3 Questions Digital Series

Laurie Tennent

An interview from Art in Embassies 3 Questions Digital Series with Laurie Tennent, who speaks about her creative process and artwork.

Read more about the Artist

Full Transcript

I’m Laurie Tennant. I’m a photographer and a botanical artist. My work that was picked for Truman Hall, are tulips, two different versions of tulips, one from Holland, Michigan, and the other one from the local garden.

And these pieces are in the embassy, along with other Michigan artists that are represented there.

The tulip pictures that were picked for this exhibit one is Parrot Tulip, and it’s just kind of dancing. I love the flow of the leaves and the bold colors of red and yellow and the other is Tulips from Holland.

We have a big exhibit here in Michigan, in Holland with millions of tulips in the spring. And it actually came from a project they did there with their gardens. I think that the artwork can be such a bridge and it’s also a language where we can talk to each other.

It doesn’t have to be a different political opinion or political body. We can all look at artwork and bring our unique experiences to that presentation and share ideas about what our feelings are, where we come from, and how our traditions are represented in that artwork.

I just find that really important. So to be able to go abroad and have these images actually be in the embassy and in a way representing my country as an artist is really, really exciting for me.

Well, being in nature has always been really important for me.

I love to walk. I love to swim. And actually, my mother was a painter and an artist. And from very young, we were in the garden. And some of my earliest memories are in the garden picking flowers with her and then watching her paint them.

And I have a real interest in science and biology and gardening. And so to be able to photograph flowers, which is actually one of the most photographed subjects as a photographer and do something different, was a real challenge.

And bringing the images large like this just reminds people when you’re on a walk, you may just be walking for exercise in a hurry, or maybe you’re even looking at your phone. And my my hope is to get people to kind of take a breath and see this image, almost as if an insect would see it coming upon it. And to really notice, wow, I might have just walked over that blossom or even a dried flower or bloom really excites me that you can we can look at nature and appreciate it so much more. And I’m just really lucky that I get to capture what already exists.

It’s so beautiful and what a privilege to be able to capture that and share it with other people.

Whenever I photographed, I go to the gardens, or it’s flowers that I’ve grown and I bring those into the studio.

So everything is actually photographed in the studio. Photographically, it’s a very shallow depth of field, so whatever is in focus is lit and then everything else goes out of focus in the background. I think it makes the plant stand out a lot better for my compositions and does leave a little bit of mystery in.

Where did the rest of that plant go? Kind of like a sentence with four dots after it. So most of my blooms or branches, it’s only a section that I’m photographing. You know, they may be very small, like two inches in width, even maybe, you know, smaller than that.

And then I’m blowing them up on a massive scale. So you really get to see into the flowers and the petals. Oftentimes, like a poppy will look like crepe paper. And that could be from my lighting, whether I’m lighting it in the back or the front.

And really working with a lot of paint brushes, believe it or not, because pollen is like my worst enemy. It gets all over the place, especially with this black background. And so I have to be brushing things away and I may massage a leaf to go in a certain direction just to really give me kind of the front and the back of some of the leaves or the petals. So my subjects can come from my garden or they can come from a local garden. Or sometimes you people know now that I do this and people will send me flowers out of their garden and they’ll FedEx them in a box that, you know, it has, like they have cool boxes where that stuff will come and sometimes it’ll be from a florist, but very rarely.

The way I shoot is very scientific because it’s almost like I’m trying to make a catalog or a collection of documents.
It’s not so much about atmosphere or time of day because I’m creating that. I really like the images not to be perfect, so I’m not a big Photoshop person. If a plant is dying, that’s part of the cycle of life.

Or if the, you know, the plants are bending over. I play loud music while I’m shooting and I kind of call it dancing with plants. They either behave or they don’t. But, you know, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

It could take a half an hour to for me to photograph one or two days working with certain things. So I usually have some setups going around the studio to see how they age and progress because plants, once you cut them in all minor nothing is photographed on location will start to develop really interesting undulations and folds

and it’ll turn different colors and they just expose themselves to me in different ways.