ephemera is a series of wet plate collodion photographs depicting flower arrangements. This project explores the significance of flowers to the rhythm of human life and the deep symbolism which we have imbued them with. While it is influenced by the compositions of still life paintings, the use of historical and alternative photographic processes presents to the viewer a fresh, provocative perspective on the beauty and meaning of flowers.
Flowers are present at each of the milestones of a life course. They brighten the hospital room for mothers and newborns; decorate the pews and tables of weddings; serve as an annual ritual gift for birthdays, anniversaries, and Mother’s Day; and comfort the bereaved at funerals. When we visit the graves of loved ones with flowers, we ensure that the association of flowers with human dreams and hopes outlasts even death. The ephemeral beauty of flowers reminds us of the transience of human existence, while the diversity of floral symbolism and language reflects the richness of that existence.
My artistic influences include the painters of the Dutch Golden Age—especially the still life paintings of Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder, Rachel Ruysch, and Jan van Huysum—and the work and ethos of the Pre-Raphaelites. Despite employing some of the contrivances of the Dutch masters, such as the inclusion of flora from different biomes and seasons in a single composition, I still strive, in the style of the Pre-Raphaelites, to celebrate the beauty of nature in a way that is heartfelt and genuine. My iteration on these influences lies in the balancing of composition and tonality: by using wet plate collodion, I strip color from the bouquet, encouraging the viewer to meditate on the meaning of flowers beyond their superficial beauty. I believe that this portrayal of flowers is just as authentic as one in full color: like us, flowers fade and die. By showing lush vegetation in shades of gray, I want the viewer to contemplate both the sweetness and impermanence of life.
A final reason for my choice of medium lies in the longevity of the process. Unlike film, which fades over time and is easily destroyed, and digital images, which can be lost with the click of a mouse, photographs on wet plate collodion will persist long after the subject is gone and even after the owner of the image passes away. In this way, the romance, beauty, and grace of flowers can defy the passage of time and attain a measure of immortality.