Monday 22 April 2013

Karl Blossfeldt was a photographer that I hadn't looked too much into until my trip to the Whitechapel Gallery last week, where an exhibition featuring much of his work has just opened. An entirely self-taught photographer, he was a key figure in the development of 20th Century photography, building specialist cameras with interchangeable lenses in order to portray his biological subjects in minute detail. The structures of botanical specimens are pretty amazing and so varying, something which Blossfeldt felt illustrated his idea that all things created by man have their roots in nature. The exhibition is quite overwhelming in terms of the number of photographs on display, but it's worth taking a little more time to look at each one carefully. In addition to the display of photographs are some collages intended to help Blossfeldt mock up his books and exhibitions, focusing on teaching the audience rather than simply entertaining.There's also a great looking talk at the gallery exploring botany's role in art, more information here.
"These photographs reveal an entire, unsuspected horde of analogies and forms in the existence of plants. Only the photograph is capable of this. For a bracing enlargement is necessary before these forms can shed the veil that our stolifity throws over them"
- Walter Benjamin, News About Flowers, 1929

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