Through formal portraiture mixed with plastic flowers, images from Playgirl magazine, reference to nightshade potions, and other source material, Melanie Willhide’s series “Henbane for Honey Bun” takes a hallucinatory look at the ways in which we look at women.
The series took root, so to speak, a couple of years ago when Willhide began photographing flowers. At the same time, she was also making portraits of women in her life she felt were fascinating beyond their physical beauty.
Willhide, who is in her late 30s and a native East Coaster, was also beginning to feel as if she were being forced outside the realm of visibility in Los Angeles.
“The way people address me has shifted—people call me ma’am now—and there is a level of anonymity, even invisibility, since I also don’t work in the industry,” she said.
She visited the arts and crafts store Moskatels in Los Angeles, a place where “everything natural is made out of plastic” and began photographing artificial flowers, mixing them into the portraits of women.
“I started to create compositions that are part fake flower, part female subject. One never ages and never dies, and the other is subject to the culture of youth and perfection.”