Sunday, September 4, 2011

Why You Hate Flower Macros

--Flowers are inanimate and unchallenging to shoot. There's no need to snap the shutter at just the right moment. Insect shots fare better than do flower shots, by way of illustration. The person who shoots a dragonfly hovering above a pond will do far better than does the one who shoots just the waterlilies.

--You hate flower macros because they represent the feminine. You are manly and aggressive; the soft, pretty petals of an old rose are ladylike, weak.

--You might think of flowers as Other People's Art (OPA), and dismiss them the way I dismiss pictures of buildings, which are another category of OPA. Though many pretty flowers are the results of humanity's hybridization efforts, and therefore works of some kind of art, flowers are also, in a broader sense, fait accompli when we come upon them, regardless of the origin of their beauty. Whether you cite your god or the marvelous unfolding of hundreds of thousands of years of evolution, the beauty you see when you view a flower is less the photographer's accomplishment than it is a natural fact of the world you live in. So, rather than having captured an ironic street scene, framed and timed with your expert eye, you have really just seen something pretty and pointed a lens at it...something "anyone" can do. And worse, there's no irony!

I don't love most OPA shots. I have trouble praising those who shoot vintage cars, old buildings, neon signs, and even sunsets, though I have made a study of the sunrises I see from my living room above the Port of Los Angeles. As with flowers, we only see a screenshot of that what is beautiful, and owes its beauty to something other than the photographer's talent.

I love flower macros. I love the patterning in the elements of a flower, whether it's the mathematically perfect petal arrangement of a formal double Camelia japonica, the elaborate layout of the seeds in a sunflower's center, or the spiral arrangement of the leaves of an agave.

Not only does the rebel in me enjoy loving an innocent beauty that is despised by the majority, but my family's roots are in working the land. I see every plant and every flower as the outcome of a wondrous transformation when a seed, some soil, and some water conspire to break the earth, reach the sky, and release to the breeze the pollen that will make more seeds, more breaking and reaching and pollenating, and yes, more sighs at the beauty of it all.