Karl Blossfeldt was a photographer and artist who invented a camera/photographic technique that could magnify its subject to show its texture in impressive detail. His main subject was plants, and the new technique, combined with his knowledge of composition, resulted in some of the most fascinating, beautiful, and creepy photographs of plants ever. A botany professor introduced his work to me and I’ve loved it ever since. Here are some examples of his work.
I love how architectural, animal, alien, and brutish his photographs make the plants look. It’s a vaguely threatening new look at something very ordinary. The fear of nature is something we all seem to possess, but typically forget about in our highly urbanized society. Then again, being removed from nature is the foundation of our fear of it. (This also happens to be a founding theme in the Folk Horror genre.) Also, the idea that we will never be able to overcome or outlast nature. If we leave our house for too long, nature will take it back. If we leave our bodies for too long, nature will reclaim that too (associated with the modern philosophical notion that the human mind and body are separate from both nature and each other). As for plants specifically, they’re completely essential to our existence as sources of oxygen, food, clothing, and shelter, but we actually seem to think of them less than we do the animals we slaughter for food. I love Blossfeldt’s photographs because they give us a new and unsettling view of something ordinary, while removing its utility by highlighting its aesthetic quality and visual form. (And, I really like plants.)