A squash and a cucumber cast dark shadows on a sill. Above, a pomegranate and a cabbage are suspended by a string against a deep black background. A sense of tension builds—a slice has been cut from the melon, suggesting the recent presence of an absent actor; the exposed fruits are displayed like targets. Finally, a bullet blasts through the scene and the pomegranate explodes into hundreds of seeds and red flesh. The obliterated fruit, still hanging from a string like a public hanging, careens from the impact in slow motion.
Photographer Alexander James, who has worked with floral subjects for over 15 years, will go to any lengths necessary to get the shot, including submerging bouquets and fruit in a dark tank, rigging an underwater light, and even breeding butterflies in his studio.
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.