Pure floral beauty…an interview with David Leaser

I am still digesting all the inspiration that I came back with from Modenus‘ Blogtour NYC and one of the artists that I had the pleasure of meeting at the Architectural Digest Home Show was David Leaser.

I was completely drawn to his stunning photographs of flowers and I’m sure you will be too.  Seeing the most minute detail of each flower, down to the dew and fine hairs on the petals, makes them pop off the canvas, and to me, they actually seem to pulse with life.

David has graciously agreed to being interviewed for this post.  But first, here are just a little peek at some of his breathtaking artwork and make sure you read through to the end, to find out about the special offer he has given us.

Fuchsia Copyright David Leaser Fine Art 2013 Hawaiian Sunset_2 Copyright David Leaser Fine Art Marilyn Copyright David Leaser Fine Art(2) Blue Moon Copyright David Leaser Fine Art(2)

1.  I know that you started taking photos at a very young age while on a school trip. Did you actually start photographing flowers at such a young age?

You know, Lisa, I actually had very little interest in photographing flowers as a boy. In fact, the first photos I ever took were of the locomotives at Strasburg Railroad in Pennsylvania. As a boy, I probably burned film taking pictures of the groundhogs and snakes that I found on our family farm outside Hershey, Pennsylvania.

It wasn’t until much later as an adult that I became interested in photographing botanical subjects. I was fortunate to publish a number of books, including a book called, “Tropical Gardens of Hawaii.” When the book came out, I loved the landscapes, but readers were always drawn to the closeup flower photos, so I thought maybe this is what I’m good at!

2.  In your ABC interview it was mentioned that you became fascinated by the flora and fauna during a trip to the Amazon. How did your work change after this inspirational trip?

I was in the Amazon photographing landscapes. If you’ve never been there, you should go if you can. It is so peaceful and pristine. While I was there, I started to focus on the tiny flowers on the rainforest floor. I sort of had a “Horton Hears a Who” moment, because you can see complete ecosystems in these flowers – tiny insects and lizards that blend in and are hardly noticed.

A few days later, I was sitting in a café in Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, when I had an epiphany: Lots of people are photographing beautiful landscapes, but what about those tiniest of flowers that are overlooked and even stepped on? Maybe I should try to elevate them to the point where they can be enjoyed and appreciated. 

3. Can you explain how you utilize NASA technology to create your amazing artwork?

Yes, after I made the decision to photograph flowers, I started to buy the macro photography equipment that everyone uses to take these types of photos. Problem was, macro photography technology just wouldn’t work. I wanted to show these flowers in incredible detail, with more depth than you normally see. With typical macro photography, only part of the flower would be in focus. So I started to experiment and research. I found that NASA had created robotic equipment to photograph the most intricate details on the surface of Mars. It turned out they had collaborated with Carnegie Mellon to make the devices commercially available. So I bought one and combined it with a few other new technologies. Before you knew it (actually it took a few years:), I had developed a technique to get such intense detail, you can literally see the nectar glistening on a flower.

The work quickly became a hit and got the attention of the media and critics. The collection won a silver medal in the International Photography Awards, and Ann Landi, a contributing editor for ARTnews, used the term dettagli to describe the intense detail in the images.

4. Some of the flowers that you photograph are heirloom varieties, which are very rare.  Do you have to take special care or precautions when photographing them and where do you find them?

I’m very interested in photographing the rare and unusual, including endangered species, because I think that when people think of conservation, they may be drawn to large animals that are endangered. I’m hoping I can bring awareness to botanical subjects in a way others have for animals because, in my mind, I always return to the floor of the Amazonian rainforest and think of the lesser-known species that deserve our attention. Using the miracle of photography and my process, I am elevating these botanical subjects to pop star status. Lisa, many of these flowers are very tiny. Quite a few in my collection are only the size of a thumbnail. 

To find these rare and exotic plants, my wife and I pour through online plant catalogs, and you would be amazed at what you can find. We sometimes have to grow them from seed, so we built a hobby greenhouse in our garden.

5. What are your favourite flowers to photograph?

Lisa,that is a great question for one very good reason. I’ve found that some of the most beautiful flowers are just like people: They don’t seem to photograph well. Others that seem rather ordinary just pop off the canvas. But I would say that tulips and dahlias are among my favorites. Tulips are rather hard to shoot because they actually move toward the studio lights! I start photographing and before you know it, they have moved off the screen. Orchids are rather easy, but their cellular structure is sometimes difficult. The images can look too sharp or sometimes too soft.

I also really enjoy photographing commonplace flowers to see if I can turn them into celebrities. In California, we plant “freeway daisies” along the highways. Most people step on them as a groundcover. I picked one and photographed it. I call it “Serenity” and it is one of the most popular flowers in my collection. In fact, it is in the permanent collection at the Huntington Library in Pasadena.

But regardless of the flower, I think they are all special in some way.  When you see these flowers, enormously enlarged, I hope they reveal to viewers the miracle of nature. I believe you will never look at flowers the same way again.

It really does make you look at flowers in a completely new way.  And trust me they are even more breathtakingly beautiful in real life.  Here’s David’s recent interview on WABC in New York.

David has generously offered my readers a 25% discount off the retail price for David’s artwork.  Visit davidleaser.com and make sure to enter “goulet”(all lower case) in the coupon/promotion code section during checkout to receive the discount.

Happy Shopping!

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