Friday, October 1, 2010

The flowers of the moon

Lobelia wollastonii; photo from Sebastian Schutyser’s Flowers of the moon

Sebastian Schutyser is a Belgian photographer who’s work has a wonderful sense of mystery.  The collection (and book) Flowers of the moon are from visits to the Rwenzori Mountains on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a location that in ancient times was called Montes Lunae, the Mountains of the Moon.

The combination of an equatorial location and high altitude have remarkable effects on the plants that grow there.  As Sebastian Schutyser explains:

As the altitude increases, temperatures drop. The air also grows thinner, provoking intense radiation, even on clouded days. During the day the incoming radiation of ultraviolet and infrared light is fierce, while at night the outward radiation under a clear sky has a considerable cooling effect. The equatorial location dictates marked diurnal variations in temperature, whereas the seasonal differences are less important. As if it were summer every day, and winter every night.

These particular conditons have provoked an extravagant vegetation. While some plants seek refuge from the harsh conditions in miniaturism, others have taken to gigantism. The unlimited availability of water and sunlight have enabled them to grow unusually large.

Gigantic flowers, deep mosses, clouds and mist around knotted branches; the images from the book don’t just document these wild plant variations and landscapes.  The textures in the dramatic black-and-white photographs create a feeling of mythology, as if these are actually fantasies rather than living organisms.  This is the feeling that they must have given Europeans like Henry Stanley when they first visited these mountains.

This book would make phenomenal inspiration and source of props for any “lost world” game.  Or a space opera: dare I say there is something about this that almost suggests Lost In Space?

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