FLOWERS GIVE OF THEMSELVES – FOR THE JOY OF IT :: When I first began to photograph flowers I had this idea of seeing past the pretty surface to reveal something I had never seen before, or even thought about. I wanted to discover the essence and the energy, something truthful. I think seeing past the surface of things is the very least expected of my job description, if I have the cheek to call myself an artist.
So off I went to the north St Lawrence Market, in Toronto where I am based, and where every Saturday morning from Easter until Thanksgiving the Taylor family brings in from their flower farm the most astonishing peonies, lilacs, dahlias… Heaven! Old-fashioned, farmhouse blooms, that you can imagine being arranged in a cut-glass vase, then placed on the sideboard in your great-grandmother’s dining-room, where the tick of the grandfather clock is the only sound.
These authentic, un-engineered blooms led me to the decision that I would embrace their often startling imperfections – a bunch of snapdragons with “dowager’s hump” comes to mind – and not even shy away from showing them as they wilt. This summer I took the concept further by foraging for weeds and other scrappy specimens that grow in the vacant lots, sidewalk cracks and ungroomed parks of the inner city.
I looked at what I had formerly ignored or discounted, I looked at dandelions and goldenrod and clover and vetch, and I began to wonder why I had ever bothered to purchase flowers. There seemed to be beauty in the most unlikely places.
Five things flowers can teach us:
1. Flowers give of themselves totally, for the joy of it.
How often I give while secretly expecting something back. A flower opens to the sun, looks you straight in the eye, and says, “Here you go, buddy. Purple petals!” I want to learn to be more like that. In fact, I want to learn to believe more sincerely that what I give is valuable.
2. Be still.
Flowers have the soothing gift of being right where they are. They don’t race around on a mission; they aren’t engaged in secret, frantic agendas. They just stay there, and we go to them, and willingly. If I can risk sounding silly, they are content with where they are. And when the air is still on a warm summer night, they are buddhas: Motionless, inward, yet light at heart. Nothing to change, nothing to do.
3. Appreciate the rain.
“What a horrible day,” said the woman in the elevator.
“Oh, I’m sorry, did something happen?”, I replied.
My remark was a bit tongue-in-cheek; I had already guessed she judged the day horrible because it was raining. I’m not talking here about life’s major setbacks; I’m just saying… rain is soft and refreshing, it makes the colours shine, and the clouds mauve-black, and you get to wear cool rubber boots from Canadian Tire for splashing in the puddles. Have fun in the rain!
4. There are cycles.
There are days, weeks, even, when – just between you and me – my petals are little brown around the edges. This past year had its challenges, yet already the cycle has turned and I’m popping out a few bright green little shoots. OK, so I’ve pushed the metaphor a bit far, but I hope I can remember when future difficulties cycle round that there is a time for everything, good can follow bad, and 99% of what I worried about never happened.
5. Flowers are vulnerable and delicate; they are tenacious and strong.
I want to remember the weeds that pushed through pavement; the lilac blooms that fell with a breath after a few brief hours. I want to see the strong tenacious strength of women and the vulnerable delicacy of men.
Can beauty truly be found anywhere? Only you can tell. Look, closely.
– David Roddis is a fine-art photographer based in Toronto, Canada. As Florian Photo/Art, he creates large-scale, photo-based floral artwork that aims to astound.
Image: “Sherbourne – North of Carlton” – June 2015 by David Roddis. Used with permission.