Ian Talbot: Retrospective – Photogenic Drawing :: The Natural Order
Chapter 26 of the ongoing series Ian Talbot : Retrospective by British fine art photographer Ian Talbot.
Photogenic Drawing :: The Natural Order
© Ian Talbot
“It is the result of the creative act that distinguishes works of art from those of nature, namely, the modelling of an original form, newly produced, and not the imitated or repeated form.” Preface to “Urformen der Kunst” (Art Forms in Nature), 1928
Karl Blossfeldt’s lifelong passion was not photography but plants and their structures; yet his reputation rests on the photographic work he produced with a home made wooden camera which he used as a teaching aid in the drawing classes he gave as a professor at the Berlin College of Art. This reputation was established when, in 1928, at the advanced age of 63, he shot to fame with the publication of the book “Urformen der Kunst” (Art Forms in Nature), followed in 1932 by “Wundergarten der Natur” (Magic Garden of Nature) and, posthumously, by “Wunder in der Natur” (Magic in Nature) in 1942.
“Art Forms in Nature” is something of a misleading title because it is in danger of pandering to the woolly-thinking tendency that coins such meaningless but popular aphorisms as “Nature is an Artist”… Nature is most decidedly not. Such forms and structures that exist in nature do so for reasons of practicality and expediency. It takes man to recognise or create “art in nature” if such a thing exists. As for Blossfeldt, he wrote in the preface to his second book “I am not intending that any special significance be attached to these pictorial documents”.
Nevertheless, Blossfeldt and his work were “appropriated” by the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) art movement in Germany between the wars. Although never Blossfeldt’s intention, this “appropriation” was not entirely “inappropriate”; here the German word “Sachlichkeit” is the superior one, literally “thing (or thing-like) -ness”, with far richer connotations than the English “Objectivity”.
The flower in the image shown here is “love-in-a-mist”, a poetic enough name even if one wonders how apt in the absence of said “mist”. For me, however, it was the structure of the flower that was of most interest. Of course, I could have shown this structure by moving in closely and focusing on a single bloom but that would have been trite. I decided, therefore, to show context while still concentrating attention on the flower’s structure. Once that decision was made the technical details are just an exercise in “problem solving”. Medium wide angle to establish the context and yet still draw the eye to main central subject and a snooted single flash slightly overpowering the ambient light to, well, “spotlight” the main bloom. As I have said before, monkey work really…