When Karl Blossfeldt published Art Forms in Nature
in 1928, he made photographic history and became an instant celebrity. The public loved the world of tiny shapes and organic monumentality revealed in his enlargements of flowers and seeds, stems and leaves. Yet Blossfeldt did not consider himself a photographer. He produced his beautiful studies of plant forms to illustrate the courses he taught on architecture at Berlin's School of Arts and Crafts. For 30 years he used the same painstaking method. He would make long journeys into the countryside to select his specimens, which tended to be hardy weeds rather than cultivated flowers. He then prepared them against a neutral cardboard background in various ways designed to avoid camera shake, then photographed in extreme close-up with a homemade plate camera equipped with a very long bellows. Plants gave Blossfeldt a constant supply of graceful designs in which organic growth modified the basic symmetry of natural forms. Unfurling ferns resemble Gothic tracery or a bishop's crosier, a seed pod suggests a medieval weapon, reed stems look like skyscrapers. This beautifully produced book contains 348 illustrations, including all of the plates in Blossfeldt's three books of 1928, 1932, and 1942 plus 30 large unpublished images made in his childhood home in the Harz Mountains of Germany. Blossfeldt's visual discoveries transport viewers into a fairyland of art deco patterns and shapes; every page of this book is a delightful surprise. If there is a gardener in your life, this is the perfect gift. --John Stevenson
From Library Journal
Blossfeldt, Sander, and Weston all blossomed with the publication of their first books around 1930, were direct in their use of the medium, and rank among photography's defining masters. Yet they each had a unique style and focused on distinct subject matter, making their works instantly recognizable. These three books, part of a new photography series from Taschen, are sufficiently monumental to honor the artists' talents but still convey their singular talents. Germans Sander and Blossfeldt pioneered the "new objectivity" with their massive survey projects. Sander set out to document all of society in hundreds of portraits, typically titled "Country Farmer Dressed for a Funeral" or "Middle-Class Family." The influence of his style, stern yet eminently humane, is more present than ever in current photography. A prominent collector and photography writer, Heiting has made excellent work of a difficult task selecting more than 100 of these portraits for inclusion and augmenting them with lesser-known architectural and landscape photographs. Blossfeldt originally photographed plant specimens to help his students in art school with copying natural forms. But with the publication of Art Forms in Nature (1928), containing 60 of these photogravures, he was hailed as master and went on to publish two more acclaimed compendia. Adam, a photography writer, offers stunning reproductions of all the prints found in all three of Blossfeldt's volumes as well as the original essays from the time. The Weston volume will give readers a new appreciation of his almost abstract nature studies and nudes. Heiting has again chosen exemplary works from Weston's more diverse oeuvre, combining well-known signature pieces with unexpected images. Terrence Pitts, director of the Center for Creative Photography, has added an especially well-researched essay to accompany the selections. These books are all well done, but based on the popularity of their work in the United States, Weston belongs in all public libraries, Sander in medium and large public libraries, and Blossfeldt in all libraries with a serious interest in photography; the entire series would be at home in any academic institution.ADoug McClemont, New York
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