Karl Bloßfeldt, 1865-1932

Karl Bloßfeldt was a botanist and photographer in turn-of-the-century Berlin. His entire photographic output is devoted to plant parts: twig ends, seed pods, tendrils, leaf buds, etc. These he meticulously arranged against stark backgrounds and photographed in magnification, so that unfamiliar shapes from the messy vegetal world are revealed as startling, elegant architectural forms. Indeed, his pictures influenced many architects and decorative artists of his time, who quoted Bloßfeldt's forms on scales as small as ornamental ironwork and as large as the shapes of entire buildings.

Much like Andreas Feininger, Bloßfeldt was deeply interested in forms and textures that nature uses over and over again, especially at scales not often noticed by the eye. Much like Robert Mapplethorpe, his photos also show a preoccupation for formal elements of beauty, regardless of where they may occur.

If you can find a copy of Karl Bloßfeldt: Das Fotografische Werk [1981, Schirmer-Mosel (Munich)] in your library, consider yourself very lucky. It is a stunning book. Since discovering it (& Bloßfeldt) in January, rarely a week goes by that I fail to open it and marvel. I have included a few of the several hundred plates here to whet your appetite--enjoy!

byronyWhite bryony tendrils. Bryonia alba.

more to come

Return to my sculpture page.
Matthew Brand / MIT Media Lab / brand@media.mit.edu