A self-taught photographer, and professor at the Royal School of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Berlin, Karl Blossfeldt (1865–1932) is recognised for his extensive and unique photographic plant portraits, created to support his argument that all forms created by man, have their origins in nature. These unique photographs reveal the tactile qualities, intricate forms and peculiar aspects of flora which, when magnified transform to resemble architectural structures and the ornamented patterned surfaces of modernist designs. Blossfeldt’s fusion of scientific observation, sculptural form and abstract compositions pioneered an artistic style that forged new approaches to modern art and photography.
Blossfeldt’s ambitious photographic archive was not intended to produce modernist masterpieces, but instead to create academic tools which illustrated his hypothesis that the structural qualities found in nature could be translated and applied to the fields of sculpture, engineering and architecture. He is often recognised as one of the pioneers of modernist photography, particularly New Objectivity, because of his systematic, typological and original approach to the medium. Blossfeldt built a series of cameras with interchangeable lenses, that allowed for greater magnification and through these was able to examine his botanical specimens in unprecedented, microscopic detail revealing their unusual and intricate characteristics. Working at the junction of Art Nouveau and Modernism, Blossfeldt’s works were primarily used as pedagogical sources for German designers. His work was brought to public attention, when he worked with the publisher, Ernst Wasmuth, to put together a book of his photographs; Urformen Der Kunst, (Art forms in Nature sometimes translated as Archetypal forms in Nature), published in 1928. An extensive study of organic forms, Urformen der Kunst was positively received not only in the very different avant-garde worlds of Berlin and Paris, but also in the popular press, and it altered the public’s perception of the natural world. It is regarded as a seminal book on photography, and it is from this book, that the photographs in Tasveer’s exhibition come.