Throwback Friday #63 Masterworts Anonymous

In common with taking endless photographs of sunsets, there is always a danger of confusing your own endless fascination with plants, as expressed through the act of photographing them over and over, with the interests of others in looking at the resulting photographs. I have hard drives crammed with images of plants and flowers, in the garden, in the wild (and a fair few photographs of fields too!), and I’m taking more all the time. I think it’s a bit like giving in to that urge to keep and collect; you glimpse these extraordinary, fleeting expressions of colour, form and texture and you feel a responsibility to capture them forever. Anyway, you’ll have to indulge me, for here are two images of an astrantia, or masterwort, photographed who knows when, or indeed where. I do recall they are digital scans from negatives, so taken on my old school camera ‘back in the day’. I liked the drama of these images, which is funny and a bit improbable, considering the otherwise papery pinks and greens of this subtle low-maintenance perennial.

Throwback Friday #15 Cyanotypes

More normally, I’d likely be in rural France now, but as everyone appreciates, 2020 is about ‘new normals’ and cutting our cloth accordingly. The old French house is pressed very deeply into the nature that surrounds it. It can even be difficult to relax at times because there’s always so much at which to look and to respond. One year (I don’t recall which) I stuffed a few packets of ‘sun paper’ into my luggage and spent a few happy hours producing quick-and-dirty cyanotypes from some of the more distinctive leaf and flower shapes culled from my immediate surroundings. I never tired of it, the pleasure of the immediacy of image-making in this way, and always, that perfect blue.

Rudely Furry Fronds

About a million years ago, I studied for a Royal Horticultural Society qualification in general plant and vegetable knowledge. I sat the exam, passed it, then promptly forgot the majority of what I’d learned.

That said, my enthusiasm for plants continues and this enthusiasm frequently takes the form of photographs, in which I seek to record all the strangeness and beauty going on under our noses.

I fear horticultural photography is a lot like the photographs people take of their own children – a source of endless fascination and gratification for the photographer, but much less interesting for everyone else! As I intend to feature plant photography here at Red’s Kingdom as a matter of routine, I apologise now to all those casual by-standers who couldn’t give a flying fig for photographs of figs, but, guys, before you zone out, just take a look at this improbably bewhiskered fern!

At time of writing, this Dryopteris wallichiana is unfurling its blackly hairy crosiers with near-unseemly haste. I sat this morning with my coffee watching it wave them at me like the twitchy antennae of an enormous moth. More accurately, the fern resembles a very large green tarantula engaged in the inelegant business of pulling the remainder of its fat black body out of the earth – or they’re snoozy caterpillars, the kind that would bring you out in a nasty rash if you were foolish enough to pick one up. These hirsute crosiers fill me with a delightful shudder of horror and incredulity. Surely they are part-vegetable and part-animal? When people who loathe their own pubic hair have nightmares, I suspect they’re dreaming of these rudely furry fronds in all their ticklish luxury…

I suppose this is why I’ll always disagree with the flower photography naysayers: I’m never just photographing a flower or similar in the hope of keeping prettiness or breaking the greetings card market. What I’m really doing is what I’m always doing – looking for routes out of the everyday in preference for sights more strange and otherworldly.