“Dancing (Crocosmia)”

The Beauty of Ordinary Things

Phil Coleman brings life to flower photographs at The Arts Center in Corvallis 

There’s an adage that knowing the explanation for something ruins the ability to appreciate that thing’s beauty. For retired physicist Phil Coleman, it’s the opposite. Knowing why the sky is blue, he says, makes him appreciate a sunset even more. 

In Up Close: Celebrating the Wonders of Nature in Art and Photography, which runs until May 8 at The Arts Center in Corvallis, Coleman brings this appreciation to his photographs of flowers. 

He describes his life in two acts. In Act I he was a physicist who used photography to document his experiments. For Act II, he is a photographer whose goal is to present “ordinary things in a new way.” 

His images, though, can be anything but ordinary: A row of buds in different states of bloom are detached from the stalk on which they grow and hang in mid-air. They seem more animal than vegetable, as if they could fly off any second.

Coleman took most of these pictures during the pandemic. Photographing flowers around his home, he felt relieved to see that nature does not shut down. He certainly hasn’t been alone finding comfort in nature. These past 13 months, for many of us, being outdoors has been a way to experience normalcy, seeing things go on as always.  

Showing with Coleman is Tara Kate, an illustrator/scientist who specializes in birds.

Up Close will be up until May 8 at The Arts Center, 700 SW Madison Avenue, Corvallis. Hours are noon to 5 pm Wednesday through Saturday. Free.

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