Anyone who has watched American TV in the last twenty-two years probably remembers being amused by the popular got milk? commercials. The ads cleverly sought to boost milk sales in the US by stressing the “negative consequences” of having this staple of the American diet in short supply. The message was reinforced at the end of the spots by a foreboding voice-over of the iconic slogan: got milk?.
A similar voice can probably be heard several times a day in many a photographer’s head when sunflower season arrives; especially when they know there’s a field, filled with heliotropic beauty, somewhere near them. Now, very much like milk in adult life, we all know that photos of sunflowers aren’t really that necessary, but then again, we also know there’s something about them that will make us grab our camera bags in the sweltering heat of a summer afternoon (usually under the bewildered gaze of a non-photographer), hop into our cars and drive the distance that will allow us to indulge our craving.
This, as evidenced by the pictures below, happened to me last week, which, of course, led to a reflection. As I found myself busily responding to the compelling call of the genus Helianthus, in a field in the vicinity of Guadalajara (Spain), I started thinking that the irresistible allure of sunflowers has probably a lot to do with their complexity and their beauty. There, surrounded by thousands of sun-worshipping stalks, I became pleasantly aware of how these plants embody the perfection of life. For one thing, they’re meticulously ‘designed’ to preserve life. As you may know, sunflower heads are actually flower clusters that contain hundreds of tiny flowers (florets) that efficiently cooperate to maximize their species’ chances of survival. For another thing, they do it so beautifully! And it is precisely over this beauty, and its beneficial effects on our own chances of survival, that so many of us go gaga at first sight in the presence of sunflowers. Bees swarm to them for nectar and pollen, we, photographers, do it for endorphins. So, the next time you’re driving past a sea of sun-basking beauty, it might be wise to pull over, pull out your camera, run into the field and start shooting to your heart’s content; lest you find yourself, in the cold of winter, fruitlessly trying to ignore a relentless voice in your head that keeps asking: got sunflower?