Art that invites contemplation.
Untitled is a ongoing master series of black-and-white photographs of living plant elements found in nature.
As climate change alters our planet in drastic and irreversible ways, now more than ever it is time to focus our attention on the environment, nature, plants.
“Untitled--a romantic typology of form,” is an ongoing master series of 325 black-and-white macro photographs of plant forms, photographed in nature, i.e., parks, gardens and wilderness. It aims to elevate plants from the ordinary to art, to inspire viewers to look at, love, and protect them.
My art shows what I see with my mind’s eye, i.e., forms, which is not surprising since I am an architect. The more I look at plant forms, the more I see in them visual metaphors of human features and behaviors. The process of photographing and placing forms within portrait frames has led me to perceive them as symbols.
For me, for example, the isolation of a sunken sphere in Untitled #203 suggests withdrawal. In Untitled #295, one stem dances seductively around another, reflecting enticement. The tilted fiddlehead of Untitled #264 peers at me diffidently, limbs coiled. The intertwined, slender leg-like stems of Untitled #155, #156, and #157 project femininity, youth, and seduction. Placed side by side, the three photographs are an ode to the Three Graces, goddesses of charm, beauty, and creativity.
I have developed an artistic process that allows me to share my experience of form. The process is unique to digital photography and would not be achievable if it were not for the method of trial and improvement that depends on the LCD screen of a digital camera. To emphasize the visual and tactile sensuousness of my experience of form, I magnify subjects ranging from three inches to half-an-inch in size as many as five-to-30 times, respectively. I position each form within a self-imposed portrait frame; obscure its background with a combination of flash and camera settings; mold it with light to accentuate specific features; and sharpen areas where I want the viewer to focus.
Using black and white permits me to move symbolically between the darkest dark and lightest light. Illuminated forms may be easily available to our conscious minds but where there is no light, form is impalpable in an infinite depth and breadth of space. Throughout this spectrum, form with texture detaches from the subject and becomes sculptural.
The photographs are left untitled in order to evoke viewers’ own mental associations and, later, to inspire them to look more closely than before at plants they see growing in nature.
I organize the images of my series in a continuum of forms and feelings that begins with a vulnerable, isolated, sunken sphere; progresses to a stretched-out, confident tube; and ends with more complex shapes made up of inter-related elements.
My work differs from Karl Blossfeldt’s macro photography of plant forms in that he conveys their strictly formal aspects whereas I frame my subjects to suggest visual metaphors or symbolic associations, engaging viewers in a personal way. Similarly, while Edward Weston also uses visual metaphors, e.g., the embrace and the reclining nude of Pepper No. 30 and Eroded Rock No. 51, my subjects are all plants photographed in nature. Finally, unlike the objective grids of Bernd and Hilla Becher, my series is a sequential typology of natural forms in which feeling is perceptible. I call my typology romantic because the seemingly objective forms in my images are rooted in intimate, spiritual feelings expressed through my artistic process.
Anna Agoston, 2018