“The plant must be valued as a totally artistic and architectural structure,” said the photographer Karl Blossfeldt, which gives some insight into the particular type of reverence he had for his subjects. Blossfeldt was primarily a teacher for much of his career, and the startling images of flora that he captured during the early 1900s were originally created purely as a teaching aid. Nevertheless they remain - and are acknowledged as - one of the finest bodies of nature photography to ever be taken.
Blossfeldt had no formal training to speak of, and most of the images were taken on a home-made camera that could magnify the plants up to thirty times. This revealed that ‘architecture’ Blossfeldt was so enamoured with, whilst the artistry came in the abstract beauty that such magnifications also revealed.
Blossfeldt was 63 when a book of these images were published and it instantly turned the photographer into something of an art world sensation, ranking alongside such luminaries as August Sanders and Eugene Atget. Walter Benjamin praised him as having “played his part in that great examination of the inventory of perception, which will have an unforeseeable effect on our conception of the world.” Even the surrealists were enamoured, with George Bataille including his work in the periodical Documents.
The latest creative titan to be inspired by these century-plus photos of flowers is the avant-fashion designer Jonathan Anderson, who currently heads up the resurgent Loewe alongside his own eponymous brand. Already having used prints of Blossfeldt’s work across Loewe’s SS16 womenswear collection, Anderson turned again to those starkly beautiful pictures when devising his first perfume for the Spanish brand. Here Blossfeldt’s images are fused to the awkward tensions and complex allure of Anderson’s scent, a concoction of tangerine, bergamot and sandalwood notes amongst others. As is often the case with Anderson’s work, the influence of Blossfeldt might not be so immediately obvious but it’s an appropriation we feel the photographer might appreciate: the beauty comes in the abstraction.