Warm, soft morning light streams across the leafy seaside suburb of Noordhoek in Cape Town, illuminating the garden of Filipa Domingues. Plants of the most fascinating shapes and sizes grow here, ready for their close-up.
“I specifically photograph succulent plants that are endemic or indigenous to South Africa,” she tells CNN. “(I like) the more rare and unusual kind of plants, not the typical ones that you find in people’s gardens or in nurseries.”
Domingues jokingly calls herself a portrait plant photographer. She only began collecting plants three years ago, starting with succulents. Her collection rapidly grew and became a focal point when friends came to visit; soon, Domingues found herself urging them to come over and “check my plants.”
Filipa Domingues describes herself as a “portrait plant photographer.” Based in Cape Town, South Africa, she captures images of unusual plants — like this Aloe comosa. Known locally as the “Clanwilliam Aloe,” it is very rare to find in the wild, “occurring only just north of the town of Clanwilliam and in sheltered kloofs bordering on the Ceres Karoo,” she tells CNN. Credit: Filipa Domingues
It was one of these friends, she says, who encouraged her to start photographing her plant collection and posting on social media.
“Check my plants”
Portrait plant photographer captures Cape Town’s ‘weird and wonderful’ flora
“I only post (a photo) once I’ve learned the name of (the plant) and once I’ve learned my favorite little bit of information,” she explains.
When asked if she has a favorite plant, Domingues says it’s impossible to choose just one. With each season, she says she discovers new plants to add to her growing list of favorites. But there are some that she finds more captivating than others.
The Argyroderma theartii succulent has bright purple-pink flowers during the early winter months, and is one of Domingues’ favorites. Credit: Filipa Domingues
Domingues says she finds this plant especially enchanting because when in bloom, it reminds her of a sea anemone. “So many of my succulents remind me of underwater coral,” she says, adding that she often refers to her collection as her “coral reef.”
As for her choice of camera? It may surprise people to know that Domingues takes the majority of her photos on her iPhone.
“I would hope my photographs just inspire people,” she says. “There’s only so many things you can focus on in life, but once your attention is open to something, it’s amazing — so I hope to open up people’s attention and minds to plants, especially the South African indigenous succulents.”
Domingues takes the majority of her photographs using only a black cloth as a backdrop, natural light, and her iPhone. Credit: Filipa Domingues
Today, she has a significant global following on social media through which she can invite people from across the world to virtually check her plants. She says her followers from America and Europe are often blown away by the otherworldly appearance of Cape Town’s unique flora.
“They look at my photos and they can’t believe that these plants exist,” Domingues says. “And it reminds me how lucky we are to have this all in our own backyard.”