When I first came upon Momentary Vitality, I was immediately captivated. Then I thought to myself, 'Why didn't I think of that?'
The idea is relatively simple. Much of the work produced by Momentary Vitality creator Joel Penner can be categorized as scanner photography. Penner employs scanners — which are programmed to scanned continuously over a matter of days, weeks or months — to capture the slow moving life and times of blooming flowers, plant roots, and even the process of plant decay. Penner then shares the images as is, or sews them together to create short films.
Simple, maybe. But the work Penner produces from his modest basement workspace is so big, so beautiful, and — in my view — so important. So not simple.
While we are taught to understand plants as living beings, most of us don’t really believe that plants are really alive, at least not alive in the same way as living, breathing (and talking) animals. According to Penner, this is, in large part, due to the fact that plants are (as far as we can tell) relatively motionless.
Penner explains this view is not necessarily bad or even incorrect position to hold, but an example of the “unique way that we see time” as human beings.
But in using time lapse, we can see that plants do in fact move, and they move a lot — only we're not really capable of seeing this movement in our everyday interactions with, say, the plants that line our windowsills. But, of course, that's part of the fun.
“There are always surprises with time lapse.”
Said surprises include the dance of air bubbles in the liquids that emerge from a rotting head of cabbage. The complexity of plant movement, on the other hand, is not so surprising to Penner. He explains that — especially when we turn the lens to the roots normally hidden under the soil — plants are much more animal-like than we realize.
But it's not just about timelapse, either. This self-taught plant expert and self-declared taxonomy enthusiast is not chained to a computer or his basement workspace, but incredibly active in the community.
Whether leading photography workshops, plant identification walks, and sharing his up close and personal view of plant life through film, Penner's goal is to share the beauty he finds in the world in hopes of inspiring others to take better care of the planet.