Mandy Sham’s Blooming PortraitureMandy Sham’s Blooming Portraiture

Mandy Sham’s Blooming Portraiture

For the fifth time, I crouched next to the sea of tulips flushed with pink and canary yellow; squinted as the afternoon sun besieged my eyes, and smiled.
“Smile with teeth!” The distant voice of my mother called.
I gritted—toothy, clenchy, and visibly blinded by the sun. When the film came back, it was clear the photo hadn’t done me any favours—nor did the sweltering hours standing in flower fields, awkwardly caressing peonies and roses. At least the empty film canisters served for something—a home for the grasshoppers my friends and I caught in the ditches behind our elementary school.
My childhood, when it didn’t involve a plastic classroom chair, was a series of parks, botanical gardens, and tulip and lavender fields. In all of them, I was accompanied by the unwavering camera of my parents—film to digital through the years. I hated the ritual with a passion: the hours of photographs involving the same poses in front of rows of blooming petals.
Ever since I assumed my own role behind the camera, I wanted to revisit the use of flowers in portrait photography. Interpreting it in my own way felt like reconciling with that beautiful, contrived ritual I knew so well—by doing it in a more organic, intimate format that resonates with me.
This series takes a spin on it by using bouquets rather than planted fields. Instead of integrating people into gardens like props, I decided to bring flowers to the subject; used them to explore the embodiment of space, and the light playfulness of having pops of floral colour in the shot. The Ethereal Black Mist filter helped give them that fuzzier, nostalgic feeling I get from looking at the two-decade-old film albums guarded away in my childhood home.
Independently, flowers have always fascinated me—beautiful ephemeral things that evolve through the seasons. They are easily the most malleable metaphor for life’s ebb and flow. This series is just as much about the ‘moment’ of the shot as it is about what flowers represent: a reminder of time’s onward march, sweet summer, and new and old friendships.