“Flower Man” is a personal portrait project made in the Malik Ghat Flower Market in Kolkata. I first came up with the idea for the project when I was in Kolkata on assignment three or four years ago. I had an extra day in the city, so I decided to go to the flower market. It’s a beautiful and at the same time very stressful place—the market is one of the biggest flower markets in Asia and is very busy.

I became fascinated with the place—the flower sellers in particular captured my attention. I really like the way they transport their flowers; sometimes it almost looked like they were wearing big flower dresses. I also liked how these strong, masculine men would handle the flowers with so much care, as if they were little, precious things.

Sanjit Malik, Gettylade Flowers © Ken Hermann

There are a lot of superstitions and religious beliefs surrounding flowers in India. For example, I wasn’t able to photograph some of the flower sellers because their flowers were holy, and they would lose their “power” if photographed.

I shot the portraits on a plain and simple background so the flower sellers would really stand out. I like how each man poses with his flowers in a different way, but all of them with a shared gentleness: the masculine man and his beautiful flower.

—Ken Hermann

Editors’ note: Hermann’s book, Flower Men, was just published by Kehrer Verlag. Visit their site to learn more and purchase the book.

If you’re interested in seeing more work like this, we’d recommend these articles: Botanical Inquiry, the Fine Art winner from our Magnum Photography Awards that features nature shot with an analogue camera; Yusurika, a series shot by a Tokyo-based photographer that celebrates magic in the natural world; and Stars, a striking series that combines otherworldly shots of a forest with celestial images.