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Floral Photographer Heather J. Kirk

Author: Roberta Landman
Issue: April, 2011, Page 122
Photos by Christiaan Blok

Photographer Heather J. Kirk takes a breather in the outdoor environs she loves. Her floral and plant-based photos are available on paper or canvas and, depending on the image, in sizes ranging from 7" x 10" to 30" x 60".
Heather J. Kirk uses her camera and computer to capture the beauty of Mother Nature

While most of us try to keep bouquets for as long as possible, Heather J. Kirk does just the opposite. As soon as she can, she starts taking an arrangement apart, pulling away the petals or cutting off stems—even if the flowers were gifts.

But the Scottsdale woman is not being ungracious. A photographer who specializes in turning flowers into art, she explains that her “subjects” have to be as fresh as possible when she aims her camera. As for dismantling their shapes, she states, “I’m taking them apart and rearranging them. I’m adding a design element.”

One can’t help but notice that many of Kirk’s photographic compositions have a painterly look. Smiling, she relates, “Even my family and friends say, ‘You’re painting.’ And I have quit trying to convince them.” The tools of her trade are her cameras and a computer program that allows her to manipulate her pictures of flowers into mood-evoking art.

Couldn’t anyone use such a computer program and do the same thing, the award-winning self-taught photographer is asked. Someone could try, but not all have the patience to see a project through to the extent she does, Kirk guesses. She has been known to labor 10 hours or more at her computer to bring a single photo to her idea of artistic perfection. Further, some degree of technical know-how is needed to blow up an image of a flower to 30" x 60" without the petals looking as if they have fuzzy edges. But even before sitting down at a computer, one must know how to light the photograph’s subject, she adds. “I am very secretive about my lighting.”

4 Daisies on Stems
Her blossoms are showcased on black, white or natural outdoor backgrounds, and printed on photography paper or canvas. In private and corporate collections, they have been featured in exhibits at several Phoenix-area venues, including Gammage Auditorium, Shemer Art Center & Museum, and Herberger Theater.

Kirk was not always a photographer. With a master’s degree in social work, she had worked as a drug- and violence-prevention specialist in elementary schools for 12 years before debilitating bouts of chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia forced her to stop working in 2000.

A latent interest in photography—she took courses in junior high—was sparked after going on a church-sponsored medical mission to India. “I was the team photographer, documenting what the doctors and nurses were doing,” she recalls. After that, she turned her career sights to something she could do at home at her own pace. Photography—dealing with flowers, especially—seemed a natural and satisfying choice. Having a talent for writing, she often combined her images with poetic messages.

While Kirk is attracted to the freshest of flowers and their bold colors, she says she likewise is moved by plants beyond a state of perfection. In a sepia-toned collection of photographs she titled Forgotten Landscapes, she lends importance to Joshua trees left standing after a fire, dried sunflowers that are standing alone in a fallow field, broken cattails in ponds fed by distant mountains, and more.

Fans of art photography, including interior designers, have been paying attention to Kirk’s camera artistry. “Her pieces are joyful,”  comments Karen C. Wirrig, FIFDA, a Phoenix interior designer. “Heather’s work is striking in several ways. She ‘poses’ some of her floral images in such a way that they evoke an entirely different image while still maintaining the natural integrity of the botanical.”

Interior designer Robert A. Lashua, also of Phoenix, remarks: “I’ve put her photographs in residences here and in California. I have used her orchids and Gerbera daisies on black backgrounds. Clients go nuts over them. I do consider her work art.”    

Kirk says that a goal of her “modified” floral photography is to let people see beauty that ordinarily might go unnoticed. “When picked apart, separated, denuded, examined from the underside—deconstructed, per se—the exposed petals and other particulars never falter in their integrity and beauty.”

Lent an artistic twist with Heather J. Kirk’s camera and computer-enhancement are, clockwise from top left: Cut Purple Roses on Black, Blue Agave, Daisy Blue and Single Rust Calla Lily Stem.
 
Her photography will be on display at Shemer Art Center & Museum in Phoenix from April 21 to May 25, 2011, with an artist reception from 7-9 p.m. April 21, 2011.
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