Most of my photographic life I have been told, “if you want to be shown choose any subject other than pets and flowers.” It seems that you are not taken seriously as an artist if you create images of flowers or pets. I don’t believe that to be true for the most part. Take, for instance, Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, Bouquet of Sunflowers by Claude Monet or Tuft of Cowslips by Albrecht Durer. A small portion of larger number of artist that at one time or another had flowers as a subject in their portfolio. “That’s paintings, what about photographs by famous photographers?” you might say. That one was a little tougher but here is what I found. Ansel Adams Rose on Driftwood, Imogen Cunningham Callla Lilly and Edward Weston Succulent. Three of the many photographers who had flowers as a subject matter. Some of these prints are still sought after by collectors today. So why are flowers as subjects of images so frowned upon? I think it is because it is so hard to create an image that, done well, is art whereas it’s very easy to create an image that can be labeled as trite.
If you look at what someone like Edward, or Imogen did you would see it, the flower, is a study of form and shape as well as how light defines that image. The drama of the greyscale and details the or comparison to a relating subject. It is study, an investigation of the subject to get a better understanding of how we feel or how it relates to us and our world. Now most of what I had seen for these three artists have been in black and white, not color. Color, for me, of a flower is a given is part of the subject that we all see form the start. Viewing the subject in black and white forces you to deal with the subject on a light and dark, shape and texture without the bias of the emotion of color. Take color out of the equation of any photograph and if you still have an image that grabs you then you a sound photograph.
Where flowers become trite is when the subject is treated as a sunset, all color with no real thought about form, shape, light or composition. A snapshot an afterthought that caught the photographers eye so they decided to take it. Then after a quick post processing show around to friends and say “ Look how pretty the colors are.” This, I believe, is why the flower as a subject gets such a bad rap. The total disregard of the subject by so many people that the subject of a flower is tarnished for many people.
With that said I have a study of my waterlilies that I created over a summer season. These were in my pod that received shading from a large tree which created interesting patterns of light. I studied the light and how the shadows would fall on the flowers and when I found an interesting pattern I began to shoot. As spectacular as the color of the flower is, I found the images worked so well in black and white because of how the light played on the flower, leaves and pond.
I will be working on the rest of the photos taking them form color to black and white. I will have a set or a subset of color images only. I will also add more to this group as the season begins.
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