A story about the land is a story of its people. Enfolded in the varied landscapes of the Philippine archipelago are communities that have remained rooted to place against great and unrelenting adversity: those whom we call “Indigenous.” For more than a decade, Jacob Maentz paid visits to these communities to listen and learn from within, that is, from the people who have called these lands home since time immemorial. What unfolds in Homelands is the photographic narrative of Jacob’s continuing collaboration with various Indigenous and historically marginalized groups in the Philippines. The stories and knowledge that these communities have chosen to share with Maentz as honored guest has indelibly shaped his own journey of unlearning, inviting him to deeply reimagine the intimate, intricate, and inextricable relationships between place and people.
The images in the exhibit are selections from a body of work consisting of 218 photographs in a symposium of 18 essays brought together for a book. Many of the images are not the outcome of a single encounter, but rather what one sees when one keeps looking, returning again and again to deepen one’s perspective, and sometimes deconstructing it entirely in order to perceive anew. Over the years, Jacob’s way of living and looking at the world has grown increasingly entangled with the Indigenous communities he has dedicated himself to. According to the book’s principal writer Nicola Sebastian. “We spent nearly 100 hours in conversation with Indigenous leaders, youth, academics, and allies, asking them questions, but mostly just listening to experiences wholly different from ours, even if they were occurring in our own country, our islands, our home.”
Jacob Maentz is an American documentary photographer whose work explores the interplay of the natural world, culture, and identity. He studied conservation biology at Colorado State University and came to the Philippines as a Peace Corps volunteer in 2003. He now resides in Cebu City with his family and is a project photographer with Blue Earth Alliance, a community of professionals that supports visual storytelling on critical environmental and social issues.