I recently had the opportunity to visit an amazing exhibit at the Pinakotheke der Moderne, a modern art museum in Munich, Germany. Tucked away in one small gallery of this cavernous modern building was a trove of photos by the artist and teacher, Karl Bloßfeldt (1865-1932), a turn-of-the-century contemporary of one of my other favorite artists, Ernst Haeckel. After studying at the Unterrichstanstalt des Berliner Kunstgewerbemuseums (the Museum School for Decorative Arts in Berlin), he went to Rome and apprenticed with the artist Moritz Meurer.
It was there that he started building cameras and photographing plants at higher magnification than had ever been achieved before. He was, in essence, the first macro photographer of plants. Bloßfeldt went on to teach at the Berlin Academy of Art, using his photographs to communicate the beauty of nature’s forms and textures to his art and architecture students. In 1928, he published a compendium of his photographs entitled Urformen der Kunst (Prototypes of Art), a book that most certainly had a strong influence on Art Nouveau in Berlin, as well as throughout Europe and the world.
What appeals to me most about his art is that since the photographs are in black and white, the plants are reduced to their principal shapes and forms. There is no color to distract you from the shape of the plant, and your eye is also not distracted by the complexity of the whole plant. He chose one compelling structure per organism and captured it.
As a 3D-print designer, I use his approach on a daily basis in my modeling. What is the fundamental structure? How do I recreate it without unnecessary distraction? How do I communicate the organism without using color? I think if Bloßfeldt was alive today, he would either be one of my main competitors, or one of my most prized colleagues.