Inspired by his florist wife Basia, commercial photographer Isamu Sawa began shooting dying
flowers and plants as a technical exercise in early 2015. In order to properly capture his diminutive
subject’s decaying beauty he adopted a sophisticated photographic technique more commonly
used in science than art, known as focus stacking. For example, NASA’s Curiosity rover is able to
take microscopic images of Martian geology using its Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI). When a
close-focus view of a rock or mineral particle is not possible over the entire image, MAHLI takes a
series of images in up to eight focus positions. Onboard software then merges them to create a
single ‘best-focus’ image. Similarly, Sawa sometimes takes up to 60 images of a plant before
combining them using computer software to produce a single, crisp and extremely detailed image
in uniform focus.
The technique is painstaking and highly time-consuming, requiring incredible patience, precision
and technical ability. But it results in images of staggering beauty, rich in almost otherworldly botanical detail.
As Sawa collected more of his wife’s discarded stock, shooting them in between commercial work in his
Collingwood studio, he began experimenting with different forms and plant structures.
The series finally resulted in an exhibition in August 2015 in Melbourne. His first solo show caught the eye
of Australian and overseas media including The Age, Broadsheet and influential UK trade journal Creative Review
and, by its close, more than 30 large format limited edition prints had been acquired by astute collectors in
Australia and overseas, many of whom hailed from the creative industries. It also led to a number of private and
commercial commissions, keeping Sawa busy refining his studio technique and ultimately turning him into one
of Australia’s leading exponents of this highly specialised photographic practice.
Now Sydney is presented with an exclusive opportunity to view and purchase Without Water limited
edition prints, including four new images never seen before. “These are special images for me,” says Sawa.
“There’s a tremendous amount of precision that goes into each and every one. But more importantly,
they’re just so captivating. I feel like I’ve rescued these discarded flowers, in a way, and given them another life.”
Born in Japan and raised in Australia, Isamu Sawa is one of Australia’s leading commercial photographers,
with a career spanning more than 20 years. He has worked for high-level commercial clients including
Mercedes Benz, Mazda, Domaine Chandon, Penfolds and Public Transport Victoria. His editorial work has
also featured in GQ, The Age, and Vogue, shooting portraits of well-known identities including fashion
designer Jean Paul Gaultier, actor Geoffrey Rush and champion cyclist Cadel Evans.
He has exhibited photographic work with his father, Peter Sawa, at the Joshua McClelland Print Room
(Two Generations – Two Views, opened by the late Kate Gollings, in 1999), at group shows at The Compound
Interest (The Material Series – Foto @ Pin Up, in 2013 and 2014) and his first solo show Without Water in
Melbourne, 2015 (opened by John Gollings).
Known to friends simply as ‘Issey’, he lives in Melbourne, Australia, with his wife Basia
and their young daughter, Hannah.