Photo Essay: Intimate Experience With Nature

by valrac4_a3kqdy

by joSon

© joSon

© joSon

Time and again as we struggle to express our innermost emotions, the all-too-human languages we’ve learned to depend on fail us. A single flower can often fill that void, providing illumination only the heart can understand.

Yet as botanist and science writer William Burger first pointed out in his book Flowers: How They Changed the World, the connection between humans and flowers is far more fundamental—and ancient. As Burger explains, “Since they energize themselves by capturing the energy of sunlight, flowers provide a vital link in the chain of life. Even today in our complex technological world, it is the flowering plants that provide us, directly or indirectly, with nearly all the energy that sustains life.” Indeed Burger concludes, “Without flowers, we humans simply wouldn’t be here, whether as primates, two-legged omnivores, or grand civilizations!”

The colour, the texture, the exoticism. For me, flowers are like chocolate chip cookies for the eyes: when I see them, I can’t resist. Besides their visual appeal, I see flowers as an organic language. I find existing languages very weak—not sophisticated enough to express our emotions. Flowers are another layer of expression. I ask people why they like one flower over another, and their answers often begin and end with a story. It is like looking at an old photograph: the flower brings back memories. I believe this is the power of flowers and this is why I am drawn to them for more than just their exquisite beauty.

We look at many different things every day, but often we really don’t see them. By taking the flower outside of its natural setting, I wanted viewers to have an intimate experience with nature—its symmetry, its colours and its textures. I wanted to prompt them to take more time to reflect on why flowers play such a crucial role in human culture and emotion. Which came first…the human need for flowers or the power of the flowers to evoke, enhance and call forth emotions from us through light, colour and scent?

These images are from photographer joSon’s new book joSon: Intimate Portraits of Nature (Graphis 2013). Click here to view the complete photo essay.

joSon was born in the Philippines to a Filipino-Chinese mother and an African-American father. At the age of ten, he was sent to live with his mother’s family in Vietnam, where he was educated in a Buddhist temple throughout his teen years in preparation for becoming a monk. “I thought that was my calling long before I saw life through the viewfinder,” joSon continues, “…but the truth is, I have never left the monkhood. I just left the temple.”  You can see that very clearly in his work today in a landscape, a portrait of a child or a still life of a flower—meditations on the beauty to be found in the simplest of forms. His work can be seen at

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