an unparalleled photographic herbarium

photographs by Karl Blossefeldt (Barnum Archive)
words by Massimo Pacifico

No “non-photographer” covers an equivalent place to that of Karl Blossfeldt (1865-1932) in the History of Photography. Drawing and applied art teacher at the Unterrichtsanstalt des Königlichen Kunstgewerbemuseums (The Institute of the Royal Arts and Crafts Museum) in Berlin since 1924, he photographed, with self-built cameras, the most densely shaded forms of plant species to use them as a demonstration of his “naturalistic” theories in his lessons. The optic-photographic complex that he developed, and used, allowed him to enlarge up to 30 times the details of the plants that he studied as an example of “artistic and architectural structures”.

Self-taught Blossfeldt’s  photographs were only known to his students until 1926 when they were exhibited at the Berlin gallery Nierendorf, and then published, two years later, in the book of Urformen der Kunst (Archetypal Forms of Art). They attracted the attention of a large audience. And not just non-professionals if the most acclaimed critic of Photography, Walter Benjamin, came to declare that Blossfeldt “has played his part in that great examination of the inventory of perception, which will have an unforeseeable effect on our conception of the world” and comparing his work to that of famous photographers such as August Sander and Eugene Atet, also authors of precious ” catalogues “(respectively of German Characters and of the city Paris).
The following pictures are taken from the volume Wunder in der Natur (Wonders of Nature), published posthumously in 1942 by H. Schmidt & C. Günther in Leipzig.

ITA_7424 ITA_7425 ITA_7426 ITA_7428 ITA_7429 ITA_7431 ITA_7433 ITA_7434 ITA_7435 ITA_7436 ITA_7437 ITA_7438 ITA_7440 ITA_7441 ITA_7442 ITA_7443 ITA_7444 ITA_7445 ITA_7446 ITA_7447 ITA_7448 ITA_7449 ITA_7450 ITA_7452 ITA_7453 ITA_7454 ITA_7455 ITA_7456 ITA_7457 ITA_7458 ITA_7459 ITA_7462 ITA_7464 ITA_7469 ITA_7477 ITA_7478 ITA_7480 ITA_7484 ITA_7487 ITA_7491 ITA_7492 ITA_7495 ITA_7496 ITA_7497

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