Daniel Shipp: ‘Botanical Inquiry’ Series

Words by
Daniel Shipp
Images by
Daniel Shipp
| November 26, 2014

“Botanical Inquiry” is a series of images where nature, geography and physics are shuffled to present familiar but fictional environments. The plants are somewhat hybrids – I’ve played with scale, stylised the light, and re-contextualised them in the hope that you will look twice, just as making this series has made me.

Botanical Inquiry 01: Defunct Industrial Site
Botanical Inquiry 5: Idle Railway Land

This series was conceived as a tribute to my Plant Warrior compadre and guardian of this website, George (aka The Planthunter) in response to what I call “The Planthunter Manifesto”. If you are a fan of The Planthunter, make sure you have read it because I believe it crystallises the drive behind the site and George’s refreshingly authentic sensibility.

The writing really struck a chord with me and I earmarked it in my brain (a dangerously unreliable tactic). It resurfaced when George and I started to discuss making some new images to describe The Planthunter. Around this time I read David Whitworth’s post on the “Temple of Flora”, a darkly beautiful series of 18th Century botanical plates commissioned by Robert John Thornton, and this really ignited the project in my mind’s eye.

The concept of “re-noticing” plants cycled through my mind the whole time I was making these images. I started to pay attention to the existing plant life on the route between my house and studio, and eventually all of my favourite gritty urban haunts.

All of a sudden I was seeing potential subject matter everywhere – growing at the base of traffic lights, in the trees outside my front door, and the many vacant blocks in my hood.

As a confirmed city boy, this project reminded me of the existence of often un-seen plant life in urban environments, and through the eyes of a photographer hungry for a variety of scale, colour, shape and texture, I started to feel the re-emergence of a slightly rusty friendship, bringing to mind the hours spent in my slap-dash treehouse as a pre-teen.

Our connections to plants are personal and unique. For me, George’s manifesto cracked open the possibilities of what these connections could look like and how simple and underwhelming they are allowed to be.

Creating this series was a wonderful and authentic way for me to reconnect with plants. I became “that” person – awkwardly haunting back laneways with secateurs and a Woolies bag (black, and less noticeable than Coles green ones) trying to look inconspicuous as I re-appropriated interesting flora found on private and public property.

All of the images were created in the studio, and they look pretty much as they came out of the camera. I wanted to exercise a photographic process, not a retouching one. The technique I developed was inspired by Viewmaster 3D slides and Disney animation technology from the 1950’s.

The final images are a result of my truest visual tendencies egged on by an enthusiastic George. They’re also a comment on nature’s unrelenting commitment to moving forward. Plants linger around us every day – existing with a humbleness, and an un-self-consciousness disregard for anything but survival.

How wonderful that the publication of this series falls within this month’s theme of “Passion”, and also the first birthday of The Planthunter. Happy Birthday The Planthunter, congratulations on a wonderful first year!

Limited edition prints of the Botanical Inquiry series by Daniel Shipp are available for purchase. Please contact Daniel here.

To see larger images, check out Daniel’s website.

Botanical Inquiry 03: Residential Embankment
Botanical Inquiry 04: Adjacent To Freeway
Botanical Inquiry 02: Arterial Road Duct

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