Hope Blooms

Photographer Claiborne Swanson Frank turned her lens to flowers during the pandemic, creating beauty out of chaos.
Self-portrait of Claiborne Swanson Frank with son, Hunter.

By Jim Servin

Last April, photographer Claiborne Swanson Frank found herself, like the rest of the world, engulfed in the stress of quarantine, which for her also entailed home-schooling her sons, Hunter, 7, and Wilder, 4. “We had just moved from New York City to Greenwich,” says Swanson Frank, whose well-received books, Mother and Child, Young Hollywood and American Beauty (all published by Assouline), showcase her significant talents for composition, color and connection with her subjects. “Home schooling was a full-time job. I said to myself, ‘I want to come out of this time with something.’ I was hungry to be creative.”

“Pink Peony III” from the GRACE series. Photography by Claiborne Swanson Frank

Inspiration was near—right in her backyard, in fact.  “When you get out of the city, you see nature with eyes wide open, in Technicolor,” she says. “I started photographing tulips. It kicked off a whole love affair with floral photography and still life photography.”

“Orange Iceland Poppy IV” from the RAYS series

The project quickly took shape. Each day, as soon as Swanson Frank finished home-schooling at 3PM, she set aside an hour and a half to train her Canon Mark IV on flowers: resplendently blooming pink peonies; spindly, sunny chamomile; regal delphinium; angsty orange Iceland poppy. Specimens from near and far—her garden, the farmers market, a nursery in Greenwich, Whole Foods, and in the case of chamomile, Holland—were set against a simple white canvas of Swanson Frank’s dining room floor, and sometimes held by Hunter, whose hand appears in a few of the shots. “He brought a soulfulness to the flowers, a feeling of humanity and innocence,” says the proud mom.

“Chamomile” from the WILD series

By June, she had amassed enough images to produce a fine art series, Flowers, which launched earlier this month at her sister’s Veronica Beard boutique in Southampton. Meanwhile, Swanson Frank continues to seek out more floral specimens to add to her satisfying creative endeavor. “It’s been an amazing learning experience,” she says. “Being a portraitist, I photographed flowers like people. Every flower is like a woman. I tried to capture their best angles, and celebrate the beauty of each one.” Limited-edition fine art botanical prints are available at Moda Operandi and claiborneswansonfrank.com.