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contemporary art digital photo art experimental photography fine art Germany Karin Bauer macro photography Melanie Schoeninger photo art still life photography

OCTOPUS GARDEN

MELANIE SCHOENIGER

// Melanie is a photographer from Bavaria, Germany who studied design and has played around with a number of photographic experimental techniques, including cyanotype and lomography. Her series “Octopus Garden” has deeper meaning – she began it out of a deep sorrow about the impending and almost inevitable loss of the world´s coral reefs.

“In my teenage years I took a photography class at school and by magic someone offered me his old photolab for free. I installed it at my grandmother’s house in the room where she would keep her Geranium perennials during the cold season. I enjoyed playing around there e.g. using her cabbage leafs to apply developing liquid,” Melanie reminisces. During her design studies she used a macro lens for the first time and was introduced to Photoshop with all its possibilities.

She began taking underwater photographs while snorkeling. Cyanotype tought her to embrace unpredictability and she enjoys the process and its immediacy. “I am driven by awe and love to explore new techniques. Having 1000 ideas in mind of using and combining them to create,” she adds.

One photo (the clover/trifolium) within this series already received an honorable mention at the International Photography Awards, IPA 2021. Another image in this series won 1st Place „Environmental“ (Amateurs) in the CHROMATIC Awards 2021.


“The purpose of art is the lifelong construction of a state of wonder.”

Glenn Gould


What draws you to the arts?

“Art is my way of investigating life. Like Joseph Campbell said, art is the set of wings to carry you out of your own entanglement. So I try to follow my bliss: Nature is my muse, my inspiration, my object of contemplation. I can soak and indulge in its beauty, its diversity, its abundance, all the colours, forms, details, all that amazing fascinating opulence, the vibrancy of life itself. And the rays behind it, the essence of eternity.

With my art, I try to catch a glimpse of it. I want to touch. To share joy and inspiration. I want to create moments of nowness and oneness. Aesthetic arrest. In short, I tend to reach for transcendence to nourish that spiritual place within the heart. And I believe deeply in the transformative power of art that touches the innermost of the beholder and reminds us of the infinity that is within us. In terms of society, like M.S. Merwin I have a desperate hope to save the world: Letting the viewer experience that deep connection with nature. Evoking and igniting that deep wish to protect and preserve nature for future generations.”

What do you like best about photo art such as the images you have shared with us?

“The best thing about this series is that I found a way to channel that heavy grief energy into a light playful and nourishing art project. What a beautiful release. With its concept in mind, this series developed almost by itself. Everything fell in place, with every shooting I discovered more beaks and claws and a unique underwater universe in amazing colors evolved. Astoundingly, a lot of submarine memories of diving and snorkeling as well as other memories of that period in my life came up. Like life is said to happen in circles.

It freed a part of me, that was below the surface for a long time. In this period I kind of was obsessed with the beauty of underwater life. As soon as I knew I would go to the Great Barrier reef, I took a scuba diving course in Germany to make sure I would be able to dive there. I had my bathroom painted with an underwater setting. And so on. Side note: The series evolved during intense times with my precious “all we can save book circle”, an English speaking book club of mainly female artists brought to life by my wonderful friend Clare Celeste Börsch (@clarecelesteart) during the pandemic.

Melanie started this series because of her sorrow about the almost inevitable loss of the earth´s coral reefs. The notion of not being able to protect this amazingly rich underwater jungle with its abundant variety of different species, nor to share that wonder of life with future generations is heartbreaking to her.

“Losing this beauty hurts deeply. Playing around with some flowers in an underwater setting, I realized how they turned into stunning creature-like beings. I started dreaming a new future where the reefs are still there, but in a supported and transformed way. Imagining that plants return back to water, that they evolve in this new environment and create and contribute to a new form of underwater life. That’s how I turned my grief into this ongoing art project. I am still full of awe about this unfamiliar yet impressive beauty. I see tentacles outstretched, tongues and jaws, semi-transparent fins, gatherings and clusters, cooperation, air supply storage in bubbles and so on.”

The title “Octopuses’ garden“ refers to the Beatles: Childhood memories of this song came to her while looking at her underwater geranium perennial, which reminded her of tentacles. With every motif she discovers a story: “One plant reminds me of a moment within Michael Ende´s “Never-ending Story“, where Bastian saves “Phantasien“ and creates a whole new world, and everything starts to grow from scratch. And I thought about humanity acting like the “nothingness“ in this book. I thought about nature evolving like it always did – even if some species disappear (could be humans this time). I thought about our connection to the natural world and a needed shift of consciousness, culture and myth that Joseph Campbell described so brilliantly.”

We certainly feel that grief about the loss of species and entire ecosystems too, and we are thankful that artists/photographers are drawing attention to the environmental crisis with their work.


Some images may be cropped for formatting. Click on the photos to see a larger image in original dimensions.

ALL IMAGES © MELANIE SCHOENIGER

To see more of her photography visit Melanie´s website and her Instagram page .

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