Flowers/Together is a new book that sees photographic duo Metz+Racine collaborate with set designers on floral still lifes
From Dutch oil paintings to Monet’s water lilies or Georgia O’Keeffe’s large-scale Modernist canvases, flowers have been an endless source of inspiration for many of art history’s most defining figures. Their aesthetic and symbolic versatility spans the spectrum of culture and time, capturing both Baroque opulence and subtle Minimalism, elegance and kitsch. Inspired by the infinite artistic interpretations of the floral leitmotif, photographer duo Metz+Racine’s most recent project is a collaborative visual ode to the art of capturing still life. “Flowers are a universal and extremely multifaceted subject matter,” Eve Racine tells AnOther. “There are so many ways to approach it. They offer a myriad of possibilities which we have only started to explore. Immersing ourselves into this world was as daunting as it was exciting.”
Titled Flowers/Together Pt. 1, the book is comprised of a series of varying interpretations of the floral theme from a selection of set designers Metz+Racine had previously collaborated with. Photographers and set designers, the duo argue, have different ways and tools of tackling image-making – while the former focus more on light and the eye, the latter embrace a more tactile sensibility, drawn towards raw material rather than ephemeral visions. Celebrating this duality of perspectives as well as its historic legacy was the objective of the photographers’ project. “In this body of work, we referenced as well as ignored the long history of flowers in visual art. We wanted to explore the subject with our own eyes and worked with the nature in front of us,” asserts Barbara Metz. “While acknowledging that so many great artists have successfully explored the subject in the past, it was important to add to the theme and make it our own – in the end, I was fascinated by how much the personality of each collaborator was reflected in their work.”
Having spent years working as still life photographers, Metz+Racine decided to delve deeper into the symbolism of flowers, which they see as one of nature’s most evocative and creatively engaging elements. “The language of flowers is very powerful,” Metz continues. “It has always been used to communicate deep messages, wordlessly and immediately. Victorians often exchanged small ‘talking bouquets’, a coded message to the recipient allowing the sender to express feelings which could not be spoken aloud in Victorian society. The language of flowers is no longer commonly understood in our society, but some meanings have survived.”
The unspoken messages behind particular floral arragements were as interesting to the duo as the inherent paradox of flowers as appropriated by humankind. “I appreciate their ephemeral beauty, but there is also a kind of cruelty associated with cut flowers,” explains Racine. “The idea of removing them from nature just to embellish a house for a few days can be a little morbid, but this is yet another testament to their duality: they are a symbol of joy and happy times, but they are also put on graves or offered at funerals. Every flower carries a specific meaning for every person.”
Ultimately, Metz and Racine admit, the main challenge of having flowers as a photographic subject, is none other than their striking beauty. “Photographing something so beautiful is tricky – it’s hard to add anything to perfection,” Racine concludes. “But exploring its facets makes for quite an exquisite creative challenge.”
Flowers/Together Pt. 1, designed by Mototake Makishima with an introduction by Liam Hess, is available from Artwords Bookshop.