Photographer Abelardo Morell is a relentlessly curious artist, often striving to capture complex images (and ideas) in single frames that seem to vibrate with intensity. His photographs can feel uncanny and surreal, making the viewer slow down to look more carefully, deconstructing exactly what the artist is putting in front of our eyes. And his images have staying power, lingering long in the memory and imagination of viewers, their ideas working like essential seeds long after first exposure.
In his latest series, Flowers for Lisa, Morell takes a traditional still life subject — a vase of flowers — and pushes and pulls it well beyond the typical boundaries of that genre. What started with a single, romantic photograph for his wife, Lisa, became a muse-like obsession for him over the course of a few years. The result is a tour de force show of seemingly endless creativity, all while working within a self-imposed set of restrictions.
Morell recounts the start for us:
I had a long tradition of giving Lisa a big bouquet of flowers for her birthday, but this time, in February 2014, I thought to myself, “Maybe I can make a picture instead: For one thing, it will last longer.” But I didn’t want to do my regular thing. I wanted, almost in some weird way, for it to be like a display of plumage. Like a peacock. A little bit of a show-off, as if to catch her attention and gain her attraction. Sort of “Oh Yeah? Look what I brought you this time. Watch this.” And I wanted to start with a bang.
And soon after that, I came to feel that if there’s one picture like that in me, there must be others. That’s an important element for me — maybe it’s the modernist in me — this drive, once I get started, to explore themes across myriad variations. Wallace Stevens had “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” and I was curious to see how many “Ways of Looking at Flowers” I could come up with.
The new book includes more than 60 stellar examples of experimentation, presenting the images in chronological order of creation, reflecting the evolution of ideas and processes that informed each one. At the beginning of the book, we’re treated to a rigorous conversation between the artist and Lawrence Weschler, the award-winning author of several books about visual artists. And at the end, after viewing full-page plates of these stunning images, Morell gives us a little inside commentary about each one — generous anecdotes that let us inside his creative process, what he was striving for, what may have inspired each particular photograph.
LensCulture is delighted to be able to share nine of these new images here, along with insightful commentary about each one provided by the artist himself. We hope you find some true inspiration here. Enjoy!