My first encounter with Georgia O’Keeffe’s artwork was in elementary school, where our quirky, all-black-wearing art teacher, Mrs. Dearborn, would display O’Keeffe’s desert work to us as inspiration. I was probably 7-years-old, and needless to say, I didn’t get it. I didn’t understand Mrs. Dearborn’s love of New Mexico’s landscapes, nor the cow skull that sat atop her desk (that we sometimes drew in class). I mean, how could I — I was seven. I had never been to the desert. I had never seen a real cow. Suburban New Jersey was hardly the place a kid could find an appreciation for Georgia O’Keeffe.
But alas, how does that bring me to these iris photographs? Well, many of O’Keeffe’s works were intimate paintings of flowers. I use the word “intimate” for these images often felt very sensual and sexual to the viewer — which isn’t surprising considering flowers are the reproductive organs of plants (gardener here!). I didn’t think of these things when I took out my camera, but I always let the flowers tell me their story through shape, color, and light. As I sat at my desk to edit, I immediately thought of Georgia O’Keeffe. A certain yellow reminded me of one of her flower paintings, while the arching of a petal felt like a composition she had made. So, the more I went through these photographs, the more I saw life imitating art. And thus, accidentally or not, these photographs remind me of Georgia’s paintings. Which, given her acclaim in a male-dominated art world, seems to be a pretty good place to begin.
I took these photographs on my first outing during quarantine when the weather began to warm, and the outdoors were more inviting than ever. I took my time, let the flowers tell me their stories, and show me their shapes. That’s often how I approach photography, almost documentary style, waiting for the beauty to reveal itself to me. From over seven-hundred photos of varying angles, changing light, and different flowers, these are the images I chose to keep. I hope they encourage you to look a little closer when you next see a flower because while their beauty is fleeting, time stops while you enjoy all they have to offer. Flowers can be mesmerizing, calming, and fluid in their colors and shades — things I think Georgia O’Keeffe knew long before me.
See the whole collection of photographs below!
Can you even believe all the colors of irises? Which one’s your favorite?
P.S. I’m so excited to share that I will be soon launching a print shop – so you too can enjoy flowers any time of the year!