Back in February 2014, the eminent American photographer Abelardo Morell found himself getting tired of the same old thing — that thing being his annual ritual of gifting Lisa A. McElaney, his wife and partner of almost 40 years, with a bouquet of flowers on the occasion of her birthday. (Truth be told, Lisa, herself a distinguished filmmakerand social worker, may not have been all that thrilled at the prospect either.) So instead he hazarded something altogether fresh: a photo of a gift of flowers.
Naturally it wasn’t going to be just any ordinary photograph: Such would not have been Mr. Morell’s style. Best known for his sly modernist redeployments of the venerable camera obscura tradition, in this instance he brought a plain glass crystal vase into his studio and against a flat white backdrop slotted a few simple flower stems into its mouth, photographed and then removed them, put in another few flowers stems, photographed and then removed them … did this a dozen or so times, emerging with many separate photos of different flower bunches variously arcing out of the same unmoving vase. Then he fed all the resultant images into his computer’s Photoshop program, effectively throwing up his hands and saying, You figure it out. His laptop churned for a few minutes, and out popped a truly astonishing image, an erupting splay of colorful exuberance, and a perfect figure, he says, of his still fervent feelings for his beloved.