‘When I think of spring, I think of flowers,’ says the photographer Emma Summerton, a regular contributor to Jo Malone London. ‘I remember as a child being really fascinated with how a flower looks and how perfect it is. For me, that's the most exciting thing that starts to happen when spring comes around. I’m in awe of the intricacies and the beauty and harshness of nature,’ says Summerton.
For the Jo Malone London Spring Artist Series, she contributed a dream-like and playful study of nature and romance, consisting of a self-portrait set among a collage of wild florals. ‘At first, it was anything that I could get my hands on as no one was sending anything,’ says Summerton about her search for flowers during the lockdown. ‘And then a friend told me about a local florist, who had a cuttings patch that they grow themselves, which was a bit wilder and more interesting.’
Summerton also found herself foraging for wildflowers in and around the streets of Hampstead in London, where she lives: ‘There were these little wild yellow poppies growing on the street outside the post office. So yeah, I was picking flowers off the street.’ There were some, however, that were simply too precious to pluck: ‘There was a poppy that grew up through the cracks in the cement, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I felt it had worked so hard to exist in that situation, which to me is very poetic. It goes back to that thing of nature being in control.’
The self-portrait used in the picture was taken in 1999 at the very beginning of her career, during a time when, ‘I was trying to work out what sort of pictures I wanted to take, and I didn't have access to great stylists and great fashion. So, it came out of exploration,’ says Summerton. The portrait, which was also exhibited in a 2019 exhibition of her art in Miami, adds an intimate and deeply personal element: ‘The portrait was one of a series of pictures dedicated to the beginning of a love affair. So, it does mean a lot to me,’ she says.
20 years later, Summerton finds herself one of the world’s most in demand fashion photographers, and on the day that we speak, her British Vogue cover shoot starring Dua Lipa had just hit the newsstands. ‘I travelled so much for so many years, that actually, not being able to, is really relaxing,’ she says of her experience of the lockdown. ‘I like being on my own. I know it’s been really tough for some people, but I’ve actually really enjoyed it. There’s something to be said for being in one place.’