Karl Blossfeldt, Plate #96: Aconitum, printed in 1928
Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932) was a German photographer and sculptor. He studied at the University of Fine Art in Berlin and later taught at the Berlin Arts and Crafts School, which became a very important part of his life. Blossfeldt inherited his father's love of music and nature; as a boy he played in local fields and woods, collecting flowers and plants to make a small garden near his house. We can see the influence of these experiences in the enlarged photographs of flowers and plants that make up the majority of his oeuvre. Blossfeldt produced a very wide variety of such images, displaying stunning detail and intricacy. Given Blossfeldt's incredible output, I had a great deal of difficulty choosing an image to feature in my post. There were so many choices that I found fascinating. I eventually settled on this image of aconitum (aconite) also known as monkshood and wolf's bane, among other names. I find the plant and the photograph very interesting; there is an anthropomorphic quality, as though the stalk and leaves actually form a person (this is not unique among Bossfeldt's works). Aconite is extremely poisonous, sometimes even called the queen of poisons, and has been used to tip arrows in hunting and is used in murder. It is believed by many that Cleopatra killed her brother, Ptolemy XIV, with aconite. I think this adds another dimension to the photograph, and I began to see the person in pain, raising their arms (leaves) above their head. There is also an excellent use of light in this photograph, using areas of shadow to make the plant stand out in starker relief and show its shape.