‘The Digital Edward Weston’ was what first thought that crossed my mind as I looked through Anna Agoston’s work, but I soon realized it wasn’t mimicry, in fact it was a modern ode to the beautiful simplicity and intricacy his work first showed us.
Anna’s macro close-ups of living plants reveal an intricate world the human eye is only privy to with a lens. She brings us the beauty of the natural world with stunning detail. The dark backgrounds isolate her living subjects to reveal a world of divine design and the pure beauty of Mother Earth.
From Paris to Brooklyn
Anna was born in France to an American father who switched careers from a chemical engineering to become a German expressionist artist, and a mother who was an amateur photographer and midwife from New Zealand. She grew up in Paris surrounded and enriched by her creative parents, and was exposed to artists from all disciplines early on.
Although she didn’t initially go down the artistic path, she wanted to become a doctor, but failed to get into her second year of medical school. After this she found herself at a conference that got her interested in architecture, and eventually many years later, led her to attend Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design.
Anna became an architect in New York after a high-profile internship in Japan, but was eventually laid off from an architecture firm in 2013. Just like her father, instead of staying in a job that didn’t satisfy her, she was compelled to walk down an artistic path.
Birth of an Artist
Photography wasn’t her first attempt at creative expression. She tried her hand at painting, but found that the camera enabled her to express her feelings. Photography gave her a longer lasting satisfaction than any other form of art.
Her work gravitated toward living plants. She found plants to be a rich subject because of the diversity in textures and complexity in forms. What she discovered through these small living organisms was a world of form, symmetry, and beauty.
“I think of my work as being more two-dimensional sculpture than photography. My work is focused on volumes and textures. All of the pictures (with the exception of two of the earliest) are taken outside and of living plants. The series is formally consistent: same format and dark background. This creates a spectrum that makes it possible to shift from, and compare, one image to another,” she says.
Giving Meaning to Form
Anna captures all of her images in parks and gardens, and shoots nothing in a studio. She takes hundreds of frames, and sometimes will even return the next day to shoot hundreds more until she is satisfied.
“Photography is a means of artistic expression. Photography means articulating and giving form to a feeling. I believe that feelings are often independent of thought. By comparison writing means articulating and giving form to a thought,” she says.
Anna’s decisive moment exists in a long meditation that allows her to absorb the environment and stay in the present moment to witness the beauty of the natural world unfold. When she feels something and is drawn to a subject, she knows that is what she must photograph.
“I go for long walks. Many artists have talked about the benefits of walking, being outside and embraced by the elements. During my walks I look for a subject. I only stop when I feel I just must. I start shooting and studying my subjects. In some ways I’m sketching. I work until the sketch becomes a picture. I often go back the next day to take more pictures,” she says.
Her moment of capture is defined when the wind isn’t blowing and her hands aren’t shaking, and she is able to set the plane of focus on the details she feels are most important.
“What also compels me is the satisfaction of being able to say precisely what I am feeling. I took a picture of a gingko biloba leaf because I loved the simplicity in form, the shape, and the way it hung from the branch. I felt grace and sensuality and needed to convey that. I felt satisfied when I was able to express this with a picture,” she says.
What Anna has done is created a body of work showcasing some living organisms in the most dramatic and sensual way. Her photographs bring out the beauty of the natural world, and captures, as she says, a feeling she wants to share with her audience.
Her work is more than macrophotography, it is a meditation and study of beauty in nature. Simply put, her photographs are strikingly beautiful and moving.
To see more of Anna’s work, visit her website here: www.annaagoston.com
A version of this article was first published on LensCulture.com.