What is it with all these photographs of flowers? Yes, flowers are pretty, and in some cases downright beautiful, but why do we need to always photograph them?
Photography is the easy art. Anybody can pick up a camera and take a photo. Almost anybody can take a decent photo, maybe even a good one. It does, however, take a keen eye and a honed talent to make exceptional photography, but the sad reality is that most of us can’t even tell the difference between a "nice" photo and a finely-crafted one.
That’s part of the reason why I always roll my eyes at flower photography — it’s too easy. It’s right up there with black & white female nudes — given the subject matter, it’s almost impossible to go wrong. So where’s the challenge? Where’s the point?
Many years ago I acquired (for free) a videotape on photography that was sponsored by L.L. Bean, or maybe Eddie Bauer, I don’t remember which. It was all about the basics of photography. The host/photographer was some burly American guy with a bald head, trimmed beard, and a fishing vest full of accessories. You can’t get any more cliché than that.
I disagreed with almost everything he said. When he came to the part about photographing flowers I almost lost it. The guy’s technique was to pick the flower and clamp it to an attachment that reached out from the tripod screw on his camera. The idea was to position the flower dead-center in the frame, and then move the whole thing around until the light was pleasing and the background suitable. So phony. And it killed the flower!
I was so outraged that I sent a letter to the sponsor stating that no decent nature photographer would kill his subject in order to get a good photo of it (I didn’t bother with the argument against decontextualization), and that I would not buy any more products from their store until they retracted the video. I didn’t mention that the nearest L.L. Bean or Eddie Bauer stores were about 1000 miles away. I’m sure they got a good laugh out of it, but they were courteous enough to send me a letter of apology.
During my long apprenticeship as a photographer I was enticed, many times, to photograph flowers, often with sunsets as backgrounds, or with artistic hazy soft focus effects. Fortunately I never stooped so low as to enlarge any onto canvas-textured paper. In every case, my initial enthusiasm was always dampened by the crushing sense of boredom and sameness as I looked at photo after photo of flower after flower, and I realized that nothing I did was any different, and that these photos served little purpose beyond mere cataloging.
So I stopped. I stopped photographing flowers ages ago. After all, Flickr and other photo sources are bursting with flower after flower after flower, and who cares? If I want to look at flower photos I’ll pick up a free seed catalog.
But on the other hand, sometimes you see something, right in your own yard, and you just toss out your prejudices and say "what the Hell!"