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“Sometimes you put things together to change their meanings, to get even more beauty,” says Thomas Koch about his project, Ferro Flowers. This was a collaborative effort between Thomas, Frederic Schlosser, and Bruno Damião. Their aim was to show what nature might look like in the coming years due to the effect of mankind’s actions on our planet.
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If only I’d paid more attention during chemistry class, I’d have known that ferrofluid could be used in such creative ways. This project shows how you can produce something unique and dazzling if you have a good concept and a capable team. The transformation these flowers have undergone is magnificent. It’s like each one of them was treated as a model undergoing a metamorphic makeup process for the camera.
The concept is beautiful, and the results are stunning. But the topic this team wants to draw awareness to is scarily becoming a reality. As humans, we have the ability and the ideas to change things for the better. Ferro Flowers shows us the possible eventuality of nature if we don’t intervene soon and change our ways. The images might not look dystopian to the eye, but we might be less than a couple of centuries away from this becoming commonplace. You and I won’t be around to see that, but do we want to be part of an era that was responsible for doing nothing about it?
The Essential Photo Gear Used for the Ferro Flowers Project
Frederic told us:
We’ve used continuous LED lighting such as small LED panels and a LED strip. With continuous lighting, it was much easier to get a good feeling for our set-up. An additional smoke machine (Scotty II) was used to try out some effects. We’ve ended up not really integrating it to be more crispy. We’ve used Capture One Pro to shoot directly in our Mac book pro and edited the images with Adobe Photoshop CC.
The Phoblographer: Hi Thomas, can you tell us a bit about how you all got into photography?
Thomas Koch: Frederic Schlosser is a photographer, the professional photographer in the group, and director born and raised in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. He started shooting 10 years ago and is always driven by his deep passion for cars and design. He is also one of the best photographers in Germany and has won many awards.
Bruno is an international award-winning creative, born in São Paulo (Brazil) and now based in Berlin, Germany. Graduated in advertising and cinema, he has been working in agencies such as Leo Burnett Germany, Isobar Brazil and DDB São Paulo (feat. Africa), recognized as one of the most awarded and creative agencies worldwide.
Thomas is an international award-winning german creative with a background in art, design and computer science. He was published in several national and international magazines, and in 2020 he was listed as one of the top 10 best Creative Directors worldwide in Lürzer’s Archive. Currently, he is residing in Berlin, Germany and works for international agencies like SYZYGY (including Hi-Res London and Ars Thanea), Ogilvy, Strichpunkt Design and Leo Burnett.
Bruno and Thomas will start at DDB Berlin on the 1st of September as a creative Team, leading international creatives for Volkswagen and other clients.
The Phoblographer: Where did you get the idea for Ferro Flowers? What was the inspiration for this unique series?
Thomas Koch: We all know human intervention is becoming more and more dangerous. We read it every day, right? So we decided to bring awareness for this cause. How? Simply through design. So with the combination of flowers as organic elements and the synthetic substances ferrofluid and ink, we envision how overpowering, dark and bizarre nature could look like in a very close future due to human intervention. So in a very experimental project, we developed our three motives: Gerbera, Rose and Sun Flower.
The Phoblographer: How much production was involved in transforming each flower before its photo was taken?
Thomas Koch: To be honest, we just had a very small shooting place and organized everything before. Before we put the flowers into the ferrofluid, we sprayed them very subtly with golden color to show even more the value of nature. We really tried to shoot it so perfectly that we just have to do smaller postproduction. At the end, we basically did some color correction and other smaller things. We just spent one day for post postproduction.
The Phoblographer: Shooting these couldn’t have been a straightforward process, given the chemical reactions and fire needed to bring about these results. What sort of precautions were needed to ensure everyone on site was safe during the shoot?
Thomas Koch: We just knew that Ferro Fluid is really hard to get rid of [from] clothes, skin and other surfaces, so we bought face shields, full bodysuits and latex gloves. And that was really necessary because some funny accidents happened. We filled syringes with ferrofluid and wanted to place it precisely on our surface, but once we pressed the syringe so hard that it splashed all over the place – it was a mess. After that, we left out the syringes.
The Phoblographer: I’ve mostly seen flowers used as props in studio shoots: never as a stylised, main subject. Was there any discussion among your team to include humans as part of the series as well? Why or why not?
Thomas Koch: We wanted to bring awareness for human intervention. So using beautiful destroyed/dark flowers submerged in ferrofluid would be best for our goal. In addition to that, we just had a really small studio, also tried to keep the costs very low and wanted to keep it very clean and simple as well.
The Phoblographer: Why the sunflower, gerbera, and rose over other flower varieties? What was the reasoning behind these choices?
Thomas Koch: To be honest, we tried a few flowers, but these three are the best.
The Phoblographer: Aren’t flowers better appreciated visually in brighter light? Tell us why you chose to photograph this series in darker conditions.
Thomas Koch: It could be but with the combination of flowers as organic elements and the synthetic substances ferrofluid and ink, we envision how overpowering, dark and bizarre nature could look like in a very close future due to human intervention. So a dark motive made sense and is also more unseen.
The Phoblographer: I would never have imagined flowers could be presented so uniquely. What were some of the reactions you received from this series?
Thomas Koch: Thank you very much; we really appreciate that. First of all, we received very good feedback from friends, colleagues and professionals we admire. Then, our Ferro Flowers project was selected for the Desktopography 2020 Exhibition (maybe we can explain what it is). And the recognition didn’t stop there. We had some features on Behance, and other blogs worldwide – like Adobe – and Xiaomi wanted to buy the pictures for their new flagship phones.
The Phoblographer: Were there any unexpected incidents (or accidents) with the ferro fluid during the shoot?
Thomas Koch: Yes, without the face shield, Thomas would get something in his face, but with the face shield, it was fun!
The Phoblographer: As a species, do you think humans overly complicate something that’s already naturally beautiful (such as the patterns and beauty of flowers). Is this also one of the things you’re showcasing with this series?
Thomas Koch: It depends; sometimes you put things together to change their meanings, to get even more beauty, or there is something in between. In that case, we tried to bring together something that doesn’t belong together: a chemical substance that could be dangerous with something harmless like a flower.
The Phoblographer: Human intervention in nature is widespread and possibly causing the most destruction ever. What sort of awareness about this do you aim to create with your work and what would you say we as photographers should do about this?
Thomas Koch: We think that everyone needs to do something, not just us photographers or creatives. Climate change is here, and we have to act. Otherwise, we could end like a flower in ferrofluid.