Karl Blossfeldt: Majestic Plant Portraits
In line with Nick Brandt's majestic animal portraits, it's only fair that this blog should also feature plant portraits of the same quality. As with animals, plants have also been featured on the blog, from Fong Qi Wei's exploded flowers to Carl Werner's amazing foodscapes to Michel Tcherevkoff's flowery shoes and bags. As with Nick Brandt, these previous flowery creations are no match for the simple yet majestic plant portraits created by artist and photographer Karl Blossfeldt.
Karl Blossfeldt made a living as an artist and teacher in but it's his magnificent close-up photographs of plants that made him famous. These close-ups were used to aid him in teaching his students in the late 19th century and early 20th century about the natural beauty of nature, something which is obviously evident in all his photographs.
His position as an artist and art teacher and his passion for nature allowed for his conviction that nature and art weren't inherently different, but in fact should be related. He postulated that art should take its cue from the basic forms found in the natural world, beginning with the simplest petals, leaves and stems of ordinary plants found in the backyard.
The photographs themselves are simple enough in their content and Blossfeldt made sure that they weren't overly complicated. He used a simple white, grey or black cardboard as a background with evenly diffused lighting. If these techniques sound familiar, it's because they're the same techniques used for portrait photography when the medium was still in its infancy. In Blossfeldt's case, the process is quite fitting as the results are indeed nothing short of portraits, only that of plants and not of people.
The uniformity of the photographs were intentional as Blossfeldt intended them to be used as tools for teaching art students about forms in nature, ensuring that they could see that almost everything man made from the simplest sculptures to the most elaborate architectural marvels all derived their basic ideas from the microscopic forms of plants.
In 1928, Blossfeldt published 120 of his photographs in the well-received "Urformen der Kunst" ("Natural Forms of Art" or sometimes translated to "Art Forms in Nature"). In 1932, the year of his death, a second book was published under the title "Wundergarten der Natur" (Wonders of the Garden of Nature).
It's amazing to think that the images you see here are but a fraction of the almost 6,000 shots Blossfeldt made in his lifetime. Even with all the variety of plantlife he saw, Blossfeldt managed to show his students and the rest of the world an intimate view of flora that's usually ignored, even by the most discerning of art lovers. And all from a home-made camera and a little creativity.
You can go to the Karl Blossfeldt archive for more of his majestic plant portraits. There are also a few more samples of his photographs over at Christopher Wahren Fine Photographs, Soulcatcher Studio and Karl Blossfeldt Photos. Since the original release of his first book in 1928, publishers have made different versions of his images available. So far, the most popular modern reproductions include Karl Blossfeldt: The Complete Published Work (Taschen 25th Anniversary), Karl Blossfeldt: The Alphabet of Plants, and Karl Blossfeldt: Art Forms In Nature: The Complete Edition.