Photography by its nature lends itself to the serial examination of a subject. The comparative ease of creating the image and the ostensible accuracy of that image facilitates the use of multiple images to explore the differences and commonalities between subjects. The accurate comparison of subjects through a photographic series has some features of a scientific endeavour. Many of the early series were created with this in mind. A key work is “Snow Crystals” by William Bentley, who photographed over 5,000 snowflakes in upstate New York between 1885 and 1931, when many of them were published in a book.
Notwithstanding the scientific intention, the book contains many characteristics that were later found in the artistic photo book: the modernist devotion to the detailed study of form and the post-modernist questioning of the nature of reality through dramatic deconstruction.
I have been inspired by Bentley’s work to create a similar project in relation to the autumn leaf. Like snow and snowflakes, Autumn leaves en masse create one beautiful impression whilst when seen in detail a new and highly differentiated world is created. In addition, autumn leaves like snowflakes are potent symbols for the evanescence of life.
Each week, I will publish a different leaf photograph, together with an analysis of the nature of the photo-series to situate my project within this important strand of photographic art.
This week and for the next few weeks, the photographs will be of Acer palmatum (Japanese Maple) leaves.
Matthew Greenburgh is an artist who focuses on still life work with strong aesthetic and symbolic components.