Ute is a daydreamer, Martin only talks about his vacation. Monika gets along on her own very well, but Heike is lonely. Sabine adores going dancing, and Helga likes techno music. To German photographer Frederik Busch, these office plants have personalities just like any other co-worker. “Plants have feelings too,” he says. “They are social beings, just like us humans.”
In 2008, whilst working on a corporate assignments, Busch noticed a row of plants in an office hallway. “It looked like an art space. It was so clean and sterile, and the plants looked like sculptures,” he says. “I have always been interested in how humans adapt to office-life, so I decided to apply portrait photography to plants to discover how they adapt too.”
At the time, the Hamburg-based photographer was studying portrait photography in the context of contemporary art, and his diploma was based around the distinction between the working and non-working environment. “I saw an opportunity to combine my two passions and went with it,” he says. “That is how German Business Plants started; and now it’s a published book. I consider myself very lucky.”
The 43-year-old has had a passion for plants since childhood. His mother, a pharmacist by profession, also studied botany and the two would spend days together in the garden in which she’d tell him the names of plants. Aged nine, when he was sent to a Catholic boarding school after his parents divorced and his grandmother died, plants became a source of comfort.
“I was very lonely, but plants gave me strength,” he says. “Caring for something gave me a meaning in life. I think that’s why plants are so popular in offices; they make you feel good.”
The photographs in German Business Plants were taken in around 40 different offices over a period of eight years, with Busch taking the pictures during his lunch breaks and spare time. He shot the whole project on one camera, hand-holding and using the ambient light he found. “Plants are also really good models,” he laughs. “If I had to go back and reshoot, they’d usually not have moved much.”
Busch funded the book through donations – his initial Kickstarter campaign failed to reach his target of €25,000, but gave him “brilliant visibility”, including an interview on the BBC World Service – which encouraged two businessmen to provide the remaining funds to publish, with the respected Kehrer photobook specialists. “People believing in my work has made me finally believe in it too,” Busch says.
www.frederikbusch.com German Business Plants by Frederik Busch is published by Kehrer, priced €28 www.kehrerverlag.com/en/frederik-busch-german-business-plants