Did you know that pink roses are an invitation to ‘meet the giver in the moonlight?’ And that red roses symbolise eternal love and fidelity. But if you combine them with white roses, they represent love in solidarity. And so on. The United Kingdom has also adopted different flowers historically as national emblems. England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are represented by the rose, shamrock, thistle and daffodil respectively. William Shakespeare, Sylvia Plath, Mother's Day, funerals, the song by Travis, or the arrangements placed along the scenes of the film The Favourite by Yorgos Lanthimos. So many occasions and references to highlight part of the beauty of the English countryside and its cultural traditions. Giving flowers is part of the history of these islands, and now, artists like Joe Horner are taking these mesmerising elements of nature to a whole new level.
Born and raised in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, Horner always wanted to reside in God's Own Country. He always had a passion for photography. You could say it's in his blood, as his grandfather was a photographer and printer in World War II and his family are now third-generation printers in a terraced house on Knaresborough's high street. Joe Horner is a very versatile photographer, but lately, he has been flooding the web with his beautiful floral art compositions.

His flower blocks are made with ice and very good lighting skills. He has also gone a step further and taken his floral art pieces into the NFT world and has recently exhibited his work at SuperRare Gallery in New York. He has also participated in NFT collections at Foundation and Saatchi Art NFT. Horner won the British Portrait Award for his photograph Walking Off That Edge. It seems that flower gazing meditation is a method of anchoring oneself in the present and connecting with essential life energy and love. Seeing the state of the world, here's an idea: take a few minutes to read what Horner has recently told us about his work, and rejoice in your inner breath by looking at his magnificent floral art.
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Hi Joe! It’s so nice to talk to you. How are you?
Hello! Doing good, thank you. I’ve just been out with the dog for a walk and to get some wildflowers.
How have you coped with this unexpected and sudden hot weather this past summer in England?
We actually brought a kids' paddling pool and laid in the sun for the 2 days. It was too hot to do anything!
Do you remember the first pictures you took? And the first photos you saw that made an impact on you?
My first photo was with a camera my mum bought for me when I was 9. It was a pair of glasses with a camera on them. I still have some of the photos. One was of my brother in a bucket hat in Benidorm. The first photos that made an impact on me were my grandad’s. They were mainly old wedding photos and aerial shots he had taken of cities in the United Kingdom during the war.
Your grandfather was a photographer and printer in World War II, this seems to have a very special connection with photography for you. What have you learned through his photography and experience as a photographer?
Sadly, I only knew my grandad as a very young child. But he and my family have always instilled in me to think differently about how to approach everything as a person. Not to just go with the norm.
Walking Off That Edge is the title of one of your photographs, a very special one since it made you win the British Portrait Award in 2019. Can you tell us a bit about the story of this photograph and where was it taken?
It was a time when I was doing test shoots for modelling companies and trying to find my style. I had taken Ryan, the subject, out to the Sheffield Peak District for the first time and he just couldn’t get enough of looking over the edge - I just thought I looked great as an image.
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How much of your upbringing and the place you grew up has influenced your work?
I grew up in a small market town in the UK which as a child, meant we were given huge freedom to explore and be a bit wild. It’s also helped me grow a fondness for nature.
When did you decide to start taking photographs of floral blocks?
About 3-4 years ago. I had been playing around with a number of ideas and I would write everything down that I thought could be a cool idea. One of them said ‘freeze flowers!’ I became obsessed with seeing how the flowers would react to the cold and it went from there really. I am definitely the cat that would be killed by curiosity.
From what I can gather you use mirrors, water, ice and other elements… Most of your floral photographs (I want to say all of them) are taken in the daylight using natural light. How important is that for you?
In pretty much all of my floral work, I use natural light. I want to keep all of the elements connected to each other. Adding studio lights or flashes somehow just doesn’t feel right.
The sky has a special role in your floral work. When it’s sunny, England's sky has the most beautiful tone of blue you can see. Does the weather affect your work schedule?
The weather is a massive part of my work. I have had to keep work frozen for weeks just so that I can get the right weather or it doesn’t look right.
Flowers are quite important in British culture; not only they are a symbol present in literature and arts but the knowledge about the different types and how to grow them is widespread. Of course, so many people have gardens in their houses, but flowers are also very present when it comes to being affectionate or gifts and congratulate somebody. What is your relationship with them?
My mum is an avid gardener and was raised to see the importance of them. To me, flowers are one of the greatest forms of art that we need in the world.
NFTs are quite a controversial theme in the contemporary art world. For some, it’s perfect because it takes digital art to a whole new and more accessible level, for others, it’s critical as it mainly benefits the aesthetic part. It is quite interesting to see how you are taking your floral pieces to NFT format as it kind of widens the cycle of a flower’s life, even more. How did you decide to make NFTs? Do you create some pieces, especially for this format?
I got involved with it all on a whim in the middle of the pandemic and it worked for me. It allowed me to connect with many creatives all over the world. I found the space that I’d joined was just more artists looking to connect and make an income doing what they love. I loved the juxtaposition of my subject and the use of NFTs. Flowers have a purpose with a beginning and end. Just as the work once finished will melt away and without the capturing of the pieces using photography, the work may have never been seen. At the start, I already had a body of work, but through time I have made pieces especially for that format.
Are you interested in augmented reality or other new formats for future works?
I am yet to dip a toe into it, but it is definitely something I would love to look at. At the moment I have been having a dabble in artificial intelligence art. It’s so fascinating and slightly creepy.
What are the photographers whose work you admire the most?
My grandad, of course, though I find I spend more time admiring artists than photographers. I am a big fan of Martin Parr and William Eggleston.
You also do some other types of photography, such as commercials, weddings, fashion and portraits. Any unforgettable experience you’ve had since you began working?
Nothing too crazy I can think of. I have seen a couple of fights kick off on a job and once a bride’s dress set on fire!
What are your future plans professionally? Any exhibition coming up?
Got a few great commissions in the works and a couple of exhibitions planned. I just take each day as it comes. I have just had a piece in the Permanent Impermanence at the SuperRare Gallery in Soho, New York.
What are your thoughts on using smartphones for professional photography?
Love it. I think if you can, go for it. As long as the quality is good enough, I think it’s more about the person's eye – not the equipment.
As a photographer, do you think having a good camera is defining to develop your own style, or is it more of a question of talent, timing and use of light?
The equipment can only take you so far, it’s all about the person.
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