An artist, teacher, sculptor and photographer from Germany, Karl Blossfeldt (1865 – 1932), worked in Berlin till the age of 67. He was inspired by nature and hence reflected this muse in his close-up photography of living organisms and plants. He was enthusiastic towards the study of nature and he spent three decades photographing nothing else but plants. For him, plants held an “artistic and architectural” pattern.
Blossfeldt spent most of his childhood in Central Germany. He began studying at the Institute of Royal Arts in Berlin after finishing his apprenticeship in iron casting and sculpture at Art Ironworks and Foundry at Magdesprung. During this time, he collected different plants for use in drawing class as models. Ultimately, these plant forms became an essential subject in his photography.
Many of Karl Blossfeldts photos were shot with a home-made camera that had the ability to zoom a subject thirty times its genuine size. This exposed the minute details of the natural structure of plants. Each plant photograph has its own character and beauty. Meanwhile, he created the most extraordinary images of his time; affirming that he has an infinite intellectual and imaginative ability.
In 1890, with five other students, Blossfeldt was given a scholarship to work in Rome with Mortiz Meurer, who assigned him to cast models of botanical samples which will then be used by manufacturers and craftsmen. Additionally, the six students began photographing plants using a method developed by Meurer. This is how Blossfeldt became interested in photographing plants.
In 1930, Karl Blossfeldt became Professor Emeritus, after he was hired as an assistant teacher and assistant director at Kunstgewerbeschule (school of arts and crafts) for 31 years. The artist used his flora photography to display students that the possibilities in engineering solutions for industrial design are predictable in nature.
Art forms in nature (Unformen der Kunst), a pictorial book of Blossfeldt’s work, was published by Ernst Wasmuth and edited by Nierendorf in 1928. It was a bestseller of its time and made him famous overnight. In 2001, long after the artist had died, Unformen der Kunst was added in The Book of 101 Books as an influential picturesque book of the 20th century. Following the success of this book, other publications were also marketed, including Magic Garden of Nature in 1932 and Magic in Nature in 1942. Before this, he was tutoring in Berlin from late 19th century until his demise. He used his works to teach students about arts and nature’s beauty.
Prior to publishing this photographic book, in 1926 Blossfeldt was sent an invitation to exhibit his work at Karl Nierendorf’s gallery. From there, Blossfeldt was encouraged to collect all his images in one place. The words of Walter Benjamin, critic, repositioned the artist in modern art and photography debates.
Blossfeldt’s images are recognized as an important contribution to history of photography and they remain as captivating and striking as they were when the artist was alive. His photographs reveal intricate floral forms, textures and physical qualities. There was a synthesis of scientific study and artistic approach in his images.
The artist, with his images and techniques have a stunning appeal in black and white color. The architectural outlines and deep tones emphasize the beauty of nature timelessly. The compositions he set enhanced the total magnificence of the subject matter and the image. His life has been commendable and he passed his knowledge and understanding to the younger generations.