Jennifer Wannen

Living Close In

I’ve been in a macro phase recently—largely because of a new lens I bought a couple of months ago (an incomparable kind of giddy, I tell you.) But spring is also the time of year when the biggest action is inherently miniature. 

In late March I did a retreat in Northern Wisconsin. Part of me had hoped for a few spring shoots—or at least more passable trails. Initially, I resisted being slowed down by the snow, but once I committed myself to macro work, I found my flow. 

Without any signs of new life, I took to photographing the makeup of shrines, angles of statues—and as many remnants of field flowers as I could find. These husks and balls were all that was left of the previous year’s blooms—the shells of milkweed and dark centers of black-eyed Susans and coneflowers. 

But a few smaller flowers stood wholly preserved in their original shape, albeit dried and stiffened. I titled one “Irrepressible Beauty” as tribute to this small flower’s resilience. No more than an inch and a half across, its delicate petals had endured months of the northern winter’s ravages but nonetheless remained intact. A hard-won grandeur indeed…

Now it’s mid-May, and everything is quickly burgeoning. Although a month ago we were blanketed with twenty inches of snow, now some trees show nearly full foliage. Spring happens (and passes) in the blink of an eye here. Each day I’ve gone out to capture buds and blossoms in their quick progressive states—emerging, growing, open or unfurled. I’ve studied their brisk evolution from indistinguishable shoots to flourishing versions of their mature forms. 

From a distance, spring’s renewal can feel bleak and protracted, particularly after a long winter. On the macro level, however, it’s an entirely different view. A bud that seems a barely discernible nub at first glance reveals itself through the lens as an elaborate world of layer and color—a vision of unanticipated nuance and texture as waves of petal or leafing burst forth from their miniature encasements. 

Macro photography is certainly a physical discipline (“For God’s sakes, don’t breathe and throw off the shot.”), but it’s also illuminated my typical fields of vision. An homage to intricacy, macro work commits me to witnessing the unsung subtleties of this world. It’s a reminder to live “close in” each day—to not only apprehend overlooked beauty but to give gratitude for finer blessings and offer whatever humble gift I can to each moment. Not all that’s grand in this life is meant to burst into largeness. 

All images © 2016-2020 Jennifer Wannen. All rights reserved.

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