Aesthetically, my flower photographs look nothing like Robert Mapplethorpe’s flower photographs. He took structured studio photographs of flowers in vases, set against strong light, or coloured backgrounds. I take photographs of wild flowers in the bush with backgrounds of moss, lichen, fallen bark, rotting leaves, bracken and whatever happens to be there.
Yet when I look at his photographs, there is something stark. The flowers are not pretty; not fluffy. They don’t evoke a feeling of home, nor of softness. They have hard edges, strong contrast and sometimes, are almost confronting. I recognise some of these qualities in my own work. My flowers are not pretty or fluffy either.
I first came across the work of Robert Mapplethorpe in the National Gallery of Victoria in the early 1990’s. The photographs exhibited were primarily portraits. Impressed with the quality of his work, I sought out books of his photographs. In the process, becoming aware of his flower photographs. I’ve kept the large format calendars of Mapplethorpe flowers, and perhaps one day I will get around to framing these and hanging them on my walls, In the meantime, I don’t need to bring them out to look at them because I can still picture most of them in my head.
Try as I might, I can’t think of another photographer who photographs flowers. Obviously there must be thousands who do, they just haven’t registered in my mind.
Looking at my own photographs, I think in many I capture a sense of the solitary bloom reaching out into a vast emptiness, which I also see in Mapplethorpe’s work.
To end this post, here are a few of my flower photographs: