If the normally loquacious Hugh ‘Flowerheadz’ Findletar is a tad discombobulated, who could blame him? He’s in Milan, Italy, where he has resided since 1991. COVID-19 has, however, complete with daily patrols of members of the military forces in close proximity ensuring strict adherence to the state of emergency plus, up to press time 24,648 deaths, presented a new normal.
A photographer by profession with a particular interest in portraiture, Findletar’s front-row seat, nowadays, spotlights mortality. He is, however, in survival mode and when we catch up with him Monday afternoon he is helping to load supplies on a truck destined for a nearby hospital. “We all have to play our part,” he tells SO. Indeed, his inability to return to Venice and to Murano, where the glass for his creations is acquired, affords him more time to hark back to another time and place: Jamaica, the land of his birth, and to his great-grandmother Sarah James Johnson’s Cave Valley, St Ann, garden where he would as a child accompany her at the end of each day to bask in the beauty of her beloved flowers. She was especially proud of her roses, he shares. “This is where my obsession with floral composition commenced... everything I do [my floral compositions] is dedicated to her.” The seeds were sown, nourished and would forever bloom. Firstly, in New York where he would be planted after leaving Jamaica at the of age of eight; and uprooted at the end of high school.
“No longer comfortable at home, I found the Village and the art scene of downtown Manhattan which became my nourishing school up until this moment,” he shares. The Village was, too, where he would connect with Italy. “I was assisting various photographers in the fashion world when I met my Italian girlfriend, Melania. We moved to Italy in 1991 and I have been here ever since.” Flowerheadz not only relocated but made his presence felt. His response to the question ‘What has kept you in Italy?’ is slow and deliberate. “Once you break the ice and become accustomed to the beauty of Italy, it is very difficult for you to be anywhere else... over the years, I had my daughter and promised never to leave her until she was of the age to fend for herself. So I have made Italy and the beauty of working with artisans a part of my livelihood, life.”
In The Beginning...
I started working as a photographer. I’m a [self-taught] fine arts photographer. I don’t really show my photographs but that will come soon. When I got to the corner of my garden work doing my still life I was doing floral compositions for myself. I did not, however, want to use other people’s vases. It occured to me that I was living in Italy and could make the glasses myself. I first went to Kenya, Africa, and started to create personal pieces using recycled glass. Unable to return I went to the Murano Glass Factory in Venice and started to experiment there... From that moment it just took off. It’s all in dedication of my great-grandmother Sarah. I am still 10 years later working on my project.