Equipped with a Leica Q, Grant Simon Rogers explores the surroundings where he lives in Berlin. Coming from a family of gardeners, he has a deep connection to plants. However, he currently lives in a third floor apartment and has no access to a garden. For his portraits of plants, he has chosen picture titles that would also work as film titles. Using ingenious lighting, he stages the plants in a dramatic manner.

What are you showing with your Terra Incognita series?
These flora portraits are my delight and an ongoing urban botanical exploration of my home, Berlin. Parks and gardens are quite literally “A Garden for the Gardenless” (Sir Sidney Waterlow). They are curated collections, museums without walls, and play a huge role in our local biodiversity. Plants need light to survive. Photographers need light to make pictures. I need to make pictures to feel that I am living.

How did the idea for your series come about?
It came about slowly, and for the most part retrospectively. As a body of work it has developed as I have gone along. When I talk to students, we often discuss that a body of work doesn’t have to be “A Project”; it’s amazing how liberating this thought process can be. I think it’s an act of total generosity to make and share work in the public realm, and “Project” somehow diminishes this for me. I was never worried about what was going to happen, because I understand the creative process enough to know that something would happen. It would evolve as I lived the experience. Before I went outside with my camera, I photographed every inch of my London home and called all the pictures Hic Habitat Felicitas (here lives happiness). There was a personal reason for that title which still holds true. I knew that over time, and if I put the work in, something positive would happen. I shared the picture on Flickr where it was immediately blogged on the art page This Is Colossal. That was the starting point and I’m still working on it to this day.

Where did you shoot the pictures?
I make my pictures in the shared green spaces, parks, gardens of the cities that have been my home. London and now Berlin. I am passionate about the benefits of these green spaces for our physical and emotional health. Every park has a history. In Berlin this history can be dark and relate to a brutal history. Nearly all of the trees in Berlin are the same age, as Berlin was deforested for fuel in 1946/47. Trees and plants are in all of our childhood stories. Fairy tales and the backdrop for atrocity. Plants provide artists with pigment, charcoal, paper. Flora are our medicines, our food stuff, our shelter.

Where does your inspiration come from?
The act of making the pictures has become meditative. I don’t make many pictures and think into my pictures as if they are a roll of film. It’s the way I was taught. There is nothing to stop me making 1000 files if I desire, but that doesn’t work for me.

How do you decide whether or not to take a photo?
I have a few images in my fantasy portfolio that I would love to make, but most of them come through repeat observation. Some of the time I happen on a picture by accident when I’m looking for something else. With this in mind, I’ve taught myself to turn around and see what the light is doing behind me. I like quite small trees, as I can only illuminate so much with a small flash and I’m often restricted by architecture in the background; so I have to be content with looking up at a subject rather than stepping back. My pictures were once described as “Micro Landscapes”. I like that and I think of them as portraits of plants too.

Would you like to say something about your photographic technique?
I always share the camera data (settings) when I share a picture. It’s my way of suggesting to those who know how to read that sort of information, that this is how I make them. If I was trying to describe them in a non-technical way, I would say that I want them to look theatrical. To achieve this, I underexpose a picture during the daylight hours and relight it with a flash. It couldn’t be simpler.

The image titles are very elaborate: The Shape of Wind Through Leaves and the Squeaky Toy, A Christmas Themed Romantic Comedy or It was a Bright Cold Day in April are one lot, and The Clocks were Striking Thirteen is another.
I’m a story teller at heart and the titles I choose sum up the whole experience of making this/that picture. We are a sum of parts and all of our life experiences goes into making this one picture. This is our visual literacy as I understand it. How is it that a dozen photographers will stand alongside each other and make pictures of the same moment, and all of them will be different. Our visual literacy. Every picture we make tells us more about ourselves than the subject.

Is there something you would like to achieve with this project?
Green spaces have histories. I’m not an environmentalist, but I am a gardener of sorts. I love the fact that the more I look, the more I see; and to finish this thought off “Look at what I would have missed if I wasn’t looking”. That last sentence is of profound importance to me.

Born in Singapore in 1964, Grant Simon Rogers studied Illustration at Portsmouth College of Art from 1981-85, with Photography being a part of that course. After leaving art school he worked as an illustrator for mainly editorial publications, and in the film and TV business, making animations. He is also active in the field of teaching: he is a visiting lecturer for the Public Life Long Learning programmes for the National Gallery (NG), The National Portrait Gallery (NPG), The Wallace Collection, the Barbican Art Centre (Artist in Residence, Education), Central Saint Martins, the University of the Arts London and the Institute of Education University of Central London. For most of his adult life Rogers lived in London, relocating to Berlin in 2018. His work has been shown in galleries in London, Berlin, Surrey, Bath and Cambridge. Find out more about his photography on his website and Instagram page.

Leica Q

Full Frame. Compact. Uncompromising.