Delirious Photographs of Flowers Which Began as a Birthday Gift

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Flowers For Lisa #5, 2014
Flowers For Lisa #5, 2014Photography by Abelardo Morell

Photographer Abelardo Morell’s series Flowers for Lisa began as a present for his wife of over 40 years

Boston-based photographer Abelardo Morell has a longstanding tradition of giving Lisa, his wife of over 40 years, a bouquet of flowers for her birthday. In February 2014, he decided to give her something more permanent. “I thought to myself, ‘Maybe I can take a picture instead?’ For one thing, it would last longer…” 

This initial image was the seed from which bloomed an extraordinary photographic series of intricate and striking bouquet compositions. Flowers for Lisa is subtitled as a “delirium of photographic invention”, a fitting description for this imaginative compilation of works. Using and switching between a variety of techniques, disciplines and methods, such as cliché verre, printmaking and painting, Morell presents flowers in ways which are anything but ordinary. “Precisely because flowers are such a conventional subject, I felt a strong desire to describe them in new, inventive ways,” Morell says in a recorded conversation in the book.

Beginning the series is an intricate arrangement achieved through digitally merging multiple exposures of twenty separate bouquets, resulting in a dynamic and vibrant burst of colours erupting out of the vase like fireworks; later in the book, Morell presents Photoshop’s interpretation and recreation of Severin Roesen’s Flower Still Life with Bird’s Nest (1853). Using the digital means to supplement the photographs doesn’t diminish their intrinsic artistic depth, but enhances it.

Flowers for Lisa is peppered with such references to other artists, Morell revealing that he draws inspiration from Edouard Manet and Georgia O’Keeffe, to name a few. Image number 16, a carpet of dried flowers spanning two pages, possesses the distinct earmarks of a Jackson Pollock, and number 13, a Surrealist play with perception, is a nod to René Magritte.

“While the subject of my work may be flowers, the photographs are also pictures about perspective, love, jealousy, hate, geometry, sex, life, the passage of time and death,” says Morell, with the subject of intimacy towards his wife saturating the work. “My relationship with her is at the core of my life as a man and as an artist,” he says. “Our love for each other – in all kinds of weather – grounds my resolve to be hopeful and vital, even when that feels like a challenge.”

Flowers for Lisa: A Delirium of Photographic Invention by Abelardo Morell, published by Abrams, is out now.