Known for his extensive and unique collection of photographic plant portraits, Karl Blossfeldt (1865–1932) has earned a place as a seminal figure in the history of photography and modern art. London’s Whitechapel Gallery is currently holding a major exhibition of Blossfeldt’s work, consisting of over 80 silver gelatin prints, five rarely-seen large-scale prints, Blossfeldt’s original publications as well as a set of working collages made in preparation for his books.
Blossfeldt’s finely detailed photography was praised by Walter Benjamin, adopted by the Surrealists and mass produced in magazines and books. Working at the junction of Art Nouveau and Modernism, Blossfeldt’s striking photographs reveal the tactile qualities, intricate forms and uncanny aspects of flora.
‘Aristolochia spec. Birthwort, Shoots of Tendrils’, Karl Blossfeldt, n.d. Gelatin Silver Print. Long-term loan from Berlin University of the Arts.
His ability to capture plants in such intricate detail is due to a series of homemade cameras he developed that allowed him to photograph plant surfaces in unprecedented magnified detail.
Despite the large impact his work was to have later, Blossfeldt’s photography was not recognised until late in his life. For most of his life, he worked as a tutor using his works primarily as teaching tools. His work was only brought to public attention 4 years before his death when he published his first book ‘Urformen der Kunst’ (Art Forms in Nature) in 1928. Soon after its release, ‘Urformen der Kunst’ became regarded as a seminal book on photography.
Blossfeldt’s combination of scientific observation, sculptural form and surreal composition resulted in an artistic style that forged new approaches to modern art and photography.
The exhibition will run until 14 June, 2013. For more information click here.