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Nature Study No. 22

To listen to Mike Pucher talk about flowers is to witness an artist in awe of the natural world. Every prickly leaf fascinates him, every effort of those leaves to escape the manmade form. Every small part of the composition functions in relation to every other small part. This photograph is nothing less than a celebration of nature.

In working his way through the gardener’s encyclopedia, systematically, one after another, as Mike Pucher has done, is an act of intense artistic discipline. Pucher is declaring his priorities. First and foremost, he seeks to discover extraordinary composition in all its variegated forms. And only after that is he interested in the deeper meanings of the image and the resonance in the viewer’s life.

Early on in his nature studies, Pucher was interested in finding the most symmetrical and flawless flowers. In searching for botanical perfection, however, he quickly learned that he was searching for flowers that didn't exist. Environmental influences—wind and rain—have a much greater effect than he had ever realized. In time, what became more important than finding perfection was finding character, as he puts it. Perfection is overrated.

Pucher has always admired the nature photographs of Edward Weston, the renowned photographer from the first half of the 20th century who explored the trees and rocks around his home in Point Lobos. Weston maintained that he was often unconscious of many of the themes, symbols and meanings that viewers saw in his work. Pucher sees it in the same way. When you work with a photograph’s composition long and hard enough, he says, all sorts of wonderful things can bubble up from your unconscious and seep into the work, to be discovered only by the viewers.

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