Nick Knight: Flora
For the past three decades Nick Knight has defined the cultural vision of a generation. Consistently challenging conventional notions of beauty, Knight reinterpreted the boundaries of contemporary fashion photography. In groundbreaking collaborations with an array of leading designers including Yohji Yamamoto and Alexander McQueen, he has shaped many of the iconic images that fill our minds through magazines, books, record albums, and music videos.
Continually at the vanguard of progressive image making throughout his commercial career, Knight has also worked on numerous personal projects that are demonstrative of a constant desire to experiment. Flora is an exceptional example of this. Initiated in 1993 for his installation of 'Plant Power' at the Natural History Museum, London, Flora is a comprehensively daring volume of flowers and plants chosen from the Museum's six million specimens. To create the collection, Knight spent three and a half years in the herbarium mapping the presence of flora - from opium to cotton - in our society.
Almost 15 years later, Knight chose to release Flora for his first limited edition portfolio. From the original 46 specimens he captured for the acclaimed book, Knight has selected 15 prints representative of the arresting diversity in botany that he found so exciting when he first gained access to the herbarium.
The resulting compositions are enduringly fresh and beautifully poised in their simplicity. Photographed from above, each reads as an object in space; without border or perspective they are overwhelmingly real and almost palpable to the touch. The colour in some of the plants seems to bloom in front of your eyes while others work their way across the page as line drawings organically unraveling. Together the 15 images highlight an innate range of possibility that is all too easy to miss when looking at the natural or organic. As Knight stands back to capture them, the compositions unfalteringly concentrate our attention toward the almost obsessive detail and complexity intrinsic in each specimen. Without bravado, Knight flawlessly allows the true beauty of each piece to come into sharp and unwavering focus.
Knight has spent the past few years perfecting his printing process. He works with a single printer who has himself refined a unique museum-grade printing process that relies heavily on traditional photographic darkroom techniques, with the addition of a hand-applied protective finish. This finish differentiates Knight's prints from others', giving them truly vibrant colours and velvety blacks. It also provides UV light stabilization and acts as a barrier to atmospheric contamination. This is also effective on the under side of the print for conservation purposes. Based on Wilhelm Imaging research, the printing technique has shown permanence in excess of 350 years.