Anna Laurent is an award-winning flora-focused photographer and author. Her first book, Botanical Art from the Golden Age of Scientific Discovery, published by University of Chicago Press in 2016, explores 19th century educational classroom boards. The culmination of three years’ research in international archives, the book’s chapters are prefaced with taxonomic summaries and feature a selection of species within the family, authored by various scientists. Each is enhanced by text discussing their respective political, scientific, and cultural contexts. In 2017 she was awarded the bronze medal from IGPOTY10, an annual international photography competition sponsored by the Royal Botanic Garden at Kew. Six prints from the Dispersal series will accompany an exhibition that will travel from London to Amsterdam, Italy, Gibraltar, Sydney, and New York City. She was also awarded a silver-gilt medal by the Royal Horticultural Society for a selection of works juried for the 2017 Chelsea Flower Show; and hung the first ‘Dispersal’ exhibition in London, in a show at the Fitzrovia Gallery titled ‘The Fall’. Her photography has exhibited across the United States including at Harvard University, University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley, and the Los Angeles Natural History Museum, as well as in Dubai. Her work has been featured in the Boston Globe, Print Magazine, Garden Design Magazine, Harvard Magazine and HYMN. Laurent’s current projects include a book of images and written profiles from the ‘Dispersal’ series, as well as collaborations with the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew for a new photographic project focusing on conservation and endangered species. A full catalogue of the Dispersal project is here.
Laurent’s work is a unique insight into the natural world. In her series ‘Dispersal’, she explores the myriad forms through which plants reproduce. To the uninitiated, Laurent’s close-up photographs of fruits and seeds could easily be mistaken for works of abstract art or images of contemporary sculpture. In fact, each portrait captures an oft-overlooked phase in a plant’s life cycle: the poignant moment between the death of the blossom, and the germination of a new generation. The works illustrate the staggering diversity of textures, colors, and forms that have evolved to nurture and disperse a plant’s seeds. Drawing on the botanical heritage of fine-art illustration and photography, Laurent’s work serves as a stunning reminder of the diversity, beauty, and fragility of the natural world, where form follows function, and the forms are breathtaking. She collects all specimens at partnering botanic gardens or arboreta, or in the wild.
Born in Boston, USA, Laurent studied at Harvard University and Massachusetts College of Art. In 2008 she moved to Los Angeles, where the botanical diversity of Southern California inspired her to undertake a series of flora-focused projects. Intrigued about lesser-known botanic forms and the unsung phases of plant life, Laurent began collecting seed pods — from the innocuous to the bombastic, the specimens were curious forms and harbingers of new life. Before long, her naturalist expeditions through Southern California’s canyons, deserts, and oceans had expanded to Kurdistan, Hawaii, Berlin, and elsewhere. ‘Dispersal’ represents a collection of over 200 species of seed pods; the project invites viewers to consider how a plant’s native ecology — including climate, adaptive pressures, and companion organisms — creates a dialogue from which its fruits evolve. In its final form, the ‘Dispersal’ project includes a written profile that explains how the textures, colors, and weights of the seed pod assist the plant’s propagation, by protecting its seeds from predators, harnessing the wind for dispersal.
Laurent’s flora-focused writing has developed in unison with her photography. ‘Dispersal’ (then titled ‘Botany Blueprint’) began as a column in Print magazine and salon.com. As contributing editor at Garden Design magazine, she wrote two columns about superlative plant anatomy and behaviors, and about botanic art. In 2016, her first book on the subject was published, The Botanical Wallchart: Art from the golden age of scientific discovery (Octopus / University of Chicago Press). The large-format book includes documents and research conducted in Prague, Berlin, London, Cambridge, and elsewhere. Organized by plant family and using nineteenth-century educational posters as informative illustrations, the book emulates a Victorian classroom while providing biographies of renowned illustrators and scientists.