ISSUE 36  |  Color Theory

Required Reading: In Bloom by Ngoc Minh Ngo

September 15, 2016 6:00 AM

BY Michelle Slatalla

An oversized coffee table book filled with full-page photos of flowers runs the risk of being old-fashioned. In these days of social media bombardment, no one needs to spend $45 (the list price for Ngoc Minh Ngo’s new book In Bloom: Creating and Living with Flowers) to see intoxicating images of velvety magnolias, French roses, or tissue-thin poppies. Yesterday afternoon I could have overdosed on Instagram on 1,620,214 photos tagged #peonies, 920,958 #hydrangea posts, or 169,273 images of #clematis (without taking into consideration such specialty subcategories as #clematisbynight, #clematisvine, or #clematispassiflora).

So why buy this book? Two reasons:

Photography by Ngoc Minh Ngo courtesy of Rizzoli.

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Above: In France, painter Claire Basler stores her flower-colored paints in glass yogurt jars in a wall cabinet.

The first reason to buy the book is Ngoc Minh Ngo is one of the best garden photographers at work these days. She is as hypnotized as anybody by the heartbreaking simplicity of a dogwood blossom as its petals unfurl. But what sets her apart is her ability to convey with a camera how much that moment means to her.

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Above: The second reason to buy this book is because its 11 chapters each illustrate a compelling story of obsession: from painter Basler (with an indoor studio, above, bedecked with more branches than most people’s outdoor gardens), to a London textile designer whose patterns are inspired by the plants in her backyard, to a ceramist in Connecticut who makes vases with her dahlias in mind.

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Above: In the Bronx, artist Livia Cetti creates exquisite paper flowers. She lives with them, too.

(N.B.: See our recent review, Required Reading: The Exquisite Book of Paper Flowers by Livia Cetti.)

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Above: Italian writer Umberto Pasti arrived in Tangier two decades ago with a small inheritance from his father—and immediately set about spending it all to make a garden. An excellent decision.

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Above: Don’t buy this book for the text. The type is tiny and the words wander (in some cases, I had to resort to Google to figure out what the author was trying to say about the people whose homes she photographed). Luckily her pictures have a forceful narrative of their own.

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Above: In a former factory building in downtown Manhattan, photographer Martyn Thompson and artist Dove Drury Hornbuckle live in a loft that serves as a backdrop for their work.

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Above: Published by Rizzoli, In Bloom: Creating and Living with Flowers is $33.75 at Amazon.

N.B.: For more of Ngoc Minh Ngo’s flower photos, see our review of her previous book, Required Reading: Bringing Nature Home.