Summer is here and flowers are in full bloom and that is one of the many reasons we are so thrilled to be in the studio with fine art photographer, Kari Herer to learn more about the inspiration and process behind her floral photography and whimsical sketches. Her prints have become extremely popular and have graced stores such as Ikea, Anthropologie and Restoration Hardware. You can also buy her work directly on her Etsy Shop.
What is the inspiration behind your work?
“My parents and my childhood are important sources of inspiration. My dad was a seventh grade science teacher and we grew up with all kinds of animals in the house. We raised ducks, watched monarchs hatch from their chrysalises under the kitchen table. He kept hissing cockroaches in cages in the basement, and he did taxidermy as well, so we’d find dead animals in the freezer. I’m sure this exposure to life and death and animals of all kinds got me interested in nature at an early age. My mom was a really great illustrator. I have definitely been influenced by both of my parents. I started taking pictures of flowers after my daughter was born. I was living in a house in Kennebunk, Maine with a peony garden, and I just found the peony flower so beautiful. One afternoon I was playing around with old woodcuts of bugs of all kinds. I started putting flowers on top of them to make wings, and I noticed that the shapes in the flower were just like the shapes in the bug. I found that parallel really interesting, and took it from there. Photographers and painters also provide a great deal of inspiration. I think what artists like Georgia O’Keefe and Robert Mapplethorpe were saying with flower imagery was very human, and I strive for that in my pictures. I don’t think I’m there yet, but I’d like to head in that direction. ”
Tell us a little bit about your process:
“Ideas for what to sketch come from my life. My daughter Colette has been asking me to get her a pet hamster—I sketched one instead. I recently did a print of a woodpecker because one was pecking on our window for days. I draw on my computer, print the image out, arrange flowers on top of the image, and photograph them together. I’ve always had a yard and a garden, but the rest of the flowers I use are sourced from the Boston Flower Exchange. Arranging the flowers is a tedious process. I use toothpicks, tweezers, and a lot of micro movements to get the flowers to look compositionally correct. I’ll borrow petals from different flowers to make one look fuller, or I’ll put pieces of tissues between petals to build a flower up a bit. It’s actually kind of a gluttonous process, too—I’m manipulating and taking these beautiful flowers apart, but I’m also preserving them in a photograph. I make the pictures in my studio, which is basically just a garage with a heater. It’s grungy and it does the job perfectly. It’s a working studio, and I don’t want it to feel too precious. I used to rely on natural light, but now I have to work at night when my kids are asleep. It’s taken me a while to get the lighting set up right, and I still have a lot to learn.”
Check out this video of her process:
Every day, I’m learning, pushing myself to get better. I’m positioning flowers differently, or lighting them differently, or waiting until just the right moment in the flowers’ life cycle to photograph them. I want to see the images get larger. I want the viewer to look at the image and experience the same connection with these flowers that I felt photographing them. Kari Herer