Behind the Image #6 – Chrysanthemum

I was always both enchanted by and in awe of flower photography, but whenever I tried it myself the results were always extremely lacklustre. More recently I’ve started including flowers in my still life images and it seems that gradually they worked their way centre stage.

Chrysanthemums are one of my favourite flowers, second really only to tulips. I don’t know why but they remind me of my childhood. I seem to remember that my Grandmother always had a big bunch of them on her living room table, but that could be memories from twenty five years ago getting mixed up with other things.

The first image I shot of this flower was the one I published on my Instagram. It was busy, full of stuff, an attempt to tell some kind of a story. This style normally works well for me, but I don’t know what it was. Something didn’t quite resonate with this image.

But then I went back to my studio later in the day. The light had changed slightly and I cleared the tabletop of everything but the flower in its vase. This time it was (as far as I was concerned) just perfection. Nailed it. The light just picked out every single petal in the most incredible detail.

I always seem to forget the lesson that simple pictures are often the best. I have a kind of conflicting inner monologue going on when it comes to still life images. On the one hand I absolutely adore the still life paintings created during the Dutch Golden Age of painting. I particularly love those painted by women artists who didn’t have access to the nude models required to really advance one’s career within the Academy.

A Vase of Flowers , 1716
Margareta Haverman

One day I am hopeful that I’ll find a friendly florist who wants to create similarly opulent promotional images for their business (if that’s you, get in touch!). The two known images by Haverman show a masterly understanding of composition and I aspire to produce images myself that are so perfectly balanced.

But on the other hand I also love a deeply minimalist aesthetic that focusses attention on a single, main, beautiful subject like a single flower. This age of slow living and appreciating the world around you is one that I’m very comfortable with.

So there you have it. An insight into the directions that I feel pulled in when I shoot my still life image. It’s all too tempting to keep piling on more props and things to look at in the style of the Dutch Golden Age of painting. But on the other hand, sometimes it’s wonderful just to show something beautiful in all it’s glory. Alone.

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