National Geographic Explorer and conservation photographer Gab Mejia captures the magic of found moments in nature.
Vogue Philippines invited 10 artists to showcase what “celebration” means to them through their chosen medium. Photographer Gab Mejia chooses to see celebration in the ephemeral qualities of nature.
Gab Mejia never imagined himself growing up to make a living as a photographer, but he has always had an affinity for exploring the natural world. Yet in pursuing that love, he began using photography as a means to remember the incredible sights he came across on his adventures. He let his two passions collide, and a clear path presented itself to him.
“It just somehow fell into place that photography would become a driving force and passion for this dream,” he tells us. “Nature is my roots, and photography became the water that seeped within the soil.”
Mejia is now an award-winning conservation photographer, civil engineer, National Geographic Explorer, Nikon Asia Ambassador, and an Emerging Fellow for the International League of Conservation Photographers. He was also included in the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list for The Arts in 2021 and has published stories for the likes of National Geographic, The Manila Times, CNN, and the United Nations Development Fund.
The young storyteller has devoted his life to his advocacy, furthering his cause with images that show the spectacle of nature. “It is a powerful tool,” he says, “to share deeper stories for others, especially to protect and conserve the same mountains and islands in the Philippines where I grew up and traveled when I was a child.”
Over the years, Mejia has made it a goal to break away from traditional styles of photography, and continue to evolve his own unique eye. Despite already achieving what most do in a lifetime, he says he still believes there is much to learn. That endless excitement translates through his images. Anyone who comes across his pictures is treated to that same sense of wonder in discovering something new to behold.
“Throughout the few years in my practice,” Mejia tells Vogue Philippines, “I’ve come to realize that my work has always been centered in sacredness and the magic of found moments within nature and our diverse cultures, and ultimately on how I could make an impact or difference in society with these images that I make.”
These days, one will find the photographer in the lands and forests where environmental defenders had been slain in the Philippines. He’s working on a project called “Blood Forests,” and is attempting to unearth the stories of injustice that rarely make it to public light. Mejia one day hopes to publish a book reimagining the wild, investigating “the beasts inside and outside of us.”
For the December Issue of Vogue Philippines, with the theme of “celebration,” Mejia chose a photograph he took of a Purple Jade Vine, one of the rarest endangered flowers that only thrive in the forests of the Philippines.
“I was really drawn to its ephemerality and in how it transforms its hues into lilac, purple, and blue with the passing of its short age,” he says, describing it as “a rare magical bloom.”More so he was amazed at how its shape resembles hummingbirds. “How from a mere flower, one can see differently, always keeping in mind what Henry David Thoreau once said ‘It is not what you look at that matters, but what you see,’” he explains.
“Celebration is a chance to witness wildflowers in bloom—to closely see such enigmatic beings on little leaves, viscerally reminding us of the perennial changing process of nature and life in the Philippines.” —Gab Mejia