In 2013, the 850th anniversary of Notre-Dame, the legendary cathedral of Paris was celebrated. What better symbol of permanence? That it would always be there? We now know how wrong that was! As a photographer, I’d been inside and shot Notre-Dame many times, but never climbed its tower to take the iconic gargoyle-overlooking-Paris image. Not the right light. Too many people waiting in line. Not feeling like climbing hundreds of steps. Always a -bad- good reason. And then it wasn’t there any more. I swore that: never again! BTW, it should reopen, at least partly, at the very end of 2024, indicating that some “things” are indeed, against all odds, meant to be permanent.
Now what can be more different from a cathedral, than a flower? Except that the same principle applies. If you don’t shoot it today, maybe it won’t be there tomorrow. One day changes a flower beyond recognition. So a flower shooter should get rid of excuses pronto! Which means that, if you shoot flowers outside, meaning not in a controlled environment, you need to make do with what you have. Time, talent, gear, intent, you are on your own…
Here is one flower image that I like and so does Pascal J. To some extent it was a surprise, because in real life, and on the camera LCD, it didn’t look quite that good. So I thought, let’s go back for more on the very next day. I simply couldn’t find it again, or anything close to it. Let alone with the critter.
I don’t know if these 2 were there the next day, but what I know for sure is that they weren’t there the day before. Similarly, on my post reviewing the Laowa 58mm, there is a shot of a decrepit sports shoe. The photographer I was shooting with liked my image but thought he could do better, and came back to the spot. Gone.
Why are flower images such a special corner of photography? In miniscule homage to the immense writer Isaac Bashevis Singer, there are thousands of reasons, but I will spare you, and stick to 10.
First, because they are so impermanent, they are like a instant in time caught and frozen forever. As opposed to: not caught = lost forever. So let’s not let them be lost!
Second, because they incorporate so much beauty. Even minutes parts of flowers are beautiful beyond words, taking our breath away. Even decaying, rotting flowers house beauty beyond comprehension. And, whether one believes or not, all of us agree that beauty makes our world better, and is to be treasured.
Third, because, whereas landscape images, which are another form of paying tribute to nature’s beauty, aim at reproducing what the eye sees as faithfully as possible, a flower image is more artificial than almost all other photographic genres, save for technical manipulation. Flower images cannot capture the full depth of field necessary for all parts of the flower to be in focus, and thus incorporate bokeh. Bokeh, which is totally foreigh to the human eye and brain. So, while they are an ode and a paean to beauty, flower images also celebrate a feat of nature-and-man cooperation when they are created. There aren’t many cases of those around, so let’s cherish the ones we have.
Fourth, because flower images do not require explanations, or context, or maturity, or culture, to be enjoyed (IBS would have loved that one!)
Fifth, because flower images are for good. You can’t stick evil, or hatred, or violence on to them, and God knows we have so much of that, that flower images are all the more precious for it.
Sixth, because flowers mean love in so many countries. Offer flowers when you are invited, flowers when you love, flowers when you seek forgiveness, flowers for final goodbyes. Flowers for all reasons and all seasons. And flower images for all of them.
Seventh, because flowers and flower images are instant, natural, spontaneous. It took Da Vinci decades to bring Mona Lisa to where it is, and he was still working on it when he died. The very opposite of a flower image, and we are all the better off for having so many more of them than of Da Vinci paitings.
Eighth, because flower images are free, free to be taken, free of rights, free of regulations, free of cost, in free supply. If we love freedom, accessibility, abundance, flower images embody part of that too.
Ninth, because they are so easy to take. Where are there no flowers? Even in the concrete heart of cities, there are flower baskets, gardens, flower shops, parks. Even a minute flower growing unaided on the rim of a street, lost between two paving stones, can be so beautiful. Name any other photographic subject that matches that.
And tenth, without which it would not be truly a post of mine, because they are so d*mned hard to take, that any successful one is an exercise in vanity! Even the slightest breeze can kill not only a shot, but dozens of attempted shots. And, because flowers are mostly small, they need to be shot really close up, meaning there is only a minute spot from which the image will be absolutely right, and true, and gorgeous. Not for the in-a-constant-rush-and-hurry of the modern world. And all the more wonderful as a clean-your-mind-of-tension exercise. That it is so simple in its natural beauty doesn’t mean it is easy to achieve…
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