Brigitte Carnochan, Emily’s garden
Brigitte Carnochan new photographs are inspired by the poems of Emily Dickinson. Brigitte Carnochan and Emily Dickinson share a passion for flowers that inspire both their mediums. Carnochan’s career has centered around the sensuality and beauty of botanicals and nudes, and in this new work, she circles back to her original subject matter of nearly four decades ago when she began by painting on her gelatin silver floral images with oil paints.
“My first photographs were of flowers and I suspect my last will be as well,” the photographer says. “I have been drawn to gardens and to flowers, their exotic geometry and sensuous rigor, as long as I can remember. It is a rare day that there are no fresh flowers on my breakfast table. I share these feelings with Emily Dickinson, also a devoted gardener and lover of flowers, who often sent bouquets from her garden, accompanied by her poems, to friends and acquaintances.”
Having been drawn increasingly over the years to the narrative possibilities in photographs, Carnochan incorporates in this series lines of poems in Dickinson’s own handwriting, inconspicuously or half hidden. The resulting images are printed with the 19th century platinum palladium photo process onto handmade Japanese gampi paper that she delicately backs with gold leaf, giving the images the look and feel of 19th century daguerreotypes, with which Dickinson would have been familiar.
Dickinson’s poems are widely admired and her life mythologized. Given that her poetry is unusual in its structure and handling of language—sometimes even opaque—what is it that attracts such interest and devotion? Much is owing to the richness and mystery of her imagery, especially those flowers that become the vivid metaphors for her thoughts on every subject.
“Dickinson’s poems first captured my imagination in high school—and her grip has never let go. I’m not alone. Her poems are widely admired and her life mythologized. Thousands of books include her poems or analyze them, and recent films star Cynthia Nixon as the talented, reclusive, poet in A Quiet Passion and Molly Shannon as Emily obsessed and in love with her sister-in-law Susan in the comedy, Wild Nights with Emily. A new Apple web series, also a comedy, looks at Emily’s early years and her fight to get her voice heard.”
Her poems were gardens in which she planted the flowers of her imagination. She used the 19th century “language of flowers,” in which an emotion or quality was commonly ascribed to a particular flower, but went beyond it to create visual bouquets of her own meaning. She makes herself the flower in her garden of the poem.