During the dark ages of cannabis prohibition and especially before the internet, it could prove challenging to simply find a photograph of your favorite plant — particularly if you didn’t want to settle for looking at a stack of bricked-up weed piled in front of the cops who had just confiscated it.
Pioneers in the cannabis photography field included the OGs at High Times, which was founded in 1974, and first-generation cannabis cultivation writers like Ed Rosenthal and Jorge Cervantes. But these photos tended to be either instructional, technical shots meant to help underground growers better ply their trade or zoomed-in close-ups meant to reveal every anatomical detail of the world’s most delicious looking botanical specimens.
Nowadays, however, as legalization spreads, everyone’s taking pictures of everything and cannabis photography suddenly feels like a crowded field. So, in order to focus in on some of the scene’s emerging trends and reflect on what they show about the rapid evolution of cannabis culture, we decided to profile four of today’s leading cannabis photographers. Each approaches the art and science of their craft a little differently, but all produce striking images that portray the cannabis plant in a properly positive light — paving the way for a new era of social and legal acceptance in a society increasingly willing and able to see cannabis as a beautiful flower.
A native of Washington state’s picturesque Vashon Island, Kristen Angelo proudly refers to herself as the “daughter of a pot farmer.” Raised in an idyllic world of small-scale cannabis home-growers and secretive guerrilla patches out in the woods, Angelo had her world shattered as a teenager in the late 1990s when, in her words, her family “became victims of the drug war, ending with a mandatory minimum federal prison sentence for my father for what detectives considered ‘the most sophisticated growing operation’ they’d seen in nearly a decade.”
Twenty years later, Angelo sees her photography as an act of defiance against the drug war. Her goal is to deliver an authentic portrayal of her subjects, by “documenting cannabis and the humanity behind it with an honest and insightful visual narrative,” all in hopes of using her unique eye for documentary-style photography to help “dismantle preconceived notions and mainstream stereotypes lingering around cannabis culture.” Her work has been featured in a wide range of media outlets, including Cannabis Now, and even in the bestselling book “The Cannabis Grow Bible: The Definitive Guide to Growing Marijuana for Recreational and Medicinal Use.” In 2016, her photos were included in an exhibit at the Oakland Museum of California called Altered State: Marijuana in California, the first-ever major museum exhibition in the U.S. focused on cannabis.
According to Justin Cannabis, one of the industry’s go-to commercial photographers, the roots of his art began to take hold during his mellow upbringing in Northern California. From a young age, he’d always loved skateboarding — both riding himself and the culture that surrounds it — and so he began by taking photos of his immediate surroundings for fun. Later, combined with his pursuit of technical prowess, this passion lead to a decade of work for Santa Cruz Skateboards, a leading board manufacturer and lifestyle brand. That gig showed him how he could turn a hobby into a career, and he even got to produce a few cannabis-focused images and products that became a hit with herbal-minded skateboarders.
From there, Cannabis made the leap to photographing marijuana itself as well as the lifestyle around it, publishing countless covers at High Times, including many iconic images of California’s hottest new strains, long before the rest of the country ever had a taste. Best known for using flash and color filters to create incredibly vibrant studio images, he’s produced centerfold spreads that have graced innumerable walls to be salivated over by those who only wish they could smoke such fine flowers. He has also contributed to books and calendars and even branched out into field work, traveling all over the world to document cannabis gardens and grow ops.
What happens when a food stylist marries a photographer and they both love cannabis? Well, if you’re Laurie Wolf and Bruce Wolf, you join forces to produce some of the classiest and most mouth-watering edibles photography available on the planet. Dubbed “The Martha Stewart of Weed” by none other than the New Yorker, Laurie has since made a name for herself as the author of four cannabis books — “HERB,” Cooking with Cannabis,” “Marijuana Edibles,” and “The Medical Marijuana Dispensary” — while contributing infused recipes to Cannabis Now and other leading media companies.
All of which she’s accomplished while working hand-in-hand with her husband Bruce, who uses his long background in commercial and art photography to capture all of her cannabis-infused culinary creations in a way that makes them look both approachable and awe-inspiring. Edibles have a way of helping cannabis bridge cultural divides and erase social stigmas (after all, everybody likes to eat), and Bruce’s loving depictions of his wife’s artfully arranged food actively reinforce the idea that cannabis is a pleasure and a blessing meant to be shared.
Master of a niche within a niche, Moore specializes in super close-up photos of cannabis extracts in their most granular detail, capturing the alien landscapes and strange worlds of sugars, shatters, sauces and slabs. Self-taught and shooting with a DSLR and macro lens, Moore came up through the cannabis scene in Washington state, working for extract artists, friendly growers and dispensary operators — first sharing his work on Instagram before catching the eye of larger magazines and media outlets.
With an insider’s view of the world’s most cutting-edge concentrates, Moore produces supremely detailed, bright and clear photos of translucent golden and amber extracts, zooming in on mouthwatering globs of errl dripping right off a dabber, or scoops of sugar that look like raw honey. His biggest challenges involve keeping microscopic particles of dust and hair away from these sticky substances, since a tiny speck of dirt or an errant fingerprint can ruin an otherwise lovely shot when viewed through such a magnified perspective.
Showcasing the beauty of the cannabis plant and preserving the work of an emerging class of psychedelic alchemists drives Moore to continue to think of innovative new ways to get up close and personal with cannabis.
Originally published in Issue 31 of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE
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