+October 20, 2020
Photosynthesis is the complex chemical process in which a plant transforms light into chemical energy - but Catherine Losing’s/ (@catherinelosing) Pornosynthesis is a far more seductive and spectacular transformation of artificial lighting to create an intriguing and alluring ode to plant sex and pollination. Exploring the sensual and sexual side of flowers, Pornosynthesis features a variety of alluringly glazed and dripping close ups of flowers that exude sexuality and ooze with allure.
The process of pollination (and more importantly, plant sex) is paramount to human existence - without both processes, we would lack access to our most basic foods. As well as being an ode to plant sexuality and it’s beneficial outcomes, the aptly named Pornosynthesis recalls and harnesses the nostalgia that comes from retro glamour photographs, and it’s language of sultry low lighting. A far cry from the typical retro shots of pin up models, Losing’s lighting and sets invokes sensuality by creating a ‘seedy’ yet alluring atmosphere. The carefully controlled light hits the intricate flowers, and shimmers along the glossy and dewy liquids trickling from the stems. There’s a sense of a classic 70’s porn magazine, but in a sophisticated and less voyeuristic way - these plants, and their processes, are beautiful.
With retro glamour shots in mind, Losing employs stylised artificial lighting combined with the plant models to invoke sensuality and atmosphere. As a self-confessed control freak, Losing enjoys being in the studio and the control it allows over a project and its creation - lighting is everything when it comes to a project such as Pornosynthesis, which showcases a range of tonal and lighting arrangements. From bright and fun photographs of stamens to more alluring and moody shots that conjure thoughts of the red light district, Losing effortlessly combines a wide variety of photographs into a coherent and stunning project, purposefully balanced on the edge of seedy and seductive.
A collaboration between Losing and artist Robert Graves Morris, the flowers captured in Pornosynthesis are in fact intricate clay recreations of plant anatomy. Carefully researched by both artists, the tiny, complex structures are recreations of not just the blooms and petals (as usually represented in stereotypical flower photographs) but the reproductive elements which are often hidden, or ignored.
Pornosynthesis became a lot more than just an ode to plant reproduction - considering that bees play one of the most important parts in the pollination process, it was only fitting that this book become a true tribute to the bees and their close (almost sexual?) relationship to flowers. Playing on bees and their attraction to flowers, the project was expanded into a book, in collaboration with graphic designer Oreoluwa Ayoade, with all profits going towards Friends of the Earth’s The Bee Cause. The book, designed by Ayoade and Morris combined, is equipped with appropriate peep holes and sold in a ‘modesty bag’ to emphasise the private nature of the project content.
I got told on many occasions by various photographers and studios that they wouldn't hire me because I was a 'girl' and would obviously not be strong enough or they 'already have a girl'. Totally ridiculous.
Losing was raised by a single father, and from a young age encouraged to do whatever she liked, without being limited by her gender. After joining the industry, Losing arrived in London only to discover being in the studio then was akin to being transported back in time - “I got told on many occasions by various photographers and studios that they wouldn't hire me because I was a 'girl' and would obviously not be strong enough or they 'already have a girl'. Totally ridiculous.”
Although Losing believes things have improved in the last 10 years, there is still an incredibly long way for the industry to go in terms of diversity.
Photography is still very male, white and heavy on the rich kids.