Digital Manipulations

Digital Manipulations

Multi-award winning photographer Anne Hoerter experiments with multiple images of botanicals as a single composition, fascinated by the examination of new ways to exhibit organic forms. In conversation with Aesthetica, the artist discusses the development of a practice based upon the intersection between scientific illustration, still life painting and technological advancements.

A: Your works use multiple images of plants and layer them together in a single composition. Could you discuss the process behind making these images, and why the decision to use layering?
I am fascinated by the process of taking a living organism, fragmenting it, manipulating it and then re-inventing it into an entirely new entity which resembles the original, but is in fact, entirely contemporary. I am obsessed about rebuilding this new image as perfectly as possible. An image which sways between reality and surrealism. In order to do this I must first disassemble the plant, then photograph each piece through a variety of methods. Finally, I re-arrange the over 40 or so single images to produce the final compilation. I use layers for two reasons: one being that it is the only possible way to assemble so many single layers as one. It then allows me to manipulate these images to my satisfaction.

A: Where do you find inspiration, and how do you incorporate this into your developments?
AH: I find inspiration from the still life paintings of the 1600-1800s and from early botanical drawings, concerning myself only with their use of colour, dramatic lighting and extreme detail. I believe that my true inspiration comes from certain personal events which I have experienced. The process I always use is the same: take, fragment, manipulate and re-invent. Throughout our lives, we are constantly thrown into situations that at first capture us and then finally fragment.

In order to survive, we must “pick up the pieces” and re-assemble ourselves. Afterwards, we may look the same but internally, whether emotionally or psychologically, we have changed and can never actually return to our previous state. We are constantly being changed/challenged through our lifelong experiences. My chosen plants have in a sense, gone through the same process: taken, fragmented, manipulated and then re-invented. I question if this process is my way of coming to terms with these personal circumstances. My final goal is to produce an image that stands on its own. Perfection. Which I believe we strive for in ourselves after being fragmented. Perfection equals resilience.

A:Why is it that you want to represent natural forms in a new way? Why do you think that they still have relevance within today’s society?
I feel a need to break the cliché of botanical photography. I want to produce images that excite, intrigue, shock and generate new thoughts. To conjure up new sensations. In other words, to re-ignite the world of botanical photography. I am not sure if older botanical imagery has any relevance in today’s society but perhaps this is why I am so determined to produce images that are unique and have an edge to them. To entice people to re-think botanical photography. To view this art from an entirely new level.

A: There is a sense of movement in the images, even though they are obviously snapshots of life. Why have you created this sense of flux and how do you think this relates to how audiences interpret the works? AH: I am intrigued by the continual change of negative and positive space through movement. As mentioned before, I am fixated upon producing the perfect final image. To also be able to produce movement that we normally would miss is extremely hard with my process of photography. I love this challenge.

This flux is something that I feel brings an exciting sense of restlessness and often at times a sense of peace into my creations. I do believe that everyone interprets art differently. From my own experience I have noticed that people use these interpretations and see different images within my pictures which I feel is very gratifying. It would be extremely frustrating if everyone was unaware of that movement, which tantalises their curiosity and draws them into the picture.

A: Using different layers, the plants begin to look ethereal, with hazy shadows mixed in with crisp detail. How do you achieve this effect?
This effect is achieved through my process of photographing the single images many times through a variety of photographic methods and then combining this compilation. I have been perfecting this method for over ten years.

A: By using contemporary methods and a technologically advanced medium, do you think that your images comment on the digital world at all?
AH: Yes, I believe they do. My method says it all. Take, fragmentise, manipulate, re-invent and share.

A: What do you have planned in terms of future projects?
AH: I have always wished to produce an exhibit where my images have been printed extremely large and then combined with music. I am curious about the feelings one would experience with these now overwhelming images. Does one still just notice the movement or detail. Or have the images become simply so overpowering from the imagery and colour that one becomes almost claustrophobic. Does the music add a new sensation or dimension.

Find out more:

1. Anne Hoerter, Blue Thistle. Courtesy of the artist.