How Fashion Photographer Nick Knight Uses AI to Create Otherworldly Roses

By Rozalia Jovanovic

© Nick Knight, courtesy of the artist and Albion Barn

Fashion photographer Nick Knight is known for creating scenes of otherworldly wonder involving some of the biggest names in music and fashion—whether of Bjork and Alexander McQueen for the iconic 1997 cover of the musician’s album Homogenic to his ongoing collaboration with Kanye West, including the groundbreaking 2013 interactive video for West’s “Black Skinhead.” Now, Knight is turning his eye to something more personal, his own garden, where his subjects are roses. And they’re as strange and ethereal as anything else he’s ever shot.

© Nick Knight, courtesy of the artist and Albion Barn

For the series, called Roses from my Garden, which are in a show that opened this past weekend at Waddesdon Manor in the UK, Knight’s process combines the natural with the unnatural. He selected the roses from his garden and illuminated them with nothing but natural light.

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Taking inspiration from still life painters of the 16th and 17th centuries like Jan Brueghel the Elder and Jan van Huysum, Knight shoots the blooms with his iPhone. He then enlarges the digital images, filters them through software that employs Artificial Intelligence to fill in the space between the pixels, which gives the photographs their painterly look.

© Nick Knight, courtesy of the artist and Albion Barn

“It’s an ongoing process of balancing and finding shapes that repeat each other,” said Knight in a video created for the series, which you can view below. “Finding colors that harmonize or don’t harmonize. But this is very solitary and for that rather meditative and actually very unusual. I find it very relaxing in a strange way.”

It’s not the first time he’s photographed blossoms. For his series, Flora, Knight spent three and a half years combing through the archives of London’s Natural History Museum herbarium where he selected 46 from over six million specimens. While his 1997 book of the images is out of print, the images went up for sale via Paddle8 in 2012.

© Nick Knight, courtesy of the artist and Albion Barn

The flowers also connect to Waddesdon Manor, which was built by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild in the 19th century and houses in its collection Sevres porcelain, Dutch paintings and a beloved Victorian garden that has been tended to and developed by the Rothschild family over four generations.

© Nick Knight, courtesy of the artist and Albion Barn

If you can get to the exhibition, it is open with pre-booked ticketing. But if you can’t make it, enjoy this selection of images and the video below.

Nick Knight: Roses from my Garden is on through October 25, 2020 at Waddesdon Manor. It is open Wednesday through Sunday 11am-5pm. Visitors must pre-book tickets online.

All images © Nick Knight, courtesy of the artist and Albion Barn.