For many years, I have walked around the campus of Vassar College, near our home. On one of my strolls I spotted two small gardens containing plants with large leaves. Later, I was told that they are “Elephant Ear Hostas” as the leaves are so large. I was immediately attracted to them because of their size and their design potential. They also seemed to offer great potential.
In 2004, I made my first hosta images. I shot two rolls with a medium format camera. I was happy with the pictures, but didn’t make more until 2007. At this time, I was seeking a new subject for an extended study. As the hosta plants were readily available, and with Paul Caponigro’s year long study of the sunflower in mind, I decided to make a study of them. Working with such a limited subject would also be a challenge. Besides, I believe that it isn’t what you photograph, but how you see it and how well that seeing is conveyed in the print that matters.
Once I began photographing, the possibilities seemed endless. Some of my images are about form. Others are about light or color. They are never the same! I have returned to them over and over, especially in 2008 when I photographed them two or three times a week. In 2009, I photographed the flowering stage extensively as they were very unlike any flowers that I had ever seen. This year, I plan to make more images of the wilted stage if weather conditions cooperate.
Though I work with both color and monochrome, I have chosen black and white for most images as it conveys the graphic design, tone, form, texture, and light better than color. However, for the pictures of wilted leaves, I chose to show them in both color and black and white as they offer two very different representations, both of which are valid.
Some pictures are photographed in infrared. Infrared images are very different from traditional ones. Generally, foliage is rendered white or very light.
sometimes it is transparent. The lightness of the foliage can provide contrast where none existed, or a radically different representation.
I am a classically trained photographer. I was educated during a time when Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Paul Strand, and others were “gods”. I came to appreciate their aesthetics and the expressive qualities of their masterfully crafted black and white prints. My images reflect their approach. However, where their aesthetic was about the single image, mine is also about showing the subject in it’s many phases. To date, “The Hosta Project” contains over 50 successful images. I plan to continue to photograph them indefinitely.
My hope is that my images have conveyed the beauty in a common subject that is largely taken for granted. But, more than that, I have endeavored to take flora photography to another level by showing the unseen and unusual. If I have succeeded, then maybe the viewer will start to become more connected to the natural work, and work to preserve it.
Numbers 38-43 are digital images made from sections of wilted hosta pictures. They are pure explorations of form, texture, color, and light, made in an effort to follow every creative path that revealed itself to me.