Art & Botany: Broken Flowers

Art & Botany: Broken Flowers

October 14, 2012
Photo by: Jon Shireman. Orchid, from the series 'Broken Flowers' (2009-2010).

A flower's demise is a slow process—unless you're photographer Jon Shireman, in which case it happens with a quick pivot and a smash. He immerses his flowers to stiffen them, then flings them against a hard surface. The shattered remains are beautiful. 'Broken Flowers' is a striking series of contrasting pairs.

This is one of the things that makes Shireman's work so captivating—his photography smashes the laconic performance of a flower's organic death. Under natural circumstances, a flower dies in a series of sighs, one with each petal that falls. A bouquet, fresh on Monday, is mourned through the week as its colors fade, and not pronounced dead until the following Tuesday. It's a slow process, one shared by most organic things, unlike the flowers under Shireman's lens. 

To produce the dramatic death, Shireman soaks his subjects in liquid nitrogen for about 30 minutes. Then, he loads them into a homemade catapult which propels the flowers onto a hard white board. They shatter. Shireman's soaking process has preserved their color and structure, so the result is a bright mosaic of flower bits that appear cast in porcelain or painted on china. 

Looking through his portfolio, it's interesting to see that he's also photographed the wilting, slow, organic death, in the series Fading Tulips.


Tulip, from the series 'Broken Flowers' (2009-2010), by Jon Shireman.

Lily, from the series 'Broken Flowers' (2009-2010), by Jon Shireman.