Inspired by his florist wife Basia, the commercial photographer Isamu Sawa began shooting dying flowers and plants as a technical exercise in early 2015. In order to properly capture his diminutive subjects’ decaying beauty, he adopted a sophisticated photographic technique more commonly used in science than art known as focus stacking.
For example, NASA’s Curiosity rover is able to take microscopic images of Martian geology using its Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) because of this technique. When a close-focus view of a rock or mineral particle is not possible over the entire image, MAHLI takes a series of images in up to eight focus positions. The onboard software then merges them to create a single “best-focus” frame. In the case of Isamu Sawa, he sometimes takes up to 60 images of a plant before combining them, using a specialized computer software, to produce a single crisp and extremely detailed image in uniform focus.
The technique is painstaking and highly time-consuming, requiring incredible patience, precision and technical ability. But it results in images of delicate beauty, rich in almost otherworldly botanical detail. As Sawa collected more of his wife’s discarded stock, shooting them in between commercial work in his Collingwood studio, he began experimenting with different forms and plant structures.
Sawa had his first solo show in 2015. That exhibition led to a number of private and commercial commissions, which have since kept Sawa busy as he refines his fastidious studio technique.
“These are special images for me,” says Sawa. “There’s a tremendous amount of precision that goes into each and every one. But more importantly, they’re just so captivating. I feel like I’ve rescued these discarded flowers, in a way, and given them another life.”
Editors’ note: This work is on view at Black Eye Gallery in Darlinghurst, Australia, until October 15, 2017.