Love plants? Here's a flashback of portraits from the early 1900s

At a time when workshops are being conducted to perfect the art of taking selfies and digital cameras are being replaced by phone cameras, an upcoming retrospective exhibition will showcase plant portraits from the early 1900s by German lensman Karl Blossfeldt.

art and culture Updated: Jan 19, 2015 22:19 IST
Arundhati Chatterjee
Arundhati Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
karl blossfeldt,karl blossfeldt portraits,karl blossfeldt work

At a time when workshops are being conducted to perfect the art of taking selfies and digital cameras are being replaced by phone cameras, Tarq's upcoming show, Karl Blossfeldt - Art Forms In Nature, takes us on a nostalgia trip dating back to the turn of the 20th century.

In association with Tasveer, the retrospective show puts the spotlight on the dying form of analogue photography through the eyes of one of the earliest German lensmen, Karl Blossfeldt.

"Europe in the early 1900s was a centre for events that shaped the history of photographic theory and practice. Blossfeldt was at the centre of this movement, and explored the potential of the visual medium," says Hena Kapadia, gallery director, Tarq.

A student and professor of design at Royal School of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Berlin, Germany, Blossfeldt dedicated 35 years to photographing flowers, buds and seed capsules, using his self-constructed, homemade camera lenses that could magnify objects up to 30 times.

"His magnified plant portraits that combine scientific empiricism, the most prized mode of study in 19th century Europe - with sculptural form and design mechanics - introduced a new current into the rise of modernism in the arts," says Kapadia.

Today, his work not only serves as a decorative motif, but also as a study in structural and artistic design.

This will be the first time that 50 of his rare, limited-edition prints would be on display in south Asia. Situated within the realm of modernist sensibilities, Blossfeldt's photographs have minute detailing embedded in them.

"The works displayed are photogravure prints - an intaglio print-making process that reproduces deeper tones. The ones exhibited are from the unbound folio published in 1928 - Urformen Der Kunst - one of the earliest books to use the photogravure process," adds Kapadia.

Interestingly, Blossfeldt built a series of cameras with interchangeable lenses in the early 1900s, thus paving the way for modernist photography.

"Blossfeldt is an interesting figure whose photographs mark a transcendental shift of thought from the 19th century into the 20th. Part of the purpose of this exhibition is to historicise these photographs as they were a key in the development of modernism - both in photographic practice and theory," explains Kapadia.

Karl Blossfeldt - Art Forms In Nature will be on from January 23 to February 28, at Tarq, Colaba, from 11 am to 6 pm.

First Published: Jan 19, 2015 21:22 IST