The photographer Karl Blossfeldt, born in Schielo in the Harz on June 13, 1865, served an apprenticeship as a sculptor and modeler during the years 1881-84 and thereafter completed studies in painting and music in Berlin. In 1890-96, he was an assistant to the art teacher and theoretician Moritz Meurer, who created a large collection of instructional materials from natural models. Blossfeldt traveled with colleagues to Southern Europe and North Africa, where he took his first pictures of the flora typical for those regions with a plate camera he had built himself. At this time he began with a systematic documentation of the most diverse plants. In total, over 6,000 photographs from the world of plants were created.
At the end of the 1890’s, Blossfeldt was hired to teach at the school of the Royal Museum of Arts and Crafts in Berlin. For over 30 years he was an assistant professor and later professor of plant drawing and modeling. Blossfeldt’s pictures helped him explain to his students that "nature educates us into beauty and inwardness and is a source of the most noble pleasure". Blossfeldt’s plant photographs are characterized by the strict picture construction, the use of a neutral, light background and illumination with diffuse light in order to avoid shadows.
Blossfeldt showed plants or parts of them, highly enlarged. In this way, he reduced them to their essence, in order to highlight their structure, their beauty and their uniqueness. Blossfeldt subscribed to this completely new systematic concept steadily for many years thereafter.
A gallery owner discovered the modernness of his work and in 1926 helped him land an exhibit in Berlin. Two years later, the volume of photos "Urformen der Kunst" (Archetypes of Art) was published.
The book received high praise in the international art world, and the 63-year-old Blossfeldt became the trailblazer for a modern, new movement in photography. From then on, his pictures were seen in all important exhibits, and in 1932, a second photo book, "Wundergarten der Natur" ("Magical Garden of Nature"), appeared.
Karl Blossfeldt died in Berlin on December 9, 1932. He was one of the most important representatives of the New Objectivity.