Like many, I grew up with flowers. I enjoyed their beauty. And I timed Spring and Summer according to their growth.
As a child I waited for the blossoms. The forsythia were first, their small yellow blossoms appearing even before the leaves on trees. When those blossoms appeared, I knew that Spring was well under way. Irises followed. In middle or late Spring my mother would plant her flower gardens. Occasionally I would help, but mostly I watched for the flowers to bloom, and then for the bees and the butterflies to alight on them.
When I was old enough to explore the local woods I'd look for stands of tiger lilies, which I deemed to be exotic tropical intruders into the staid Northeastern woods. Perhaps, one day, my buddies and I would see actual tigers, or brightly plumed birds, or even a dinosaur somewhere out their beyond the Tiger Lilies.
In one version or another, that's how it went for a half-dozen years or more. Somewhere I that period I saw Disney's “Nutcracker Suite” on television. Though it was only in black and white, it enchanted me, inviting me into the world of plants at the same scale as leaves, blades of grass, milkweed pods, dandelion puffs, and flowers. That made a deep and lasting impression on me. The world of flowers is not only something one observes, or cultivates, but something one can inhabit.
All that is necessarily, reflexively, in play when I photograph flowers. Living brought them into my life and watching Disney’s “Nutcracker Suite” year after year taught me to put myself into their lives. And yet they are also visual forms, some more interesting than others. That too is necessarily in play when I take photographs and then when I examine them on the computer.
Consider this recent photo:
First of all, it’s orange. Second, its almost entirely out of focus. And yet I like the image – at least I think I do. I’m still conversing with it.
After all, just what, exactly is lost, in the lack of focus? One can see clearly that it is a flower and, if one knows the names of flowers (I don’t, mostly), the poor focus shouldn’t stand in the way of identification. The overall form remains, though one has to look a bit harder to follow the edges of the petals and thus to parse the 3D form. The overall composition of the image, simple as it is, remains unaffected by the focus.
Yet – and this is important too – the image is not entirely out of focus. Two petals – in the upper right – are in focus. Without them, I’d have no interest in the image. Why? Perhaps because those edges indicate that the guy behind the camera isn’t a complete idiot. Perhaps.