Why Botany Matters

Posted on June 9, 2004 by Jenna

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The first photographs didn’t look very realistic. They were Mondrian neoplastic compositions—just squares of various colors lined up on the page! You’ve probably seen some. They’re popular in office buildings. That’s why his early photography spawned many imitators. Yet none of them could equal Mondrian. He laughed at them when they met. He’d say, “You may have a Mondrian neoplastic camera, but do you have a Mondrian neoplastic eye?” Then he’d shoot lasers out of his neoplastic eye. They would hop and dance—such fun! But ultimately, he let them use his technology. He lived his whole life without patenting it. It wasn’t until the 2003 Microsoft patent on “squares” that anyone could restrict Mondrian neoplastic art!

In the 1940s, realists developed “photorealism” technology and began to turn out what the modern world thinks of as “pictures.” That’s when the old cameras went out of production. The artists who relied on neoplastic photography threw themselves off the cliffs in droves. This is shown in the bloody and powerful Mondrian photograph Composition No. 2. But for people who wanted lifelike images, it was a new golden age!

(Except for Cecilia. She had wanted to take a lifelike image of a gathering of neoplastic photographers. On finding them all dead save for Mondrian, she spoke many unprintable phrases and went on to become a bitter woman. She drinks a lot of Crystal Light.)

The secret of photorealism technology was love. Love is what makes the world go round. It’s also what puts the realism in a picture. Before they ever told models to make love with the camera, they programmed the cameras to make love to the models. Droning voices in great digital factories spoke the camera’s motto: “There’s a little good in everything!” That’s why the love of a camera is unconditional. It loves your freckles. It loves your warts. It loves your smile. It loves the cliff you’re standing next to. It loves the neoplastic remains of the artists whose bones gather around your feet. It’s a beautiful thing, a camera’s love.

Once love was released into the general photographic community, the effects were profound. Early experiments in other photographic emotions were abandoned. The harsh, rough sketches of envy photographs; the brutal honesty of rage photography; the soft parental affection of Impressionist photographs; even the groovy expostulations of abstract photography, made by a camera drugged into a special “high”—all these were set aside. These techniques offered artistic skills that, rare as they were, could be developed by a painter’s talent; but the photography of true love was unique and universal.

“If this is what one can do with a loving camera,” said Elder Brother, “then imagine what one could do with loving development.”

“Hm,” said Younger Brother, thoughtfully. “Let’s try it.”

So they began to work hard on a development process based on universal all-consuming love. It was difficult. Finding the mechanical process of love—that’s easy! Inside the cameras, a flint strikes steel. It makes a spark! Love works just that way. But finding the chemicals for love, to develop the film in a saturated bath of affection—that’s difficult! Mixing hydrogen and oxygen in a two-to-one ratio—that just produces water. Carbon, nitrogen, and potassium—that’s just cyanide! That’s no good for film, unless you want to take killer pictures. And it’s worse for love!

Eventually, though, they found it. There was only one catch. You can’t do love development unless you’re right there, where the picture was taken. For landscape photography, that works pretty well. The brothers took some pictures of fields of grain. They took them with love, and the pictures were photorealistic. They developed them in a love bath, right on the scene, and the pictures were just like being there! You’d walk by the pictures, and say, “Hey, why am I in a field of grain?” Their pictures took the art world by storm. Most critics were stunned. Others actually suffered a nervous breakdown. It’s hard to look at one of those photographs—it confuses your sense for where and who you are!

“If landscape photography is good,” said Younger Brother, “surely portraits would be better.”

They tested it! There was an old gentleman walking by. They set up their camera. He posed! They took his picture. Then they developed the film!

“Pardon,” the gentleman said, “but why must I lay here with a chemical bath on my stomach?”

“It’s pure love,” Elder Brother assured him.

“Whippersnapper,” muttered the old gentleman. “I can recognize pure love! But I’m not used to having a tub of it on my stomach.”

“Perhaps,” said Younger Brother, “you’ve been missing out.”

They finished the photograph. They held it up. “Perfect!” exclaimed Younger Brother. “Looking at this picture, it’s like I am this man!”

“Indeed,” confirmed the old gentleman, working his way into a sitting position. “It’s just like being myself! Not that this is unusual for me.”

“Hard to say,” said Younger Brother. “Perhaps you weren’t quite so much yourself, before.”

Now the Brothers went to work with a will! They took pictures of everything. But soon they realized a fundamental problem.

“If we take portraits during the day,” said Younger Brother, “then how can we develop them? No one holds still long enough for us to develop the picture on them at night!”

“We could work indoors,” suggested Elder Brother.


They stood for a long moment in thought. “We’ll have to remove the sun,” said Elder Brother. “We’ll put it in our special photographic bath. Then it’ll sizzle and go out!”

“It’s very big,” pointed out Younger Brother. “We’ll need to use some sort of trick of scale.”

“We’ll take a picture of ourselves,” said Elder Brother, “and enlarge it! That way, we’ll feel like we’re bigger than we are. And bigger yet. And bigger than that! Pretty soon, we’ll be able to take on any old sun!”

They took a picture of themselves. They enlarged it. Soon Elder and Younger brother surmounted the world. Space had more air then, so they didn’t have any trouble breathing, but it was still very cold. It covered their heads in frost. Elder Brother sniffled. Younger Brother sneezed! That’s why there’s no more tenth planet.

“Now,” said Elder Brother. “Time to bathe the sun in love—and the world in darkness!”

The sun panicked. Wouldn’t you? So she sent out her elite warriors. They’re grown from beans! It’s a special advanced technology that only the sun has; most stars have to grow their elite warriors from cauliflower.

“Agh!” cried Elder Brother. “Legumes!”

“The seeds are attached to the inside of the bean,” noted Younger Brother, “so they’re actually siliques.”

“Ah!” said Elder Brother, as the warriors closed in. “That’s why I can’t defeat them—my botany’s too weak!”