02 February 2011

Tiger lily

I recall someone a long time ago saying photographing flowers is an act of desperation in an attempt to compensate for the absence of inspiration (or something like that).

That probably says everything I need to say about this.

[27 January 2011, Canon 20D, 300 mm f4 L IS with EF 1.4x teleconverter, ISO 400, 1/250s at f5.6]

All content © 2011 Pete McGregor


Relatively Retiring said...

Oh dear!
Or perhaps an act of love for plants, and the urge to record their fragile beauty?

butuki said...

Oh, then I guess photographing skyscrapers or commercial models are acts of surpassing genius?

One of the reasons I love nature photography is that it feels like an act of reverence and deep appreciation for the world. When you do it right it is because you actually took the time to really look at the subject and see it.

Barbara said...

Pete! This is such a stunning and elegant photo.

I confess that I agree with Butuki more than 100%. Perhaps if people drank in more of Nature's effortless Beauty they wouldn't be so starved for inspiration?

( As an aside, when I clicked on this post Will Shakespeare's "tiger's heart wrapped in a woman's hide" sprang immediately to mind.)

Zhoen said...

Some people will say anything.

You show us a particular view of the world most of us would never have any other chance to see.

AJB said...

D'oh! I'd say more that 50% of the photos I take are of plants and a significant proportion of those would be of flowers... Nice picture, BTW. They're flowering at my place at the moment too.

pohanginapete said...

Thanks for the thoughts, everyone. Perhaps some explanation: let me be clear I neither object to photographs of flowers nor consider them "lesser" than photographs of other subjects. I do consider them particularly difficult to photograph in a way that compels a viewer to pause and look and think rather than shrug and mutter "Yeah, flower, seen it a thousand times already." However, the risk of paying too much attention to that thought is to fall into the trap of valuing novelty above excellence (and even novelty can be difficult with a flower as a subject).

On the other hand, I'll admit I'm not particularly attracted to photographing cultivated flowers, although I think I appreciate them. But things with the wildness bred out of them seem, to me at least, to have a touch of sadness about them, as if some essential quality has been removed. I can appreciate the colours, the forms, the patterns, all those kinds of things and the fact they're alive as well — but somehow it doesn't seem quite enough, or perhaps those things remind me too much of our obsession with controlling our environment, with altering it rather than adapting to it. (Perhaps that's why I prefer cats that look like cats, for example.)

I haven't thought this through thoroughly, so I'll reserve the right to change my mind (I would anyway), but, once again, thanks for the responses, and for the photographers and painters and other artists among you (that covers all of you!), please don't think I don't appreciate your ways of seeing flowers. I'm hugely impressed with people whose vision expresses so well something I find so difficult.

butuki said...

Pete, you get me wrong. I was being facetious and actually emulating you. I think we both feel very similar about the natural world and about living things that have been forced to our will. It's why I have a very hard time with people who love their toy dogs, these creatures that are a caricature of what a dog is. As you once wrote in a caption to one of your photos here, you want to try to capture the flowers in their natural habitat, as living things that are very much a part of where they are, maybe even more so than animals.

Often my best photographs of plants are when I myself am feeling the effects of the environment they live in, particularly alpine plants which always surprise me when I walk in their habitat and experience the cold, the wind, the ice, the rocks. When I can feel the harshness and realize that I could never survive for long in that environment I am always in awe of those plants. Coming from that point of view I try to capture what these plants are.

Perhaps that is one reason why domesticated plants just don't seem complete. They are dislocated. And when I see artwork of these domesticated plants, like those of Maplethorpe or the paintings of O'Keefe, while comely, I always get the sense that I am looking at something doll-like, not alive, not tough or integrated or quirky, very much the same quality as fashion models, with their artifice and detachment.

I refuse to have a pet, not because I don't love animals, but because I believe in liberty of all living things, in the quality of their lives residing in their autonomy from our need to own everything and force them to our desires. I've heard a lot of people use the argument that with our care pets are happier and safer... and that's just it; a good life is one lived with all the dangers and hardships. Animals and plants morphed into the distinct forms and characteristics they are through the distilling effects of their habitats. Taking their context away is to rob them of what they are.

Though I wonder how honest people are when they take photos of flowers. These are sexual organs, after all. We, the creatures that go through deep embarrassment, shame, and taboo when it comes to our own sexual organs, cannot seem to take our eyes away, while at the same time refusing to say what it really is.

pohanginapete said...

Miguel, that comment's very much in line with my own feeling. Well put. As for flowers as sexual organs, I think the general attitude's entirely understandable — I suspect most people either don't know the true nature of a flower or, even if they do, the appearance is so different from mammalian genitalia that the thought doesn't occur.

Zhoen said...

Ah. Then you might know about Rachel Ruysch. Expected, as a woman, to do flower paintings, but included the bugs and rot.


pohanginapete said...

Zhoen, I didn't know about her. Thanks.