Benmore I

Greenhouses Cathedrals for Plants

"Entering these wonderful glass palaces and being able to explore their green-scented, tropical interior with my camera felt like an expedition into the heart of the 19th century." Werner Pawlok

"Sometimes the plant forms, the deep shadows of the arching leaves of palm and tropical trees, led me up into the clear heights of the glass roofs, whose constructions themselves acted like a capillary system of leaf veins and translucent fibers of light." Werner Pawlok

Botanical Gardens are filigree, light-flooded palaces of European culture and architecture. Plants from overseas and rare vegetative species are at the center of the elegant glass houses. There is a special indoor climate that corresponds to the natural conditions of the plants. For an intuitive photographer like Werner Pawlok, these places are the purest chambers of wonder: form meets color, light meets space, architectural construction meets irrepressible vegetative vitality. The powerful presence of exotic plants in contrast to the classical architecture could already be felt in his Havana works. Now the plants move even more clearly into the focus of his work, artistically framed by the expansive architecture of famous master builders and architects.

For the well-travelled photographer from Stuttgart, stepping into one of these tropical houses is like an explosive meeting of a number of extremes: higher, further, more delicate and more intensely colored for the old master of architecture-colour-vintage, it really doesn't get any longer. The natural intensity of shapes and colors on site, the sweltering heat and exotic eccentricity has its photographic price, however, as the objects on the large-format camera quickly fog up in the high humidity. A motif therefore needs to be well selected before it can be burned into the negative – a form of photography that certainly challenges and accelerates Pawlok's usual approach. Normally he takes his time when choosing a motif and initially empathizes with the local subject in a kind of narrative approach. Only then does the fruitful photographic dialogue with the magical places begin.

The Brussels Royal botanical garden in particular towers above the new series of pictures with surprising, almost doubling effects of the color explosion and bold architectural picture spanning. Light and humidity form coloristic and almost haptic symbioses. Streams of color and plant leaves meet at the moment of greatest attention to detail. Even butterflies gliding fleetingly through the picture in the Butterfly House in Lancaster achieve an astonishing degree of distribution perfection, so balanced, translucent and powerfully contrasting are they placed on darker and lighter parts of the picture.

Nevertheless, architecture as such is not neglected in any of the works. It is also celebrated like a rare and adventurously flowering plant species. At the time they were built, these structures were marvels of filigree architecture, providing a maximum of light while requiring only a minimum of supporting structure. The photographer Werner Pawlok deserves the credit of once again not having shied away from the most arduous and demanding path and having gone to extraordinary places in order to capture the atmosphere in their entirety and open up new pictorial dreams. Essentially, he is a modern day photographic explorer who, for the sake of art, has traded the sketchbook for the camera.

Text by Stephen Reisner

Bildübersicht Greenhouses Cathedrals for Plants von Werner Pawlok