Gardening The Planet
For humans, the world has always been a pretty terrifying place so enclosing part of it, kicking out or killing everything threatening and cultivating only that perceived to be controllable and useful enjoys a long tradition. In a pre-industrial world, it could be argued that this made sense. In today’s world, however, the roles have become reversed; to preserve that which used to threaten us we find ourselves having to establish so-called “wilderness areas” or “nature preserves”; in effect, gardens to safeguard the hitherto un-gardened from us.
Photographers & gardeners share a subtractive process of art-making in that both seek to wrest order and meaning from the seemingly boundless chaos of everyday experience; gardeners use fences, photographers use frames and to similar purpose, both being control devices we employ to enhance our sense of security. To a tourist, ordering the world in a viewfinder – or these days, on a phone screen – can make them feel as safe as in their own back yard. I suspect that may be partially why photographers find gardens so appealing; that and the fact that it’s so much easier to make nice “pictures” in a garden than in a forest, somebody else having already brought together, ordered and framed all the best bits. Predecessors in the tradition include Eugène Atget and more recently, Scott McFarland, Geoffrey James and in their own way, Richard Misrach and Edward Burtynsky.
I like to think though, that my work departs from the established models in a number of ways. A good number of the sites I photograph – primarily but not exclusively urban – may seem ungoverned by any obvious ordering or all-encompassing plan although, at some fundamental level, “gardened” they clearly are. There’s also my frequent use of long, narrow, composite images that, in many cases take in the full periphery of the horizon – an approach that effectively subverts traditional notions of pictorial order. This especially true of the earlier images in this series – those made on film – as in them the effect is further emphasized by having the 360º view broken down into four, equal elements that can be re-ordered in a number of equally legitimate ways.
It is anticipated, indeed hoped, that this potential for “re-framing” might direct the viewer’s attention toward a greater consideration of the contained than the form of containment while simultaneously serving as a metaphor for the power of humans to modify the environment contained.
Images in this series range between 30.5 cm. x 366 cm. and 61 cm x 732 cm.