Mini Stories #2: Through the Looking Glass

Botanical photography is a beautiful combination of science, technology and art. I follow the work of many photographers in this field and in this post I would like to draw your attention to Samuel Zeller – a photographer based in Switzerland, who published a wonderful book “Botanical”. It is a collection of photos taken in botanical gardens across Europe.

What is unique about his project is the new perspective. Most of the photos were taken outside of the green house, through the windows. The glass between the lens and the object adds a new dimension. His photographs are inspired by works of impressionists and sometimes it is hard to say if it is still a photo or actually a painting.

To achieve the distortion effect he takes advantage of blurry, opaque glass structure. Smooth lines and shapes are created by water condensation caused by high humidity in tropical houses. Interestingly, he doesn’t show only the plants, but also their (unnatural) environment. Windows and glass doors are used for framing the photo and to create geometric composition. There is a contrast between the cold metal elements and organic shapes of plants. Sometimes it looks like those plants are trapped in a prison and that they are pushing the window trying to escape. I couldn’t ignore the colour palette. The green tones are used as a background, and warm reds and browns are added as accent colours.

As it happens with many inspirations, I didn’t actively plan to use it, but I had those images at the back of my head. When the opportunity came I was ready. One day strolling around Frankfurt’s Innenstadt, I saw a restaurant, which windows were the perfect object to try this new style.

My photo came out dark and moody, but I managed to use a lot of components from the “Botanical” collection: metal frame, old glass, green tones in the background and red accents. This is definitely one of the favourite photos I have ever taken.

I realised that I should try to take pictures not only inside the greenhouse but also outside and to look not only at the exhibition but also at a venue. Now I see much more. I pay attention to the door, windows, handles. It appears that many gardens have beautiful architecture hidden in the botanic jungle. Opening the door to the greenhouse feels now like being part of the book Alice Through the Looking Glass – there is a completely new universe inside and when I look through the lens I forget about the real world around me.