Flower Still Life Winners – Modern vs. Traditional?

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By Jill Brooke

Let’s have some fun and have you judge – or actually guess – which of these images by photographer Christina Wanjura you would have chosen for  FIRST PRIZE in the still life category contest for IGPOTY – the International Garden Photographer of the Year award.

Cristina Wanjura is actually “a medical doctor” who lives in Bavaria, Germany.

A hobby is now winning awards proving how your interests can grow into professional opportunities. 

“Since my childhood, I am interested in art and architecture,” she says. “I started photography during college and later did a lot of painting too. Now I am mixing both techniques to achieve special results in still life.”

IGPOTY head Judge Tyrone McGlinchey said that “Christina has taken the still life photography genre to new heights, combining her own art and photography to create an intriguing work, full of depth and meaning.”

She entered four photographs and here they. are:

1) “The Passage”

She calls this a “symbolic still life in the style of the great vanitas paintings of the 17th century. “In the foreground on the right, you can see the time that has run out symbolized by the watch and the empty, tipped-over wine glass – the symbols of death,” she says. “The boat in the background I painted is already on its way. On the left, I arranged earthly luxury items, which ultimately remain behind.”

2) “An Explosion of Colors”

A lover of gladiolus flowers, she “painted a matching background to create a highly original still life work.” “I used a combination of both natural and artificial light sources.”

3) “On Paper”

“I painted the background for the flower vases with oil pastels on paper which created the illusion of a room with a table for the beholder,” she says.

4) “Black, White and Red”

“This is a modern still life-arrangement defined by organic shapes,” she says. “The vase and the background, which almost merge into each other, are the perfect setting for these exotic red anthurium flowers, powerfully emerging from the abstract surrounding.”

5) “Vanitas”

In the traditional sense, vanitas means vanity but it can also stand for -that which 9is ephemeral,” she says. “It is from that I drew inspiration for this still life of Hyacinthus which is reminiscent of paintings from the 17th century, rich in symbols of transience.”

The winner was “The Passage.” I can see why the judges gravitated towards this one since flowers are symbols of the cycles of life from birth to death. What other entities aside from flowers are the messenger in our culture for both comfort and congratulations?

Image 2 won Highly Commended, Image 3 Commended, Image 4 – my favorite – was a Finalist and Image 5 won Commended.

Image 4 was clearly the most modern approach. Loved how she took simple anthuriums and elevated their importance by creating an interesting background. However, it wasn’t a statement about the cycles of life.

Perhaps you may be inspired to take pictures of flowers and enter these competitions. Beauty is all around if you look for it.

Cristina’s work not only received a cash prize but will have the honor of being featured at the flagship exhibition at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in 2021.


Jill Brooke is a former CNN correspondent, Post columnist and editor-in-chief of Avenue and Travel Savvy magazine. She is an author and the editorial director of FPD.

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