Thursday, April 22, 2021
“Leaves aren’t blue!”
“Why not? People love blue. People love leaves. Put them together and what do you have?” I said.
“But, blue leaves aren’t realistic,” was the reply.
“No, but how do you explain Anna Atkins and her cyanotype photograms of plants?”
“Well, she was an English botanist.”
“True, but she was also considered the first female photographer. If you recall, her images of botanical subjects were blue and gorgeous!”
“She had no choice. What year was her book published - 1840 something?”
No choice. Interesting. Well, I have choices, thanks to today’s technology. As a photographer, I don’t have to wait for the sun to give the image a blue effect like the cyanotype process of days gone by that Anna used. But still, why did I choose to change the leaf’s rich oranges, reds, and greens by picking a blue monotone? After all people were going to hang it on their living room, bedroom, and office walls and I had to be sure it served a key purpose of complementing that room, while at the same time making sure it played a key ‘point of interest’.
I pondered over this and then one day, while I was in my studio office staring at the highlighted white veins flowing downwards along the mid rib of this simple leaf, it came to me. The rich blue line was giving the impression it was a divider, just like the boundary that separates two bodies of water in our oceans. At last, this was the reason I found it intriguing, it reminded me of an experience I had at sea where I learnt what a fascinating work of art nature can be.
To make a long story short, it happened years ago during a seafaring trip in the Cook Strait between the South Island and North Island of New Zealand. Nobody had prepared me for the unusual experience of what it’s like to be on a boat that encounters two opposing forces, from two separate bodies of very turbulent water. In this case, the Tasman Sea coming from the West and the Pacific Ocean meeting it from the East. I’ll bet your mind leaped to the obvious — seasickness. Well, it was for many, and I mean green with seasickness. However, blessed with beginners luck, I was able to actually enjoy the marvel of what was causing all this upset onboard. As an individual raised on miles and miles of endless land, it was a new experience to see this clash of water. It was very exciting, intriguing and electric. Two bodies of water skirting around each other with the air of latin dancers. One minute apart, the next clashing cheek to cheek. Both sides showing off the strength of their individual rhythm, yet completely blind to the fact that the second the music had started long ago, they were destined to move as one. Just one big, beautiful, blue element of water gracing the entire dance floor we call earth.
Once there were miles behind us and the drama had calmed down, this experience lead into a discussion about other places to go and see such oceanic points of convergence. I was told that New Zealand had an even more intriguing spot to witness this kind of marvel. It was at a place at the end of Ninety Mile Beach on the North Island called, Cape Reinga. This is where you really get to look at the exact point these two oceans meet and play together. From that day on, I've continued to be intrigued by this type of connection water is forced into.
Of course, not all boundaries between water are quite so dramatic. Once I watched the tide come in as I stood on an abandoned tree log that had been washed ashore. The delicate, white waves rolled in gently on both sides of the log. They looked like they were trying so hard to connect beyond the log and to the other side, but the barrier made it impossible. Yet, we all know that as soon as time rolled along, eventually these tiny little ripples would be joined again in the deep, blue yonder.
So, what does this have to do with this leaf? Maybe everything — maybe nothing. But, I do know one thing for sure, I have labeled this image under the style ‘abstract’ because it does exactly what abstract art does, is take the viewer past the obvious and ‘see something you may have never seen before’. Just by hanging it on a wall, I was able to transport my mind to a time and place of long ago where I saw a unique way nature comes together. If you hang it on your wall, what would you see? A leaf or...
Journal cover details
Close-up Image of a leaf with a cyanotype filter.
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