Conversations with Nature: Janet Dwyer

My work is inspired by the infinite variety and exact structures found in the natural world of animal, mineral and vegetable.  Organic materials such as plants, feathers, bones, ice, and live insects find their way into my compositions, becoming part of a story or metaphor.

Utilizing natural forms, my intention is to create new relationships, realities, associations and surreal hybrid combinations.  All phases of life interest me – the beauty and perfection of the early stages of a plant or animal’s life, as well as ultimately death and the various stages of decay.  While nature unfolds, wilts, interacts and melts, the flatbed scanner’s myopic lens and light source passes by, converting what it sees to digital information.  Live insects move resulting in a coloured digital track, an artifact of their movements and shape.  That is the gift, the unpredictable part left to chance and timing, the effect that is unique to scanner imaging.

Once a nest of some 300 spiderlings showed up at my studio door. Naturally, I was interested to see what they would do when placed on the scanner.  On their own they scattered, running off the edges.   My job quickly changed from documenting to spider wrangling.  When I laid a flower down on the scanner they settled right in and covered its glass with webbing, binding the flower to its surface.  My resulting print “Orb Weavers” is a study of their creation, as I witnessed and recorded their tiny movements.

For the past 12 years, I have been utilizing a flatbed scanner as an imaging tool, rather than a conventional digital camera or film.  Using a flatbed scanner as “camera”  (Scanography) is a relatively new photographic technique.  Objects are placed directly on the scanner glass, rendering magnified detail and the potential for larger prints. This larger scale offers a sense of intimacy and connection to structures within objects, that are often too small to be seen.


Salt Spring Island

June 2013

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