“A former Buddhist monk in post-war Vietnam, joSon creates intimate portraits of flowers as a modern meditation on seeing beauty in the everyday.” The Helen Crocker Russell Library and Gallery of Horticulture, San Francisco Botanical Garden
“Had Richard Avedon taken up gardening, he might have ended up with photos like this” --Sunset Magazine wrote in a review of joSon show at the SF Botanical Garden.
“joSon’s work is elegant, minima and has a velvety feel that the ink brings to the eye. There is a surreal quality in the translation of the photo to the paper. His images capture the essence of the flower while making a statement about the power of nature.” --Mariangela Capuzzo, Curatorial Director, International Corporate Art, Miami
joSon’s minimalist floral portraits, each one a vivid individual bloom photographed on a macro scale against a stark black or white background, allow viewers to focus their attention fully on the detailed nuances of natural form and color. By isolating ordinary flowers from their natural setting, joSon asks the viewer to stop, look and experience something intimate of nature. “I call photography the art of seeing. Showing others how gorgeous and magical the seemingly ordinary, everyday things in the world are—that’s the journey the monks saw for me.”
Born in the Philippines to a Filipino-Chinese mother and an African-American father, joSon’s mixed race heritage was not greeted warmly there so he sought refuge with his grandmother amid the chaos and poverty of post-war Vietnam. Drawn to a spiritual path, joSon left at the age of ten to live in a humble Buddhist monastery and studied to be a monk for eight years.
While at the temple, joSon found himself drawing often and sketching better ways to arrange the flowers on the altars. Soon he was put in charge of the flower arranging and began to teach drawing classes to the younger monks. joSon also had a battered point-and-shoot camera that his mother had given him, and he slowly taught himself the fine art of photography. Recognizing his talent, joSon’s spiritual teachers eventually told him to leave the monastery and pursue an artistic career. “Your destiny lies outside these walls,” they insisted. “Perhaps even beyond these shores.”
joSon landed in California and began photographing flowers plucked from neighbors’ yards for a class assignment when he was a student at San Francisco's Academy of Art. Now a professional photographer based in San Francisco whose work is collected by an international list of clients and has appeared in magazines including Scientific American, Outside and Conde Nast Traveler, joSon never lost his enduring interest in flowers. Over 10 years, he took thousands of pictures of more than 100 species for his book.
Flowers, he says, provide us with a language for our feelings. “Flowers have always spoken the language of our senses. Time and again we struggle to find those images which can best express our innermost emotions, and yet it seems that the language we’ve learned to depend on fails us. A single flower can often fill in that void, conveying an illumination only the heart can understand.”