"I was indeed a stranger in a strange land, yet I was still under the protecting eye of that God who has condescended to call himself the stranger’s friend. At this moment, painful as my reflections were, the extraordinary beauty of a small moss in fructification irresistibly caught my eye. I mention this to show from what trifling circumstances the mind will sometimes draw consolation; for though the whole plant was not larger than the top of one of my fingers, I could not contemplate the delicate conformation of its roots, leaves, and capsula, without admiration."
- Mungo Park - Travels In The Interior Districts of Africa (1799)
Camera-less silver-gelatin prints - 12x16"
“…the ordinary made stupendous”
This collection of plant portraits is not bounded by an ecologist’s quadrat, but by what has been gathered during the length of a regular lunchtime walk. The one hundred photographic specimens form a homage to Victorian botany from the rear-garden cut-through, waste-ground, marshes and still rural in character back-lanes of the City of Truro’s rural-urban fringe.
The book Suburban Herbarium is available from Uniformbooks containing 100 plates from the series with a foreword by author and naturalist Mark Cocker and essay by Val Williams, curator and the professor of The History & Culture of Photography at London College of Communication.
You can read Mark Cocker’s forward to the book here.
You can watch me talk about the work here.
To produce the works in this series, the living specimens are collected and identified, then taken to the darkroom to be projected, enlarged and logged as a unique pure form-study in uniform 12x16” silver-gelatin prints. While the process in many ways harkens back to Victorian life-sciences and the work of English botanist and pioneering photographer Anna Atkins, this method of projection, in effect using the specimen as lantern slide, reveals a razor-sharp, almost sculptural detail. Once the moment of printing is passed, no further copies can be made.
Recorded in this way the flora that we normally walk past in our hedgerows and kerb-sides, or eradicate as weeds, command our full attention. Isolated from their original environment and elevated to a more rarefied status, we are allowed to study the lines and systems of their veins; marvel at the delicacy of their stems and the arrangement of their petals.