From 1989 to 1994 Danish photographer Joakim Eskildsen travelled through Norway, Scotland, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland and the Faroe Islands in searching of those elements that define the mystic atmosphere of the land and its relationship with those who inhabit it.
“I think that I managed to capture here the meaning of the Nordic Signs, something that is at the same time wild yet livable, and profoundly shaped by the climate, the wind, and destiny.”
Joakim Eskildsen – Nordic Signs
The photographs were self-published in a book ‘Nordic Signs’ in 1995, but now it is out of print and sought after.
Darren Almond’s series ‘Fullmoon’ – a long exposure and the invisible landscape turns to a visible meditation.
Darren Almond – Fullmoon
“Light generates life – this is why we are drawn to it, but contrary to the harsh light of the sun, the reflective light of the moon makes us see further. The landscape of the night is an emotional landscape as much as it is a physical landscape.”
The first photographs on nights with a full moon, English artist Darren Almond took in 1998 initiated an experiment, which he called Fifteen Minute Moon. This became the starting point to an ongoing series of works, now known as ‘Fullmoon‘ and available as a photo book published by Taschen.
“The moon is the sculpture, that belongs to everybody on the planet. It’s a small glimmer of light between two voids of darkness. The moon to me is a historical point, a point we can relate to. Everything beyond the moon is just too far away, is beyond language.”
Photographer Gunter Pfannmüller along with writer Wilhelm Klein were the first photojournalists allowed into Burma in 1980. With the help of a photography portrait studio that they created, for over 35 years they have been photographing the country’s different ethnic groups. As a consequence, the project ‘In search of dignity‘ was produced, selling over a million copies and printed in 12 languages.
“The relationship between the photography and human dignity has always been ambivalent. Precisely when meeting what we Europeans consider exotic, the inquiring camera all too frequently destroys what it seeks to capture: the uniqueness of each individual. Treading this fine line can only succeed in an atmosphere that establishes closeness while maintaining distance. With a delicate feel for the details that visually manifest personality. And, not least, with the patience to trust the right moment.”
Gunter Pfannmüller – In search of Dignity
The project is available as photo book in English and German editions.
Japanese photographer Masahisa Fukase made his obscure masterpiece ‘Ravens’ (‘Karasu’) between 1975 and 1982 as a way of overcoming a personal emotional trauma following a divorce with his second wife Yōko Wanibe. Though the photographs at first sight are a personal lament reflecting the darkened vision of the photographer himself, they are regarded by many as the most important body of work to come out of postwar Japan, and still its imagery continues to inspire artists and writers today.
Masahisa Fukase – Ravens
The project originated as an eight-part series for the magazine Camera Mainichi and these photo essays reveal that Fukase experimented with multiple exposure printing and narrative text as part of the development of the Karasu concept. The first book was published in 1986, subsequent editions were published in 1991 and and 2008, and in May, 2017 a new one published by Mack Books.
“Ravens is one of the defining bodies of work in the history of photography and a high point in the photo book genre. This accumulation of accolades, and the passing of time, have obscured much of the fascinating detail which explains the artist’s pre-occupation with this motif throughout his work. It was not simply a reflection of the existential angst and anhedonia he suffered throughout his life but manifested in artistic self-identification with the raven and ultimately spiralled into a solitary existence and artistic practice on the edge of madness…” Tomo Kosuga from his essay Cries of Solitude 
When she was still a teenager, Dorothy Monnelly discovered in the attic of their home, a box of her mother’s poems. They were written between 1920 – 1945 and left as her “creative” legacy for her daughters.
The series consists of floral stills and landscape photographs and is published as a photo book “For My Daughters”.
Dorothy Kerper Monnelly – For My Daughters, Floral Stills
“I have always treasured my mother’s poetry. When reading it recently, she gave me the idea of combining my images with her poetry to create a conversation back and forth about the idea expressed in each poem. She felt that we would understand each other, and writes in a poem to her daughters:
The pattern born within my mind
Is latent in their own. My wisdom
May not be profound, but they will recognize
Its likeness in their blood and bone.
It has been said that my photography shows the extraordinary in the ordinary; the same comment has been made regarding my mother’s poetry.”
Dorothy Kerper Monnelly – For My Daughters, Landscapes
Famous Austrian photographer “may have frequently photographed well-dressed people and many figures of the fashion world, but to call her a fashion photographer would be a mistake”, according to John P. Jacob, the McEvoy Family curator for photography at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. “Whether photographing festivals or artists’ studios, on films sets, the street, or the fashion runway, what distinguishes Morath’s photography is an unerring eye for life’s brilliant theatricality”
Tom Jacobi‘s project ‘Grey Matter(s)‘ – “Grey is mystical. We humans love the sun and are always thought to have yearned for light. Yet prayers are mostly said in the dark. We may well strive for light, but are we possibly, in fact, children of the twilight, a colorless world in which everything is gray?”
