When Martin Klimas calls himself a shooter, he means it literally. The German photographer uses air guns and liquid nitrogen to create arresting images, which capture the fragmentation of delicate flowers into millions of tiny shards, frozen mid-explosion. Part mad scientist, part avant-garde artiste, Klimas works out of his studio in Düsseldorf, drawing equally from century-old scientific journals and modern photographic technology to create pictures of unparalleled dynamism.
“When I am interested in an issue, say music or time, there is always a scientific context behind it,” Klimas explains. “I look to this and the scientific techniques that have evolved over the last hundred years to prove processes and experiments. I try to extract the poetical side of science and generate powerful images by trying experiments and using modern photography equipment and professional lighting.”
From ceramic figurines and glass vases to wild birds and falling silk scarves, Klimas finds new levels in his subjects, whether it’s in the Technicolor explosion of paint bursting off a subwoofer blasting Bach or Pink Floyd, the crescendo of leaping droplets serving as a visual manifestation of the music itself, or in the shattering of a red rose, its petals edged with the gunmetal grey of frostbite.
In the case of the exploding flowers, Klimas says, “I was inspired by the blossom itself. There are so many different forms and species on the planet. I was interested in the blossom’s architecture and tried to make that visible by breaking the blossom into as many pieces as possible. I wanted to bring the inside of the blossom outside.”
To create the images in this series, the photographer took the flowers and placed them in a box of liquid nitrogen, freezing them slowly to -200 degrees Celsius. This delicate process requires incredible care and patience. “The frozen flowers are as fragile as raw eggs,” he explains. “It is really fascinating. You can destroy them by sneezing.” Klimas then brought the frozen blooms to the photo set, where he proceeded to shoot them with an air gun, capturing the exact moment of explosion with a medium format camera with a digital back that he says enabled him to capture good quality images at 65 megapixels.
In this series, as in much of his other work, Klimas shot thousands of frames during each session. Even with the use of sensors or triggers, it takes a huge volume of shots to capture that crucial 1/7,000 of a second when the flower hovers between broken and whole, a normally imperceptible instant that makes for dramatic art.
“Many of the things I photograph cannot normally be seen with the human eye,” says Klimas. “There’s no way to explain how paint mixes while vibrating, or how the pieces of a flower fall while exploding. My images deliver these explanations by making the processes visible—the chaos and the unknown turn into order and knowledge.”