Karl Blossfeldt: Finding a New World of Possibilities through Macro Photography

Karl Blossfeldt: Finding a New World of Possibilities through Macro Photography


Being a sculptor and a professor at Unterrichtsanstalt des Kunstgewerbemuseums Berlin, Blossfeldt started thinking about unique patterns and forms which his student could work. He had a model of a dragonfly's wing, and even though the model was remarkably brilliant, he still could not get the approval from the school director for it was considered "trivial" at that time. 


Everything we observe around us has its peculiarities and beauty. For some people, there is a lack or excess of beauty in things we look at every day. For some others, beauty is subjective. Nevertheless, according to theory, that is an idea we have in our minds instead of in things by themselves. Things do not change because they are always what they are. We, humans, give a value to everything we see, and that is what the theory tries to explain. 



Plant Photogravure Nr 68


Does it sound complicated? To your calmness, Karl Blossfeldt can explain this better through stunning images. In this aspect, he began to work with the beauty he could find in nature, and which other better example of the beauty we know, as the same he chose almost 100 years ago: plants.


 "Blossfeldt was never formally trained as a photographer. Blossfeldt used home-made camera and lenses to magnify his subjects up to 30 times their natural size"


Due to this, he decided to start taking photographs from different things he wanted to show in his class. He began with insects (eventually seen in his collections) and then he moved to plants. Here, he started paying even more attention to details, and it was in this moment when he began working with magnifying lenses so his less-skilled students could see details in these plants and improve their sculpting skills.




Plant Photogravure Nr 99


Nevertheless, and as he did not have any help from the university to continue developing his work, he saw himself obliged to make these magnifying lenses by himself. He was not a photographer, but he was tremendously determined to continue doing this as he thought this was the best way to make his students improve and make them better premature artists.


Since he did not see any support from the school, Blossfeldt himself wrote a letter to the School Director explaining the situation and asking for a place in the school so he could show this botanical photo collection. In this letter, he expresses the approval of his colleagues and how they also consider these photographs as suitable for educational purposes. At the end of this letter, Blossfeldt asked the School Director to consider the possibility to have an area of no more than 12 square meters exclusively to show his work. 

 "Because they are the fruit of years of   work and considerable material sacrifice, I would very much welcome them being   used in some way, either as inspirational   material in individual classes, libraries, etc. for a wider audience and, above all, for all   students." Extract from the letter written to the School Director. 






As time went by, Blossfeldt's work started to become more and more popular not only on the campus but in Berlin. Then was when Karl Nierendorf, a gallery owner and influential art collector, discovered his work and decided to mount an exhibition of the work made by Blossfeldt.

After this, Blossfeldt was recognised in different cities in Germany. Later, in 1928, he published Urformen der Kunst and immediately became a pioneer of the new objectivity movement. He was the person who started all these new ways of showing the natural world through the lens of a camera. Thanks to him, we can see all these phantasmagoric shapes of plants in different tones and a level of detail that no one had seen in those years.



Plant Photogravure Nr 77


What could we say about the technique Blossfedt used along with the different pictures he took and all the work that meant for him? How did he manage to get this? It is essential to mention that we are talking about around 1925 and yes, even though at that time photography in colour was already a thing, it was tremendously expensive and difficult to get due to the long exposures, time and process of printing and the need of special equipment. Therefore, colour photography was sporadic in those years.


Attention to detail is essential, and Blossfeldt knew it. He knew that plants were a mine of different shapes to discover. The German sculptor managed to photograph a vast range of plants because he thought that in nature, we find the foundations of all forms. Wildlife, and plants explicitly, are one of those mines that people ignore but not because they don't want to do that, but because the beauty in simple things sometimes is more difficult to appreciate in our everyday life. Precisely, that is what these photographs intend to do: To portray small-scale forms and encourage students and people to pay more attention to them.


"My botanical documents should contribute to restoring the link with nature. They should reawaken a sense of nature, point to its teeming richness of form, and prompt the viewer to observe for himself the surrounding plant world."


To do this, Blossfeldt used a home-made camera and magnifying lenses. He was able to take photographs of objects thirty times their size. His way of making photography is not simple to describe as one specific photography technique, given the fact Blossfeldt was not a photographer, and he just did what worked for his teaching and educational purposes. Nevertheless, most of the photographers considered him as one of the most influential macro photography exponents in history.


Nevertheless, not everything is related to these magnifying images but also the way of taking pictures. Blossfeldt was extremely careful with the way he handled his shots concerning the angles. We can appreciate a pattern when observing his photos, and there are two clear perspectives and another that we can see from time to time. Blossfeldt is known for his zenith perspective and frontal ones. Sometimes, although not that often, he worked also with diagonal views and the good news, is that all of them are available in this new Blossfeldt plant collection we have for you.


     Photogravure Nr 73            Photogravure Nr 58         Photogravure Nr 6


Blossfeldt is the reflex of why we do things in life and the purpose of them. In our everyday lives, there are several things that we usually do for the sake of doing them. Blossfeldt went beyond that, and he solved a real-life situation he faced in school and how Blossfeldt was not being able to explain and describe what he intended his students to do and fixed that by making these photographs.


Here at Kuriosis, we are delighted with this collection. It is a genuine honour, and we are tremendously excited to see how our customers will see this new collection. Some of us think that it is the most exciting and beautiful we have seen in our catalogue.


Do you consider him as the "father" of macro photography? Are there any other artists like him that you would like to see in our collections? Let us know about anything that would help us improve. If you have any questions, contact us here. To see our catalogue, click here and enjoy the rest of our collections.



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