Behind Dan Tobin Smith's sculptured flora

This weekend the London photographer opens his latest show Still Life With Flowers just in time for the Chelsea Fringe

05_Still_Life_Final
Still Life No. 5, 2013 Dan Tobin Smith

London-based photographer Dan Tobin Smith deals in hyper-spatialised, meticulously constructed shots that float between ultility and beauty. Dior, Jay Z, Nike and Alexander McQueen have all received the DTS-touch over the past decade, making him a firm favourite on the scene. His latest exhibition Still Life With Flowers, which goes on show at The Storeroom from May 17 – June 17, is set to coincide strategically with this year's alt-flower show, Chelsea Fringe. Inspired by classical Dutch still lifes and Hugo Haring's critique of modern architechtural pioneer Hugo Haring, Dan's steel/floral meldings make for a stunning architechtural take on floral still life. We caught up with Dan to talk about his latest creations and how strategic shooting made the appear larger than life.

How would you characterise your signature photography style? Do you have a conscious technique that you like to adhere to?

Dan Tobin Smith: My images are quite constructed, one way or the other. Either by design or editing. A lot of the time the design is worked out well in advance or the materials we will work with are chosen before the shoot so we have limited options which helps refine things. If I shoot something for which the outcome is unknown, like some kind of movement, for example, then you can design by editing, shooting enough to be able to create the image you want.

How would you say that translates into Still Life With Flowers?

Dan Tobin Smith: I constructed the steel pieces from the forms I drew from the original paintings, so I suppose in that way in translates. The flowers were then placed in reference to where they appeared on the original paintings. I also like the architectural quality of the steel and it was photographed to appear almost like a building, choosing a low angle so it seems larger than it is. There is the architecture of the image itself, the lines criss-crossing and the shapes they create on the print. Ultimately those forms were derived from the paintings and sometimes they created nicer shapes in the final images.

What made you search for inspiration in classical art? 

Dan Tobin Smith: They are classically, aesthetically and technically beautiful and thats a good starting point to try and reduce form from. I knew the paintings and the subject being flowers tied in with the Chelsea Fringe, that was really the only reason.

You've said the creations are like an 'ideal of nature' – can you explain this a little more?

Dan Tobin Smith: The original paintings show flowers as an ideal of nature, different virtues represented by different flowers, but the paintings were often constructed over long periods so plants from different seasons could be included together. The flowers were also often heavily bred so quite far removed from their natural ancestor. I thought it was interesting how these paintings became more and more constructed the more you looked into them and less and less natural, maybe this wasn’t a problem back then as it was an idea they were representing and the beauty did the talking.

You've also mentioned Hugo Haring's critique of Le Corbusier – what drew you to that?

Dan Tobin Smith: His comment about finding form in nature rather than relying on geometry made me want to find form in an ideal of nature, something very constructed like these still life paintings were. As they are so refined aesthetically I just thought it would be an interesting process to take form from something that is an ideal of nature created by people but not natural itself.

More Photography