Azuma Makoto Sending flowers into the stratopshere in the name of photography

Cover Image - Azuma Makoto

These photos speak for themselves. Yes it’s what it looks like. No they're not Photoshopped. Open them up as big as you can and just marvel at them.

But probably best to fill in a few gaps. So here’s what you need to know – Azuma Makoto is a Japanese flower artist who in 2014 sent a bonsai tree and a bouquet of flowers 30,000 metres into the sky above the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, USA.

He attached his unusual space travellers to a specially-adapted high-altitude balloon and used high-speed cameras to record these extraordinary flights of fancy, creating 12,000 photographs in the process.

“Plants on the earth rooted in the soil, under the command of gravity. By giving up the links to life, what kind of beauty shall be born?” the artist asks on the project’s website.

The answer, it appears, is a beauty that has thrilled and inspired all those who have seen it. The project became an online sensation, was lavished with awards (including no fewer than three prestigious Yellow Pencils from D&AD) and even impressed serious art critics.

Writing in The Guardian, the notoriously hard-to-please Jonathan Jones gushed: “Makoto’s pictures take such visions of landscape to a new extreme, for plants are seen here high above their home, with Earth as a glistening backdrop and the infinity of space surrounding fragile bursts of colour and beauty… Flowers in the upper stratosphere are images of our unique, fortunate yet gravely responsible place in the history of space and time.”