “paintographs” have since been donated to the nation and became part of NFAC.

In 2018, another donation was made by George Tapan, who earned first place in the 2011 National Geographic Photo Contest. His gift comprises 30 photographs from his 2018 exhibition at the NMA, Crafts as Women’s Art, which was his second after Abot-Tanaw (Vanishing Point) in 2015. The donated collection is currently on exhibition at the NM Eastern Northern Mindanao Regional Museum in Butuan City.

In celebration of Museums and Galleries Month, the NMP launched the exhibition Larawan at Litrato: Foto-óleo and Picture Portraits in the Philippines (1891-1953), which features 44 foto-óleos and five other portraiture types from the National Fine Arts Collection and some loaned from different parts of the country. Foto-óleo is an art form popular during the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries, before color photography. It was executed by applying oil paint directly on black and white photographs to make it more life-like and visually pleasing.

This inclusion of prized photographs from our highly-esteemed Filipino photographers fill the gap in our growing fine arts collection. We are proud to be custodians of these contemporary art forms for the future generations of Filipinos and museum audiences.

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