Thursday, April 06, 2017

Barngain of the day: Flora by Nick Knight

I found this book in a charity shop in Croydon. It was priced at £2.50; already a barngain until the shop assistant informed me there was a half price sale, so it was £1.25. I've vaguely wanted this book for years (first published 1997) not because I'm that interested in flora, but because it's a beautiful and elegant book (and tall; it doesn't fit in my bookshelves).

Nick Knight is British fashion photographer who came to prominence in the 1980s with his book of photos of skinheads; a stint at i-D magazine led to photographing Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto's fashion catalogue (like this book, in collaboration with Peter Saville). He has also photographed album covers for the likes of Massive Attack and directed music videos.

Peter Saville art directed the book (though Paul Barnes actually designed it; presumably he did all the actual work). Never one to rush his work, Saville's poster for the opening of the Factory nightclub in Manchester famously turned up late for the event. His own website has been 'under construction' for years.

Photographers from Karl Blossfeldt (whose book Art Forms in Nature was very successful when it came out in 1928) to Irving Penn (whose book of flowers was published in 1980) have produced books of flowers and fauna in close-up, exploring their beautiful forms in much the same way Georgia O'Keeffe did with paint.

Flora is a result of Knight visiting the herbarium (library of pressed flowers) at the Natural History Museum and sifting through thousands of samples; forty-six of the 'most beautiful' were chosen. They are stunning; a riot of colour, texture and shape, all beautifully arranged. The second half of the book has text by Sandra Knapp explaining each plant photographed. Most interestingly, though, it lists when and by who each sample was collected. Amazingly, some date back to the 1800s, and as Knapp rightly states, the stories behind how they were collected would fill volumes and be almost as fascinating as the plants themselves.

Previously on Barnflakes:
London through its charity shops

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