Capturing the Orchid Show – Season Preview :: SRQ Magazine article by Dylan Campbell

Art orchid photography.

Brassia maculata, photo by Wade Collier.

The subject is placed in an immaculate studio space, framed by a black backdrop and painstakingly lit with professionally set up lighting. A digital camera pulls away, starting with wide shots before moving closer to bring small details to life. It may look like an art photoshoot, but it’s not. Because the subject is not a person or an inanimate object, but rather a plant – an orchid to be precise – and the purpose of the photo shoot is scientific, not just artistic. The work is that of Marie Selby Gardens Orchid Photographers, a critical team of volunteers who photograph the gardens’ famous collection of rare orchids for research purposes. “They view each plant as a unique subject for a portrait,” says Greg Luberecki, vice president of strategic communications at Selby Gardens. “We realized that it was in competition with art photography. It’s done for scientific purposes, but the photographers bring an artistic sensibility in addition to their technical expertise. These are more than pretty pictures of plants, they are beautiful pictures of living beings. This realization is what prompted the team at Selby Gardens to focus this fall on the annual orchid show, subtitled Capturing the Perfect Show, on the scientific photography of their orchid collection.

DICHAEA MURICATOIDES, PHOTO BY WADE COLLIER.

“What we try to do is showcase the orchids in our living collection as well as our research collection in a creative way each year,” says Luberecki. “The show will feature scientific photography in the Downtown Campus Tropical Conservatory and Botanical Arts Museum, as well as specimens from the living collection.” Although this year the photograph of the Gardens orchid collection has a dual purpose, historically it has been undertaken for research purposes by a team of dedicated volunteers. “As a research institution, we document plants in our living collection to have a permanent record and also to capture rare and fleeting moments – a certain plant can only bloom once. For our scientists, it can be important to capture this because it happens in real time,” says Luberecki. This photographic element is essential to the research of the Selby Gardens botanical team. “Our scientists can use these photos to capture rare blooms, magnifying from tiny details that you might not be able to see with the naked eye. The scientific photography also highlights the global importance of the collection – sharing photos is a much easier and safer way to disseminate the information gained through the study of orchids,” says Luberecki.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, selby.org.

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