Tom Jacobi – Grey Matter(s)
The project is available as photo book with more than seventy striking photographs of some of the most spectacular wonders of the natural world, which took him over two years and travelling to six continents.
Obviously he had adopted the Meurer’s conception and was inspired by the artistic structure and architectural elegance of the plants. He was intrigued with every component of the plant – flowers, buds, seed capsules, roots, tendrils, pods, twigs.
“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,” he said.
But reviewing the diverse art movements at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th the use of botanical motifs was not something innovative. Actually they were very popular, especially in the Art Nouveau designs.
The uniqueness is in the original way he captured them: magnification, sharp focus, balanced arrangement, neutral background, high contrast and diffused lightening with only slightest grey shadows beneath the objects.
With his homemade camera he could reach a magnification up to 30x times of the genuine size; an amplification common for what is called now macro photography. This along with the sharp focus reveal extraordinary details of a plant natural structure and shape and provides a visual access to its beauty and lucidity. The trend in photography that time was for elaborate backgrounds, but Blossfeldt’s compositions distinguished with centered plants against a plain monochromatic ground. The viewer should not have to be destructed in his investigation of the object. Showing the finest features of a plant in an isolated contest emphasize their inwardness and expose the individuality and the character of each of them.
After the success of his 1st book in 1928, Blossfeldt was persuaded by Nierendorf to collect another 120 of his photos and in 1932 was published his 2nd book – Wundergarten der Natur (Magic Garden of Nature), again making a phenomenal impact as the previous one and winning him a recognition as one of the key photographers of the 20th century.
Returning to that student exhibition we started… Through the eyes of the past years what else we could add to ‘captivating, outstanding, breathtaking’ when describing the Blossfeldt’s works? Surely a lot, but only one stands out – ‘classical’. Though almost a century has been passed, these graphic black and white photos continue to excite and impress the public. They remain unique and at the same time modern as if they were created nowadays. And apart of their artistic value, they haven’t lost their main purpose and still could be used as teaching materials. Something that probably for Blossfeldt would be the greatest reward.
Karl Blossfeld’s photographs nowadays are published in many photo books.
Imagine you are an art dealer and as you are viewing a student exhibition, suddenly you face to these photographs…
‘Captivating, outstanding, breathtaking!’ That was probably what Karl Nierendorf, an art dealer and owner of a gallery in Berlin, thought that moment almost a century ago, in 1926. He was so impressed by what he saw, that immediately arranged with the artist who had created them, an exhibition at his own gallery. And two years later, in 1928, a book followed. It was called Unformen der Kunst (Archetypes of Art), composed of 120 photos and turned out a bestseller. The book was highly praised both by the art critics and the public and still is considered as one of the most influential books of photography ever.
But who was that artist who all of a sudden amazed the world with his unique vision?
His name is Karl Blossfeldt, a German teacher of art and a self-thought photographer, who that time was going into his 60s. Of course, he did not become a famous overnight but a long professional experience stood behind him. And here is the story …
Karl Blossfeldt was born on the 13th of June 1865, in Schielo, Harz Mountains, in central Germany. In 1881, at the age of 16, until 1884, he was sent as an apprentice to Magdesprung to study the craft in the local ironworks and foundry. Afterwards, until 1890, he studied art at the Kunstgewerbeschule (school of arts and crafts) in Berlin.
And it is from 1890 when his perception about his artistic expression started to form.
That year Blossfeldt was hired by Professor Moritz Meurer (1839-1916) to assist him in assembling a collection of botanical illustrations to be used as teaching materials in guiding the designers in their production of innovative motifs.
Professor Moritz Meurer was a recognized botanist and a decorative artist. His concept was that only through the study of the forms of nature, particularly of the plants, the artist can acquire the understanding of the design. In 1889 the Prussian Board of Trade assigned him a project about the improvement of the technical drawings in the state schools. Because the visual images were an integral part of documenting the diversity of plants, Meurer employed nine different artists to assist him in the production of the illustrations. They travelled within Germany and also to Italy and Greece collecting specimens. One of them was Karl Blossfeldt who photographed the local plants with a camera he had built himself. These photographs were published later in Meurer’s books and were used by the latter for the drawing classes he taught in Rome.
In 1898 Blossfeldt was offered a teaching post as an assistant professor of drawing and modeling at the very same Kunstgewerbeschule in Berlin he had graduated. Highly influenced by the Meurer’s vision, Blossfeldt continued to employ it until his retirement in 1930. For all those years he created an impressive archive of plant photographs. These images were made as nothing more than a teaching tool for educating his students about the design elements that could be found in the nature.
On the 9th of December, 1932, Karl Blossfeldt passed away.