Book Review: Ralph Nelson’s Botanica
Ralph Nelson’s new book Botanica is the perfect answer to a question that I’m often asked: What’s the best camera? The answer is and always was, “the one that you have with you.” If you are not familiar with Ralph’s work, chances are that you have seen his photographs and not even known it. That image of Sharon Stone from Basic Instinct, that photograph of Tom Cruise from Top Gun, and more recently the Rockwellesque images made on the set of The Blind Side. He is in short: The movie still photographer’s still photographer. You can see more of his work for motion pictures and some personal images at his website www.ralphnelson.com.
Here, in Botanica, you will see a different kind of Ralph Nelson, a poet with a camera but in this case the images were made using several different iPhones. But even more importantly than the tool used is the fact that all of the images were made just a few blocks from where Nelson lives, putting the lie to that other great photographic axiom that you have to go to exotic locations to make great pictures. The incredibly dramatic and beautifully executed images in Botanica prove that you can make stunning images “right in your own back yard.”
Botanica is a collection of more than 78 photographs that are beautifully presented in lustrous color in a 162-page, 11 x 13-inch hardcover coffee table book with an introduction by Ray Bradbury. Reproduction of these images is flawless and it’s printed on the highest quality paper to fully represent Nelson’s vision. On pages opposite each of the photographs you will find quotes inspired by the images from sources as diverse as Robert Browning and Mother Theresa, which gives some insight into the kind of Renaissance Man that Ralph Nelson really is. But it’s the photographs that Botanica is all about and it would be a shame if all you did was place it on your coffee table to impress people with your good taste. Nope, this book should be picked up from time to time and re-read cover-to-cover to re-energize your creativity by watching the results of a master at work with a simple camera and the goal of making photographs close to home.
Botanica is more than a book of beautifully crafted images of flowers, much more more. It’s a personal statement by a photographer who’s at the top of his game and will cause you to reexamine what you think of when someone says “flower pictures.” Botanica is Ralph Nelson’s personal statement about life and one’s creativity and how they blend together producing a lasting legacy.