Mono no aware

Californian Poppy Tree, black background

Daisies, black background

Mono no aware is a term describing the awareness of the impermanence of things in life.

With this notion in mind & being quarantined during the Covid-19 pandemic, how do we stay creative?  Right now, as a portrait photographer my subjects are scarce.  

This obviously comes with a change of subject matter, at least for the time being.    

It is April, spring 2020.   People all over the world are living a strongly altered life since March 2020.  Originally from Belgium,  I follow the news and development of the virus in Europe up close.  There is the concern about my family & friends living in Belgium and no future date for a possible reunion in sight.  I miss Europe, but I can’t complain. Right now, the people close to me are healthy, I feel pretty safe in Los Angeles, living in a nice house with a beautiful yard.  A yard that keeps me busy.  

Flowers are abundantly available.  Lately, Los Angeles has had quite a bit of rain. This fresh season is exploding with smells and colors, everything is blooming as if not aware of any inertia.   Flowers also remind us of the impermanence of life.  “Flowers in quarantine” or “Ice Flowers” is my expression to describe life on hold, for a while, and when the ice breaks & melts, surprising things will happen.  Will life, as we know it, continue its course or will it change direction?

Right before the outbreak of the virus, my sister came to visit me and we made an epic road trip driving through the western states of California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Idaho with final destination Wyoming. 

When we explored the surrounding areas of Jackson Hole, WY, waking up daily with a stunning view over the Elk Preserve, a conservationist of the Preserve told us that from March 15 on, life shuts down in the surrounding areas. An annual tradition, so that nature can restore itself and find its balance.   No more expeditions into the parks after that date.  It is the time for herds of elk, bison, for flocks of trumpeter swans and other wildlife to migrate further north.  I  will dedicate a separate blog post to the Wyoming road trip.

I like to think that our mandatory pause in life, just as in nature, will be appreciated in ways we don’t realize just yet. Aside from the loneliness and economic mess we find ourselves into.

So here is the beginning of my new series “Flowers in quarantine”.  Not sure about the title yet.  I am still in the experimental phase, gathering flowers, arranging them in a tray, pouring distilled/cooked water over them.  3 variables to consider:  a push door freezer makes it hard to keep arrangements steady, family & friends (yes, friends do visit me ) are totally oblivious of what I’m actually doing and they always need ice cubes in their drinks  🍸 and last but not least, every flower behaves so differently when frozen.  Some behave bad in quarantine, others become gorgeously translucent.  As for lighting, I use Polaroid’s BrightSaber (easy to carry and move around, it looks like a big, long LED flash light), with the occasional use of a colored filter.  I either light from underneath or from the side on a white or black background. I work with the weapons I have right now.

To be continued…

Gladiolus on white background & colored filter

Iris, white background, color filter

Californian poppy, white background, color filter

Cosmos & Clematis, white background, color filter

Australian Bottle Brush Bush

Something else I’m trying.  I imagined the bougainvillea would look great as fabric or wall paper.  So I added texture in the second image.  Doesn’t it look like a beautiful fabric for a summery dress?

In the last image I experimented in Photoshop with shapes.  It’s definitely something I will work on in the future…

Using Format