Diana Scherer is a photographer and fine artist living in Amsterdam, much of whose work features flowers. Perhaps her most well circulated series is Nurture Studies, in which she grew various plants in assorted pots for six months. At that time, she removed the pots and photographed what remains underneath. The idea is so simple and so genius that I can’t believe it hasn’t been done before. Beyond being fascinating on their surface, to someone with a bit of horticultural knowledge, these photos express something much deeper.
First, they illustrate our constant attempt at catching and bottling the natural world, and how this process not only shapes but actually restricts and deforms the specimen. Any novice gardener is familiar with the concept of root girdling, something that ought to be avoided at all costs, but is inevitable when growing in containers. It’s easier to forget the difficulties we inflict on our plants when we don’t have to see them. In a way, the photos make me a little sad – as much as I love the fact that more and more people are bringing more and more plants into their lives, their houses, their food, I am reminded of the stress we ask these plants to endure in order that we might cohabitate with them. One of my garden idols, Matt Mattus, has a Pinterest board called “100 Ways To Kill An Air Plant” that features those ubiquitous glass globes, terrariums and mounts. And as much as I love the design brilliance of mason jar planters, confining your plants to an area in which their roots are not only exposed to light but will surely be cooked to a crisp if they’re not drowned first is cruel. In a way, the title “Nurture Studies” is ironic, because what we’re doing is more like palliative care than nurturing.
On a brighter note, the photographs speak to nature’s resilience and adaptability in the face of all this torture, exhibiting how each plant has grown to make optimal use of the space provided to it, still somehow maturing and flowering in spite of the inhospitable conditions. And can’t we all learn from that? If something as wild and beautiful as a flower can still flourish in the most challenging of situations, can’t we do a better job of making the most of what we have?
Photos © Diana Scherer
For more photos, visit her website.