Claiborne Swanson Frank Debuts New Series of Flowering Works


Claiborne Swanson Frank has turned her lens on society swans, Hollywood royalty, and three generations of Bush women. But last spring, as the pandemic sent the world into lockdown, a new subject matter blossomed in front of her camera. Having recently moved from New York City to Greenwich, Connecticut, with her husband and two young boys, the celebrated portrait photographer had a garden at her fingertips, and like much of the rest of us, was finding solace in the botanical world. “I was in the midst of heavy homeschooling with little time to be creative,” she says, “and in the afternoons, I started picking tulips and taking pictures.” She had never photographed still lifes before and didn’t enter into it with any grand plans. She casually posted a few of the images to her Instagram, and the comments started pouring in. “Everyone kept asking if it was the subject of my next book.” It was her mother and sisters, she recalls, who said, “These should be prints on walls in homes.”

Swanson Frank’s new fine art series, Flowers, will be the first time her work has been available as prints. The signed and numbered editions start at 11 by 14 inches and scale up from there. A selection will launch exclusively on Moda Operandi tomorrow, and the entire body of work can be found on claiborneswansonfrank.com as of today. They will also be launching on Chairish on June 3. Here, the photographer sits down with AD PRO for an exclusive first look.

AD PRO: This project revealed itself to you at a time when we were all self-isolating. What was it about this subject matter that resonated?

Claiborne Swanson Frank: Moving out of the city and filling my house with flowers every week, I was naturally inspired by them. I think the whole world was—there was such a big flower moment last spring. During those first few months of quarantine, being surrounded by beauty gave people peace and comfort. I remember picking [tulips from my garden] in the afternoons and taking some pictures for fun. They were on my iPhone, though I almost immediately moved to my camera.

You had a sense that this was something you might want to share with the world?

I didn’t know what it was yet, but I felt inspired. I knew it was something.

The project is a collaboration with your seven-year-old son Hunter. What was the process of working together? Was any bribery involved?

At first I started without Hunter, but to be honest, there would be flowers where I couldn’t get them in the right position, so quickly he jumped in and there was this magic that happened. Hunter is really creative. He got into it. There were days where he charged me a dollar a flower [laughs], and there were other days where he would lead it and be like, “Mama, let’s shoot this.” There’s this white peony that came from my garden, it’s the only one that grew, and Hunter found it and cut it himself. It’s in the Ray series. He loved the process, and he was a master of the light and a natural hand muse. He knew how to turn each flower and where to catch the light. I’d be like, “Hunter, over here.” And he’d be like, “No, Mama, it’s here. The light is right here.”

Are all of the flowers from your garden?

The truth is, almost none of them are from my garden. I got a lot of my best flowers from Whole Foods, some were from this really beautiful nursery in town called McArdle’s that sources from Holland. I started coming in every Tuesday when they would get new flowers and I would load up. Then others we found on the side of the road, like the dandelion and the tiny daisies. I became a flower connoisseur. Not all flowers are created equal!



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