In 1992 Marion Brenner was asked to produce a series of postcards with images of medicinal plants used in traditional cancer treatments. The cards were to be presented to patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy at Marin General Hospital. The first plant Brenner photographed was a ginkgo seed pod, which she planned to lay on top of a light box. But when she discovered the moist, living pod inside the protective wrapping tissue she decided not to remove it from the packaging. The resulting image, instead of being graphic and illustrative, depicted a soft, delicate, undefined being. This incident was the start of Brenner's decade-long fascination with botanical photography. Her work is a radical departure from the conventions of botanical illustration and even from the modernist tradition of plant photography, represented by Karl Blossfeld, among others. Typically botanical documentation is about classification, identification, and analysis. We associate it with dry flowers pressed inside heavy books or with engravings on pages of large tomes. The plants have been picked, are dead, and have been preserved. Brenner's botanicals are alive. Her photographic technique has more to do with time-lapse cinematography than the tradition of botanical illustration. She uses very long exposures - from two to twenty minutes - during which time the plants move and grow, leaving a trace of their subtle life on negatives. A smudge here and a streak there attest to their movement. Extreme close-ups often preclude the identification of botanical species, and large print sizes further exaggerate the uncanny effect of the images, turning the photographs of common flowers into sublime visceral portraits. Brenner's recent series of actual portraits expands her technique even further. The same long exposures, when used to photograph people, result in recording every facial movement, every bat of an eyelash or slight turn of the head. The faces, like the flowers, look soft and delicate, reduced to their most essential features. They attain a particular expression characteristic of nineteenth-century portraits, when a sitter was held fast for several minutes by a large-format camera. This expression is impossible to imitate. It is the result of tension between stillness and motion, between the sense of fatality and the prospect of immortality, which is the essence of photography.