Exercise 2.1 – Karl Blossfeldt & plain backgrounds

Moving on to section 2 of the handbook.

It was interesting reading up on Blossfeldt’s career. Armed with a sheet of A4 and my camera I wandered around the garden looking for interesting shaped leaves that weren’t weeds and that would therefore highlight to the world that my garden needs a real tidying up. As its Ireland there were many overcast days so staying out of the direct sunlight wasn’t too difficult – so I managed generally to avoid shadows. Also I realised my camera is stupidly heavy to be used one handed… trying to hold an A4 sheet, steered into the foliage, and press the shutter while trying not to drop the camera meant a few wobbles. I guess I could have used a tripod, shutter release, blah blah, but didn’t. I tried shooting a dead, finely crumpled leaf, but got too many shadows to really highlight the fine lines. I have included it here as an example of failure – I have a lot of those. I have also included some of these shots as B&W – simply because of Blossfeldt.


For the portraits I simply set up tripod, a little light, model and some experimenting. Due to the low light the exposures were a couple of seconds long, so there were elements of movement etc – some of this was intentional. Then in an Americas Next Top Model kind of way we tried some interesting angles, use of arms, hands etc. The background was plain as required so I simply tried to make the shots a little more interesting. The plain background, plain clothing etc took away an obvious context to the shots – however at times they did veer towards some sort of OMD album cover, which wasn’t intentional. It was interesting however playing with a simple torch light. I like the first image best.

The plain background also focuses the attention on the subject, whether plant or person. It also gives an air of study or record – the cold scientific botanical note, or the police mug-shot. The subject is the key so we have no need nor want of complication.


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