#11 Mash-UpInterview

01 Alexandra Dao

Flowers in the
things not seen

Photographer Alexandra Dao finds herself completely in love with flowers... Her floral pictures are like a fleeting promise, revealing what’s in between things. She’s looking for inspiration in the patterns of petals and blurred shapes of shadows, whilst throwing hints of light into the depths of darkness_______.

What’s your earliest memory of flowers?

“Tiny flowers. Violets, always. The smell is so evocative, so fragrant. Forget-me-nots too. And I was enthralled as a child by the plant ‘Mind Your Own Business’ or ‘Baby’s Tears’ (Soleirolia soleirolii) which grew over my grandma's patio. The names captured my imagination. Also, flowers with magical charms - my grandma had catnip (Nepeta) and I was fascinated by its magical effect on cats. The essential oil in the plant is thought to mimic the effect of cat pheromone. Another strong childhood flower memory which sticks in my mind is sucking the nectar with my aunt from Sweet William flowers on summer evenings.”

What flower made you cry?

“Hyacinths - for me it’s the smell of time passing. So distinct. Every spring.”

03 Alexandra Dao
02 Alexandra Dao

Who’s Alexandra Dao?

Alexandra Dao is a photographer based in London specialized in floral art. As a picture editor and photographer she believes that inspirations aren’t always big, often it’s the smallest things in life that connect us all. Somewhere in the space between things, and in the things not seen. Her work is to find the beauty in everyday life.

04 Alexandra Dao
05 Alexandra Dao

What’s your earliest memory of flowers?

“Tiny flowers. Violets, always. The smell is so evocative, so fragrant. Forget-me-nots too. And I was enthralled as a child by the plant ‘Mind Your Own Business’ or ‘Baby’s Tears’ (Soleirolia soleirolii) which grew over my grandma's patio. The names captured my imagination. Also, flowers with magical charms - my grandma had catnip (Nepeta) and I was fascinated by its magical effect on cats. The essential oil in the plant is thought to mimic the effect of cat pheromone. Another strong childhood flower memory which sticks in my mind is sucking the nectar with my aunt from Sweet William flowers on summer evenings.”

What flower made you cry?

“Hyacinths - for me it’s the smell of time passing. So distinct. Every spring.”

My favourite edible flower is...

“Nasturtiums - because they remind me of my daughter and summer evenings. They are peppery and colourful. Toss together Nasturtium leaves and nasturtium flowers, salad leaves, and a couple of sliced peaches together with olive oil, salt, pepper and a dash of balsamic vinegar. The entire flower is edible - buds, seeds, flowers and leaves. Delicious!”

06 Alexandra Dao
07 Alexandra Dao
08 Alexandra Dao

Plant & Flowercast

Tea Rose, poppy, garden rose, Lathyrus

“A STRONG CHILDHOOD MEMORY WHICH STICKS IN MY MIND IS SUCKING THE NECTAR FROM SWEET WILLIAM FLOWERS ON SUMMER EVENINGS WITH MY AUNT_______.”

My favourite edible flower is...

“Nasturtiums - because they remind me of my daughter and summer evenings. They are peppery and colourful. Toss together Nasturtium leaves and nasturtium flowers, salad leaves, and a couple of sliced peaches together with olive oil, salt, pepper and a dash of balsamic vinegar. The entire flower is edible - buds, seeds, flowers and leaves. Delicious!”

Without flowers, life would be...

“...Less beautiful.”

What’s your favourite bedroom flower?

“A small vase of soothing bluebells.”

Are there flowers on your garden table?

“Yes! Marigolds! Such a strong alluring smell. I love the marigold scent. Pungent, musky, sharp. And the scent always brings with it a flood of memories. I had my own patch of marigolds as a child growing up in Botswana and would sit amongst them breathing the smell; I’d scatter the seeds and in my mind’s eye it seemed that new marigolds would spring overnight. It was my favourite place in our dry dusty African garden.”

08 Alexandra Dao

Plant & Flowercast

Tea Rose, poppy, garden rose, Lathyrus

Which public space knows best how to work with flowers?

“There is a reclaimed garden in a public lane near where I live in South East London, a ‘social’ garden, which I love. The owner has an amazing eye for colour and texture. A lot of planning and artifice has gone into creating his wild garden and people come from all over South East London to admire it. He’s into big arty drifts of colour and self-seeders, inspired by Beth Chatto and Miracle Osler’s A Gentle Plea for Chaos.”

“I LOVE THE MARIGOLD SCENT. PUNGENT, MUSKY, SHARP. AS A CHILD GROWING UP IN BOTSWANA, I SCATTERED THE SEEDS AND IN MY MIND IT SEEMED NEW MARIGOLDS WOULD SPRING OVERNIGHT_______.”
09 Alexandra Dao
10 Alexandra Dao
11 Alexandra Dao
12 Alexandra Dao

Which public space knows best how to work with flowers?

“There is a reclaimed garden in a public lane near where I live in South East London, a ‘social’ garden, which I love. The owner has an amazing eye for colour and texture. A lot of planning and artifice has gone into creating his wild garden and people come from all over South East London to admire it. He’s into big arty drifts of colour and self-seeders, inspired by Beth Chatto and Miracle Osler’s A Gentle Plea for Chaos.”

When you think of a field of flowers, what flowers do you imagine?

“I imagine an English field of cornflower, yarrow, field poppies, meadow buttercup, cowslips, white clover, red clover, candytuft, selfheal, red campion and ox eye daisies. It feels timeless and magical - the kind of place you think fairies should appear.”

What’s your favourite vase to install your flowers?

“The simple milk bottle. It always works whether it’s a bunch of wild flowers or a single rose stem.”

When I see a Magnolia tree I want to...

“...Knock on the owner’s door and ask if I could take a stem home to photograph. I would love my own magnolia tree one day. In the meantime I go magnolia ‘borrowing’_______!

Text
Rosanne Loffeld

Photographs and styling
Alexandra Dao

“I LOVE THE MARIGOLD SCENT. PUNGENT, MUSKY, SHARP. AS A CHILD GROWING UP IN BOTSWANA, I SCATTERED THE SEEDS AND IN MY MIND IT SEEMED NEW MARIGOLDS WOULD SPRING OVERNIGHT_______.”

A selection from Alexandra Deo’s timeline, @alexandra_dao