Nothing says spring like the year’s first flowers pushing their way up in the sun—crocuses, daffodils, and irises (oh my!) are some of the early signs of the season to come, full of life and color. And no one has captured the energy and grace of flowers with such vitality as Jonathan Singer in his Botanica Magnifica, which has been praised by botanists and artists alike for its stunning presentation of detail and for the elegance and astonishing clarity of its images. Indeed, Singer captures the personality and poise of each flower he photographs, and the result is not merely a reproduction but a portrait, imbued with the spirit of its subject.
Today at the Abbeville Blog, we’re celebrating the official first day of spring, and along with it our release of the new Tiny Folio edition of Jonathan Singer’s Botanica Magnifica: Portraits of the World’s Most Extraordinary Flowers and Plants, published by Abbeville Press. This magnificent book was originally released in an edition of only ten copies, as a monumental Double Elephant Folio in five hand-bound volumes—a large-scale project proven worthy of its artistic predecessor, namely Audubon’s Birds of America. The original release of Botanica Magnifica has found its home in the Smithsonian, and Abbeville subsequently released the Baby Elephant Folio edition; now, the Tiny Folio preserves all 251 photographs from the original, but compacted into a palm-sized book—still full color, and still resplendent with Singer’s singular sense of sophistication and charm.
Singer expresses in light and near-incandescent color against shadow—a technique that prompted one ARTnews critic to comment on his flowers “emerging from the shadows in a manner evocative of Old Master paintings”—a buoyancy and luminosity rarely seen in botanical photography, which captures and conveys not only the physical qualities of the plant but also its living essence. Take, for example, how the Iris ‘Jean Marie’ above—with its tender stripes and its delicate pout—floats weightlessly over the dark background, with just a hint of green stem to anchor the bloom to the earth: the iris becomes an emblem of levity, of the immediate and overwhelming liveliness of spring.