Not-so-still life unfolds

Roger Camp has been a photography instructor at Golden West College for 30 years. But mainstream recognition found him only since 2002, with his nationally successful first book "Butterflies in Flight," whose vivid images of the colorful insects sold a blockbuster 20,000 copies, a rare feat for an art book.

"This is at the culmination of my career," he said. "It's a nice place to end up in your photographic life."

Camp will be signing his second book, "500 Flowers: A Celebration of the Natural World," from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. today at the Golden West College Fine Arts Gallery. Camp says the book, featuring flowers worldwide as well as many from his own garden, is his first attempt at a unified work rather than just a series of images.

"It's an effort to create an imaginary garden that you can walk through," he said. "I did it deliberately as a book. If you put any number of the pages together in order, they will flow."

A possible inspiration for that ambition is in the reception his accordion-fold book of butterfly photos had.

"People have actually taken the butterfly book and pinned it up on their wall," he said. "They've used the book as an art object. It's a supreme compliment to the book, in a sense" — a compliment repeated by the Yuma Art Museum in Arizona, which has both books mounted on facing walls.

While Camp feels his interest in butterflies caught a national trend just right in 2002, he says flowers are an old love dating back to his childhood, when his mother sparked his interest.

"She was an avid gardener," he said. "She used to send me out with a vase and scissors and said, 'Cut a bouquet.' It was my first experience with editing and arranging flowers, thinking about flowers in an artistic way."

Camp wanted to pay tribute to those flowers in a new way, putting them into collages in different sizes that would surround the reader with plant life.

"I wanted to get away from the typical standard still-life," he said.

"500 Flowers" likely won't be Camp's last book. Lately, he has been digging through his decades of photographs to find other series worthy of publication.

One possible book he has already designed touches close to home: a 12-year study of the Huntington Beach Pier.

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