The Flower Queen
Bright lights illuminate the large building. It is a maze of white walls covered in paintings, pencil drawings, animal art, portraits, abstract photography and so much more. Dina Damon stands by a flower photograph that is part of the art competition this year. Beside the photograph is a blue ribbon with the words “First Place” written on it.
“I took this picture at the Long Beach Botanical Gardens,” Dina says pointing at a dramatic close up of a white, wild and rare looking flower. When you lay eyes on it, you could almost see it breathe through the photograph. The pistils are lavishly present and the background sets the mood in a dark, forest green — creating a spotlight on the lonely, mysterious flower.
Dina enjoys nature photography but specializes in botanicals. “When you find yourself in a botanical garden, how do you pick out a flower out of hundreds and hundreds of them?” I ask. “Most of the time when I photograph something, I already have an idea of what it is, so I have to look for it…I only photograph a flower that calls my name.” She says.
She looks for a concept, a personality of the flower, characteristics, why is she worth photography? This flower was very different and compositionally in an advantageous place. She was alone, the light was perfect, it was an ugly time of day but she was in the shade.
“I create images based on what I see, even before I photograph this, I already see what the flower will become,” Dina expresses. “It doesn’t have a name until I complete the processing. You get it to be as close as what’s in your head, you already painted it in your head, you just have to capture it.”
Dina prefers to leave the flower as natural as possible. She wants to reveal what it is and hide what is unnecessary. She does not change it. When the flower is completed, the flower speaks to her and gives Dina her name. The flower unearthed herself as Morai.
Morai was very magical and enchanting to her. “A Morai is a name of a female fairy that is greenish and very mischievous…you process an image differently, the image itself will call its unique process.” Dina says. “This is how I should look,” the image states to her. She uses Photoshop, Lightroom, and plug-ins.
Her best friend Marion Nichols, who is also a photographer, calls her “the flower queen.” Dina admits that she loves children, people, and weddings. “But sometimes you need to be peaceful and quiet and that’s when I feel my happiest. It’s the time to be away from stress. I can play all day, I can be in the garden all day and will never notice the time, I am a kid, and I am playing at that time.”