On Photographing Leaves, December 21, 2022
Updated: Dec 26, 2022
I want to explain my obsession with photographing leaves during 2022. It's not that I am fascinated by leaves particularly (although they have qualities I like: they age, they show scars, they are translucent and colourful); rather, when I find myself in a new place I seek out items distinctive of that place that I can do something with aesthetically. In 2020 I moved to a part of Melbourne known for its treed streets and parks, and the most common things you encounter on the ground when walking around here are - leaves. In the past, I have lived in an industrial area where I photographed mechanical objects; in Cyprus I photographed the distinctive beach stones; I collected roadside debris around Mildura for my exhibition there. It goes on.
The project also gives me opportunities to experiment photographically. This mainly involves the different ways to light the leaves. It was during the Mildura project (The Articulate Object, 2016) that I became aware of the translucency of leaves when I noticed sunlight passing through a gum leaf. The image above uses sunlight to back-light Geranium leaves, which are placed against a window (thus the pattern).
This image is more like the Mildura ones: simply the sun illuminating the leaf from behind. The leaf has to be positioned so that sunlight does not reach the camera to maintain a crisp image.
This image uses existing indoor ceiling lamps to provide the light.
For this image I placed the leaf on a light box, a technique I tried for the first time in 2022. (The background should therefore be white, but I have reversed this in photo-editing) Perhaps in another post I will go into other factors like the way I suspend the leaves and the lenses I use.
To sum up, leaves are a suitable subject as they express themes of life-cycles, ageing and decay which interest me. To photograph them is challenging because it involves several different lighting techniques depending on the leaf, and complex post-editing as well. But, in the end, they are just leaves. To quote that great painter of the Australian landscape, Fred Williams, when it was put to him that he must love the Australian bush: "no, I hate the bush. It's just that it gives me the subject I need to create my work!"