The Swedish photographer’s latest project is a dreamy study of singular stems
Through her light-dappled portraiture and sensual still lifes, photographer Lina Scheynius offers viewers fragmented glimpses into her world and the curiosity-piquing moments it presents her with. Her work is fleshy, tactile, enticing; she hones in on texture – crumpled cotton bed sheets covering a smooth torso, fluffy white shampoo suds coating sleek wet hair – and embraces unusual crops and (usually natural) lighting to put a dreamy, almost otherworldly spin on the familiar. Hailing from Sweden, Scheynius has always loved being outdoors, and grassy settings, as well as flashes of flora and fauna, have long punctuated her images. But her latest project, Flowers, marks Scheynius’ most unbridled ode to nature yet: a beautiful visual compendium of blooms, of all shapes, sizes and colours, presented in newspaper format.
“I had an exhibition just over a year ago in Zurich, and Andreas Wellnitz – the photo editor at Zeit magazine, which I used to do a column for – came,” Scheynius tells AnOther of the publication’s conception. “He was starting his own publishing company and we discussed doing something together. There was one picture of a flower in the show and it happened to be both of our favourite, so we thought, ‘Why not do something with that?’” The photographer promptly set about finding her subjects, scouring natural settings, while simultaneously filling her London flat with bunches. “I shot a lot outside, I went to parks,” she says. “But then I have a Waitrose next to me so I would buy flowers from there too, and I’d go to Columbia Road Flower Market. It feels a bit frivolous normally, to have lots of flowers around your apartment, so this was a lovely excuse!” Indeed, the majority of the images that made the final cut were the one’s taken in the privacy of her own home, she reveals. “I don’t know why! Maybe they were more me, in a sense, because a lot of my work is taken indoors and is very intimate. Also I have windows on both sides of the apartment and the sun hits them at different times of the day, so I could move the flowers around freely and experiment with the light.”
Her overall approach was, she explains, largely based on impulse. “I tried to avoid looking at other flower photography while working on Flowers; I didn’t do any research at all. I thought afterwards that maybe I should have written down the flowers’ names, but it was purely based on instinct and beauty; something I was drawn to, nothing more.” As ever, Scheynius’ instinct proved spot on, the resulting images a captivating testament to the peculiar individuality of plants and the myriad ways in which they can be lensed. A crisscross of spindly branches adorned with sun-speckled pink and white buds is shot from below against a powdery blue sky. A close-up of a black Calla lily – Scheynius’ favourite from the series – resembles a curvaceous abstract sculpture. (“There’s another picture I took of that flower in the book and it doesn’t look like the same stem at all. I have no idea how I made that, but I love being surprised!” she enthuses). A peachy pink, frilly edged species, clasped between a pair of legs, meanwhile, gently invites yonic interpretation. “Seven of the works were on show at Unseen and a lot of people said, ‘They’re so sexy, did you mean them to be?’ But I don’t know,” Scheynius laughs on the subject.
As with her previous work, a few of the images feature figures – the shadow of a petalled branch falls across the bare chest of Scheynius’ friend, while a double exposure of her own face blends hazily with a pink and green posy – but the majority focus on flowers alone, the overall effect both meditative and joy inducing as you flick from page to page. “I took my friend with me when I went to see the finished version for the first time,” Scheynius says when I ask what she hopes readers will take away from the publication, “and he said, ‘Oh wow it’s so nice to look through a newspaper and have happy news instead of things that are depressing,’ which I thought was such a lovely reaction.” In fact, she adds, she’s now tempted to leave a couple of copies lying about the tube to surprise commuters. “Then people can find a flower newspaper on their way to work, instead of the Evening Standard!”