Flora Photographer Captures ‘Short but Spectacular’ Life Cycle of Poppies

Stuart Tyson’s exceptionally up-close flora photographs invite the viewer to take a keen look—almost as if you’re peering at the flowers through a microscope.

His captivating exhibition, PAPAVER—which is the scientific name for poppies—will be on display at the Herb + Milly Iris Gallery at SOPAC from Thursday, March 9 to Sunday, May 7. A free opening reception will be held on March 9 from 5:00PM to 8:00PM.

“His poppy photographs are breathtakingly beautiful,” says Jeremy Moss, the Herb + Milly Iris Gallery curator. “Knowing Stuart’s love of the outdoors and his passion for gardening, I knew I needed to showcase his intimate flora photographs.”

Tyson’s photographs highlight nature’s impeccable details—tissue paper-like petals, hairy stems, and yellow pollen-dusted stamens. They provide an astonishingly intricate examination of the flowers’ journey. Moss describes Tyson’s poppy photographs as, “evoking Victorian botanical drawings and the lighting of Dutch masters, such as Johannes Vermeer and Rembrandt.”

The PAPAVER exhibition features 24 photographs of this delicate species captured by Tyson, an avid gardener, and South Orange resident for 23 years. Of the many flowers and plants that inhabit Tyson’s yard, the poppy is among the most stunning and interesting forms, but its time is fleeting.

“Each year, hundreds emerge in late Spring to amaze with their unique colors and shapes only to wither and die within a few short days,” explains Tyson.

As Spring approaches, this exhibition explores the marvelous metamorphosis of this flowering plant. “The poppy offers a captivating, albeit brief, window of transformation,” says Tyson. “From its emergence from a furry bud through its unfolding like a butterfly’s wing to its inevitable withering and shedding petals to leave behind its most characteristic seed pod.”

Yet, Tyson—a native of Yorkshire in the United Kingdom who excels in portrait, landscape, and still-life photography—endeavored to preserve a poppy’s brief time in bloom.

If the mention of poppies conjures images of small red crepe-paper pins worn on Veterans Day, the exhibition’s works will introduce you to white, light pink, orange, and purple varieties of the flower.

“Through the ages, poppies have been associated with the remembrance, and honoring of the dead and symbolizing peaceful and eternal rest,” says Tyson. “They also have signified rebirth and regeneration in the spiritual and physical realms.”

Though, “in this exhibit, I have strived to describe the sinuous revelations of form that poppies make through their short but spectacular lives,” says Tyson. “Each and every stage of the poppy’s life cycle is a marvel to record.”

Click HERE for a preview of the exhibition’s works. If visitors are interested in making a purchase, they can contact Linda Beard at (973) 382-1035 or lindab@sopacnow.org.