What role does photography play within the project?
To tell the story of Mark’s two worlds, we coined ‘Plants Hold Secrets’ (for Mark’s forensic work) and ‘Plants Tell Stories’ (for all of Mark’s public-facing work such as TV and public speaking).
The imagery aspect of this project was a bit of a minefield. Thinking ahead with Mark’s website and promotional collateral in mind, we needed ways to show his different areas of work. On the one side you have the forensics, and clearly we couldn’t use any pictures of real forensics work at all. On the other side you have natural history archives, with their gamut of beautiful plant specimens and stunning botanical illustrations. As lovely as all this latter content is, it doesn’t sit very well with the forensics…it’s just too pretty!
To think through how to approach ‘Plants Hold Secrets / Plants Tell Stories’ visually, we would go for walks observing the world through a botanical lens. We started seeing what we take as ordinary in quite an extraordinary light – like how nettles and brambles can help to tell how long a crime scene has been left undisturbed, or how a plant might have an amazing story of how it arrived from a different part of the world to where you encounter it. Our photographic approach stemmed from this thinking.
We commissioned Robin Friend to join us with Mark on a walk; Robin has done some beautiful landscape work in the British countryside and we thought he’d be perfect for the job. We approached the day as if we were simulating a forensics investigation. For 'Plants Hold Secrets' we photographed plants that are often useful in forensic investigations, and for 'Plants Tell Stories' we photographed plants that are non-indigenous to the UK.
We didn’t feel the need to make the plants pretty in any way, this was about bringing people closer into Mark’s worlds, finding plants with extraordinary stories and secrets in their natural settings.