John Blakemore’s tableaux of tulips show a dark side of flower photography. Blakemore says that his interest was aroused by the gestures cut tulips make as they open and writhe when cut. He began photographing them in polite vases in his kitchen, until the work evolved a very different style.
There is a disturbing beauty to this black and white series. The side lighting in the image above is classic and could come from one of Vermeer’s windows, but we see these plants in their death throes. The bulbs and roots, usually hidden in the darkness of soil, are seen alongside the flower heads which have opened up and lost their familiar shape, They are at the point where most people would discard them – no longer the idealized specimens that Mapplethorpe presents. Blakemore’s tulips are Gothic, close to death, the petals suck the light from the image unlike those in classic Dutch paintings that bring a glowing illumination to dark interiors. Chaos and entropy take over as familiar beauty gives way. These are not idealized luxury commodities that many images of flowers seduce us with, these bring us back to soil and the nature that tulips spring from and return to every year.