Archive May 2013

Irving Penn’s Flowers

Posted by on May 29, 2013 in My Blog | Leave a comment

 

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Irving Penn’s book, Passage, is a staple in any photographer’s library. But, as a flower photographer, I couldn’t stop there. I just had to have his incredible book Flowers too.

In a photography career that spanned almost seventy years, Irving Penn worked on projects across many genres. As a photographer for Vogue magazine, he produced fashion spreads, still lifes, and portraits that were classically elegant and startlingly beautiful. Among them was a series of flower photographs that he did for Vogue every Christmas from 1967 to 1973. After that, he continued to photograph flowers, and in 1987 published the book Flowers.

In his only book dedicated to flowers, he describes a fairly lofty process of acquiring the various flowers he photographed. Some tulips were flown to New York City from Holland, others arrived “with the morning freshness still on them” from green houses and gardens around the United States.  The roses were photographed in a studio in London that was lent to him by colleagues at British Vogue. He states that, “In London I would spend a typical day visiting one of the several distinguished growers in the nearby viallages, marking blooms that would then be cut early the next morning and brought by car to the London studio.”

What I find most interesting about his flower photography is its starkness. He didn’t appear to be mesmerized by a flower’s beauty, but more by the infinite details found within a flower.  In the book’s introduction Mr. Penn says, “In fact, the reader will probably note my preference for flowers considerably after they have passed that point of perfection, when they have already begun spotting and browning and twisting on their way back to the earth.” 

Presented against white backgrounds, we aren’t romanced by the flower, but we are mesmerized by each flower’s uniqueness, by its honesty, and by its complexities.  To me, it looks like an exploration of light through the medium of a flower – how the light changes the colour, texture, and structure of its subject.  His fascination comes through and we, in turn, are fascinated.

These photographs feel like a beginning, rather than an end. They inspire me to, not only try to duplicate these efforts, but challenge me to further develop my own style.

Flowers might be the subject, but these photographs remind us how they can be seen so differently through different eyes.

Irving Penn (1917-2009) published eleven books. In 1995 he donated his archives to The Art Institute of Chicago. His work lives on through his foundation at irvingpenn.org.

Wonderland: Kirsty Mitchell

Posted by on May 22, 2013 in My Blog | Leave a comment

article-2145760-13220E26000005DC-701_964x635The photographic series Wonderland has to be one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.

Kirsty Mitchell, inspired by both the life and death of her mother, takes us on a bewitching creative journey that combines storybooks, costume design, and nature.  While each photograph is a deep and rich story, the entire series is a wonder.

Within the photographs, her meticulous presentation of flowers provide a fascinating layer of beauty and intrigue.  Even more incredible, the flowers are flawlessly integrated right into the scene and into the storyline — as backgrounds, garments, and props.

Each photograph is a masterpiece. Together, they weave a haunting and beautiful legacy that profoundly honours her mother.

This labour of love is breath taking. Especially for those of us who love both photography and flowers.

 

You Bet Your Garden: Mike McGrath

Posted by on May 16, 2013 in My Blog | Leave a comment

Yellow-Flowers-PPSyellwebOn Saturday mornings, I love to listen to You Bet Your Garden on NPR. The show features, organic gardening advocate, Mike McGrath, who intertwines his quick wit with his vast knowledge of all things garden-related.

It’s a phone-call radio show, cats and kittens (I couldn’t resist!) featuring callers from all over the U.S. and Canada and includes topics ranging from caring for lilacs, to composting, to attracting hummingbirds to your yard.

Experts are interviewed or Mike points callers in the direction of resources when he’s unsure of the exact answer.  In summary, a great source of information if you’re interested in gardening, flowers or just your yard in general.

You can tune into NPR at 11:00 a.m. EST Saturday morning or you can go to The You Bet Your Garden website where you can scroll through archives of the shows and listen, on-demand to your selected show.

You can also click on the ‘A to Z Garden Answers’ button and be linked to the Garden’s Alive! website, which provides an alphabetized list of pretty much everything you ever wanted to know about gardens.

Enjoy this wonderful resource!

Power of the Flower Exhibit: Markeim Arts Center

Posted by on May 8, 2013 in My Blog | Leave a comment

It’s the annual Power of the Flower Exhibition at The Markeim Arts Center in Haddonfield, NJ.  The exhibit showcases work from South Jersey artists with works that are inspired by nature.  It includes perspectives on birds, flora, flowers interpreted in all mediums, including painting, stained glass, mixed media, fabric art, and photography.

The show runs from May 2 to May 28 and includes several programs and workshops, including a photography workshop and an “Arts Alive” an evening of live painting and flowers.

Check out their website for details and the Arts Center hours.

I have a couple of entries in the show.  Actually, there are two series of photos, one of my red roses and a set of green fauna photos that are photographic transfers onto wooden blocks.  The complete sets of photos can be found in the Series section on my website.

Below are a couple of photos.  This is my first show, so it’s pretty exciting for me!

Enjoy and drop by the show if you can!

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Soft Focus

Posted by on May 1, 2013 in My Blog | Comments Off on Soft Focus

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Here’s another photo of Spring in action.  This photograph is  stylistically different from the photos I posted last week in that this photo is less about sharp composition and more about colour.

I used my Lensbaby for this photo, which I’ll blog more about in the future.  I love how the lens creates an unfocussed painterly effect.  As I’ve said previously, I’m usually more interested in capturing the feel of a beautiful flower, rather than documenting in everything in sharp detail.  Don’t get me wrong — I love sharp detail too!  But I tend to lean towards softer focus.

Tip:  If you’re photographing flowers, remember to pay attention to the background.  It can make a really big difference in the composition and quality of your photo.

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