Photos of joy
The vivid colors and textures in the photographs of flowers from Erin Platt’s surroundings showcase the joy of creation. Erin, a St. Paul member, recently shared some words about her visual depictions of nature’s beauty.
How did you start taking photos of flowers/plants?
I remember when I was in 4-H as a kid, I was always intrigued by the photography exhibits at the Mississippi Valley Fair. I had absolutely no idea how the photographers achieved the shots they did or what kinds of cameras they used; I just wanted to try mimicking them. One day I grabbed my mom’s Kodak camera and went out to our iris bed on the edge of the front lawn. The sun was setting from the west, and I loved how the opaque, lavender flower captured the light from behind to showcase its petals. I looked through the viewfinder and just pointed and clicked. This was back in the days of having to wait to get your film developed to see how the picture came out. I was so excited because I just knew that I had captured the same award-winning shots that those grand champion ribbon-winners had at the fair. Sadly, the photo was horrible; it was blurry, over-exposed, and it wasn’t a tight shot showing the level of detail up close that I had seen with my naked eye. Needless to say my newfound photography passion was short-lived.
Where do you find your subjects? What kind of camera do you use?
Most of the time I just use an iPhone, so it’s easy to capture a shot when I’m just out and about. I have no formal photography training, but if I’m feeling really fancy, I’ll grab a little clip-on macro lens my husband gave me as a present to get up close and personal with the flowers. I love VanderVeer Botanical Center during all seasons because there’s always something new to see, and the rose garden is fantastic in the summer. The Stampe Lilac Garden at Duck Creek Park is a must-visit destination in the spring when the lilacs and peonies are in full bloom – bonus if it’s right after a light rain! But really, anywhere is fair game if there’s good light and interesting texture and color to be had.
Why do you do this? What interests you in this type of creativity?
I can’t garden to save my life, but I LOVE flowers. I love how they make me feel. I love their colors and shapes and textures and different fragrances. Capturing their essence is really a form of art therapy for me. I love the creative process; it’s cathartic but it definitely can’t be forced. Some days it’s bad light, and I can’t get my lens to focus where I want it to, and it’s a struggle. But on those days when everything is firing on all cylinders – the light, the focus, the composition – you feel a certain connection with the life energy of the moment. It’s very spiritual.
Tell us about your favorite photo – and why it’s your favorite.
That is an IMPOSSIBLE question! It’s like asking a parent to choose their favorite child. I love them all for different reasons. My favorite is the one that is making someone smile at any given moment. Sometimes that’s a singular photo, sometimes it’s a collection. I will say that some of the most satisfying photos for me are the ones where the bloom is fading, yet the definition is still exquisite. It’s like their life experience is what makes them so beautiful and interesting.
What kind of conversations does your photography prompt?
I think they help spark joy for people. The world can feel awfully heavy at times, so I’m glad that the flowers can bring a little bit of happiness into people’s lives.
Where do you see God in all of this?
What I love most about photographing flowers is seeing the whole life-cycle from birth to death. Every winter the flowers wither and die, and yet every spring they’re back. They’re resilient, even when faced with brutal conditions. I trust each year they will bloom again; it’s an analogy for having faith even when things seem darkest.