Karl Blossfeldt (1865 – 1932) was a self-taught artist and teacher who used nature’s many forms to inspire his sculpture students. Blossfeldt created what could be one of the earliest cameras ever to take what modern photographers consider “macro” photographs: that is, the camera was able to magnify the image of its subject by 30 times. He first published his work in a book titled Urformen der Kunst, or Art Forms in Nature, and took the public by storm almost overnight. Images of this detail had previously never been seen before.
What makes Blossfeldt’s work so unique is not just their size and detail, but also the way in which he chose to photograph his subjects. By shooting against a plain backdrop, he takes ordinary items like flower heads and seed pods out of context and presents them as natural sculptures of their own. A nature lover as well as artist, Blossfeldt focused especially on moments of change in a plant’s lifecycle – leaves just about to unfurl, buds just about to break and tendrils as they reach and grasp. These imbue his images with life and motion.
Blossfeldt has been quoted as saying:
The plant never lapses into mere arid functionalism; it fashions and shapes according to logic and suitability, and with its primeval force compels everything to attain the highest artistic form. The plant must be valued as a totally artistic and architectural structure.