Artist Peter Krohn creates luminescent still life photographs using a camera fraught with limitations.
It has a fixed focus, fixed light, depends on a plugged-in power source and can’t be moved. The most inexpensive camera today has more features and agility. But Krohn, nonetheless, makes stunning images of flowers, leaves, seed pods, fruits and other things that grow in his garden, using a common, clunky office scanner.
What comes off that flat glass surface are images that appear somewhere between photographs and realistic paintings, with crisp, deeply vivid colors and a kind of fine detail that even a high-quality digital SLR cannot pick up.
“Basically, this is my camera, and this camera has all kinds of disadvantages,” he says. “I can’t just take it out into the garden. I have to bring things to it. The images are created by imagining yourself inside looking up. It has a very shallow depth of field, so focus is gone in no time and the light is very soft.”
But he has made peace with the limitations of his machine for the art, which is natural images backlit in a way that is reminiscent of an old Flemish painting.
Krohn, a licensed marriage and family counselor, had long sought rest and relaxation in gardening, filling out much of his 2-acre property with fir, pine and redwoods trees, along with a massive wall of raspberries and beds of riotous salvia, peonies, zinnias, dahlias, love-in-the-mist and many other bloomers.
Multiple types of fruit trees, from Fuji and Pippins to Arkansas Black and Golden Delicious produce fixings for pies — he’s a former pie baking champion at the Gravenstein Apple Fair.
But it wasn’t until he was 70 that Krohn, who in his early life ran a successful design and ad agency in Montreal and Toronto, became determined to again exercise his creative side.
He consulted his wife about building a studio.
“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do then. But we built this space and gradually, maybe over a year and a half, I figured out what I wanted to do,” said Krohn seated at a worktable in his gleaming white art studio. Light streams in through three windows at his back and skylights above.
An enthusiastic photographer, Krohn for years had taken botanical close-ups. But was never quite satisfied with the result. And then he seized on the idea of playing with his scanner and found the results intriguing and “phenomenal” thus entering the emerging genre of scanography.
Through trial and error Krohn has developed tricks to manipulate the three dimensional botanical pieces on the scanners so that a certain petal, or side of a fruit, captures the light. He uses a tool used in soldering called “Extra Hands” that allows him to manipulate objects on the screen. He also has created a hanging structure with PVC pipe and fishing line to suspend flowers so light reaches just the corners he wants it to reach.
Krohn was born 80 years ago in Switzerland to Jewish intellectuals who fled Nazi Germany in the early 1930s. The made their way to Italy. But when Krohn was only 2 years old, Mussolini issued a decree that all foreign-born Jews had to leave. The Krohns — Peter’s father was a physician — secured last-minute visas to Canada. Krohn grew up in Montreal, never feeling like he quite fit in.