Intimate Portraits of Nature
One of the things that inspires me most and gets me pumped to come into work each day at Adobe is the opportunity to interact with some of the world’s most talented artists. In his latest work, a book entitled “joSon: Intimate Portraits of Nature,” joSon breaks new ground with his ability to bring spirit and life to a still image. Since I first came across his work, I’ve been fascinated by the emotions joSon manages to express through his images.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with joSon about his unique upbringing and his new book. Hearing him speak about his journey, from growing up in a Buddhist temple to becoming an award-winning photographer, opened my eyes to a new way of interpreting nature photography.
The Accidental Book?
Listening to joSon talk about his youth, it’s immediately apparent that the title “artist” suits him well, because no other word could describe his profound commitment to his craft: immersing himself in and meditating on nature by drawing it. He spent his youth in a Buddhist temple, where engaging in the natural world was part of every day life. There, it was routine for joSon and other aspiring monks to arrange flowers, meditate in the garden, and grow fruits and vegetables. “Being an ‘artist’ was not something I identified with. That’s something that I learned…because that’s not what we did in that environment.” It wasn’t until his late teen years that he was told by the temple master that he would not be a monk; he would be an “artist.”
The same happenstance appears to have figured into his photo collection, Intimate Portrait of Nature, which features more than 100 flower species. “I never had a moment when I said, ‘Oh, I have to do a book’… Connecting with nature and plants was always what I’ve loved to do…before I knew it, I had three or four thousand images in my collection. And then, when people saw the work, they said, ‘I think it’s time to do a book.’”
While joSon (who now makes his living as a commercial photographer) is certainly concerned with “creating images,” it’s clear that his personal understanding of flowers inspired him to capture more than just their images. “Their colors, forms, textures, and tender lifespan are like a lost civilization that draws me inward and compels me to document their lives.” joSon describes his unique slant on his floral subjects:
The images in this book are more than simple portraits of flowers. Instead they become mirrors—because in each bloom we find ourselves, our innermost emotions, mirrored and melded and melted into the world inside and around us. And not simply mirrored: transformed. For these same flowers also have the power to calm our emotions, or inflame them— to rekindle love, joy, forgiveness, memory, beauty, passion and even grief.
As joSon manifested his perspective on and relationship with flowers, he happened to create art – art now cataloged in his book.
In total, joSon’s personal photography catalog includes about 4,000 flowers (he calls it “my own personal garden that I created in my computer.”) He shot, and sometimes scanned, each one in his studio and perfected the images in Photoshop.
After speaking with joSon, I see the photos as more than images formed by colors and shapes. They are relationships, movements, emotions and moments, previously only for joSon, but now, also, for those of us who can enjoy his book. The collection is an invitation to discover someone’s experiences of the natural world – experiences so powerful that they inspired joSon to transform them into photographs.