Meet the Photographer Capturing the Serenity of Europe’s Greenhouses

Since the last time we spoke to him in the midst of a photography series in Berlin Swiss fine art photographer Samuel Zeller has spent two years travelling around Europe photographing exotic plants through frosted greenhouse glass for a new book published by Hoxton Mini Press. Marking the 6th issue for Hoxton Mini Press’s ‘Tales from the City’ series, Botanical captures the serenity of botanical gardens in Paris, Geneva, Prague and more.

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“Nature protected from the elements inspire me. A painting is hidden behind each window. Flowers sitting on the metal frame, playing with each other on a single plane like on a canvas, leaves growing in the smallest asperity. I found in those gardens the quietude of a museum.”
- Samuel Zeller

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While Samuel originally trained in graphic and interior design, and has long been influenced by his parents who are both artists, Botanical is a more up-to-date version of the way in which he expresses his love of art through the medium of fine art photography. Botanical brings to us the essences of the rare and beautiful oases and heterotopias of modern city life.

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We had a chat with the photographer.

THE PLUS: Do you prefer life in the city or countryside?
Samuel Zeller:
Ideally I’d like to live in the countryside or in a smaller city than Geneva. As for now I’m still building my career and it’s better for me to be in a city with an airport and a train station in order to be able to travel easily for clients. I much prefer the tranquillity and nature, but I think we are all a bit stuck into a system that force us to live into huge cities to find good jobs. It’s not a very healthy thing.

TP: Which city did you enjoy the most on your travels for Botanical?
SZ:
I instantly fell in love with Ghent in Belgium, it has a stunning art deco architecture vibe and beautiful canals. It’s a mix between Amsterdam and Vienna, I could see myself living there. There’s a strong design culture and you can feel that when you observe the people living there.

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TP: How did you aim to capture the serenity in each greenhouse?
SZ:
Botanical gardens are places that are naturally filled with serenity, they are little havens of tranquillity inside the cities. I think that it was quite a normal process and that I just accentuated it by framing details. I never show a human presence, this also helps.

TP: Your subjects and portfolios are very varied – what was it like working in the more natural-domain?
SZ:
I try not to restrict myself too much, my work is revolving around architecture, man-made environments, editorial and fine art. The natural aspect of this project is contained into very geometric structures so it wasn’t that different from the usual type of images I produce. It would have been more difficult for me to do a project on forests for example. Nature is so full of variations and has a much more complex set of shapes, it’s therefore more difficult to compose and capture for me. Great images of nature are often made of intangible elements, the type of light, an atmosphere or the time of the year.

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TP: What was the most interesting thing you learned along the way in this project?
SZ:
That working in series and taking the time to do a long term project is very important in the personal and professional development of a photographer. We’re often mislead with social media into thinking that we should publish our images very often but it’s not really the best way to make long lasting projects. Slowing down is very important and good work always takes time – not necessarily just time to execute it, but also time to reflect on it.

TP: What’s your next project going to be?
SZ:
I’m currently working on a new series that should be finished in about a year. It will be revealed once it’s done. All I can say is that it’s also inspired by painting and very abstract.

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