Messler, Norbert, Artforum International
When photographed by Thomas Struth, sunflowers, yarrow, mallow, lilies, and delphinium express something very strange. In lieu of traditional interpretations of the flower--the rose as equivalent to love or the blood of Christ, the tulip as symbol of inflexibility, and the violet as evocative of youth and modesty--Struth's flower photographs realistically capture the generative growth cycle of a plant. Unlike Robert Mapplethorpe's photographs of flowers, these are never sexualized, rather, they seem undisturbed, peaceful, modest. Wherein, then, lies their attraction?
One could speculate that it lies in their therapeutic value, since they were all commissioned by a hospital in Winterthur, Switzerland for 32 patient rooms. Struth decided to photograph landscapes or flowers and plants that function as a unity. Oddly enough, except for those of the flowers and plants, his photographs were very popular with the patients. Therefore, their appeal cannot be mainly therapeutic. On the contrary, it stems from the photograph itself: primarily from its form and style, rhythm, and composition, all of which transcend simple ideological, sociological, or philosophical interpretations. …