For his third book of landscape photographs with Monacelli, following Magnificent Trees of the New York Botanical Garden and The Rockefeller Family Gardens, Larry Lederman has selected 16 private gardens in New York State and Connecticut and studied them in depth, presenting views through the seasons and weathers to capture their essential spirit.
As Gregory Long, President Emeritus of the New York Botanical Garden, observes: "After selecting the gardens, Lederman sets out to learn and understand them. He visits in all seasons, in all weather, at many times of day, in many light conditions. He wants to analyze their design and study their character. He wants to know their plants and see their environmental conditions and visual elements from many points of view. He wanders. He walks the paths, forward and backward, and stops frequently so that his camera can memorize views and details. As a result of this time spent and such intense scrutiny, he sometimes discovers aspects of a place that the residents themselves have never seen or fully appreciated. I think the owners of the gardens in this book will see vistas, patterns, designs on the land they did not know they possess. They will love their even gardens more, and their commitments will grow."
|Publisher:||The Monacelli Press|
|Product dimensions:||9.80(w) x 10.90(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Commitment to their designed places out of doors, sometimes over one lifetime, sometimes over several generations: this is the dedication of the makers, owners, and stewards of the gardens in this book. And in this book, we also see a complementary commitment by the photographer to the task of capturing the essence of these places. Larry Lederman has conceived this project and created these photographs to explore these twin commitments, one of them his own.
This is Lederman’s sixth book of photographs. After a long and distinguished career as a corporate lawyer, he decided ten years ago to pursue a gentler path. His first two projects are books we created together—they are beautiful and lasting views of the gardens, trees, and landscapes of the New York Botanical Garden, and they are the authoritative visual records of that historic place as it looked between 2000 and 2015.
The evocative photographs in this book are documentary to be sure, but in these images, Lederman has also focused on the design and art of the sixteen gardens he wants us to see. It is essential to understand that he was not assigned to photograph any of these places. On the contrary, he found them himself—gardens that have been created, tended, and developed over long periods of time by their devoted stewards.
What these places all have in common is that they are large, luxuriant, and complex. They are all varied in elements—water, woodland, meadow, farm field, the long view, flower gardens, specimen trees, orchards, fine hardscape. Richly layered and satisfyingly biodiverse, these gardens and landscapes are perfect subjects for photographic tone poems.
In considering these photographic essays, it is interesting to analyze Lederman’s method, to quantify his commitment of time and creative energy, and to appreciate his taste. After selecting the gardens, he sets out to learn and understand them. He visits in all seasons, in all weather, at many times of day, in many light conditions. He wants to analyze their design and study their character. He wants to know their plants and see their environmental conditions and visual elements from many points of view. He wanders. He walks the paths, forward and backward, and stops frequently so that his camera can memorize views and details. At the New York Botanical Garden during the years that he worked on our books, we would watch this process, and we grew to love his devotion to the place. As a result of this time spent and such intense scrutiny, he sometimes discovers aspects of a place that the residents themselves have never seen or fully appreciated. In his lyrical photographs of NYBG over the years, garden horticulturists and I were sometimes not sure the pictures he presented were actually shot in our garden. “Is this our crabapple collection?” “How did he find this view we have never seen?” “Where is this sweetgum tree?” We were often amazed and delighted. I think the owners of the gardens in this book will see vistas, patterns, designs on the land they did not know they possess. They will love their even gardens more, and their commitments will grow.
Lederman’s particular artistic vision is a function of his devotion and method but also, of course, an expression of his taste. He loves paths and walks and steps that lead his eye and yours into the scene. He adores trees and woodland gardens, reflections in water, slightly disorganized mass plantings of flowers. He can’t wait every year to revisit these places on lush days in the autumn, when water and woodland views are at their richest. He likes the expression of movement in small spaces and the diagonal presentation of straight edges canted up across the image. In a very special and original way, he also sees and emphasizes pattern and abstraction in nature. Winter views and woody plants shot up close illustrate his gift for transforming the familiar into the unrecognizable. Some of these images remind me of the American landscapes of Neil Welliver. They are painterly.
Lederman often sees and shows us foreground, middle ground, and distant spaces in the same frame. “This is how I see it,” the photograph says to us. In a less documentary mode, he also sometimes flattens out distances between trees and objects with his long lens so that elements that are not close to one another appear to be. He manipulates his view of the scene to create a pattern on the picture plane that is abstract in a sense, intentionally not realistic. Study the various images of Innisfree and find the one black willow which appears again and again, a kind of fulcrum as he moves around the site and as the seasons change. In some shots of the Beckoning Path, there are reflections—collages of water, sky, shiny leaves—that are difficult to recognize or understand. And then there is the wild, naturalized underplanting of forget-me-not, that bane of many a gardener’s existence, presented as a spotted and abstract background to other plantings at Rocky Hills.
This is a special set of garden and landscape photographs. Beautiful and evocative, yes; inspirational to all of us whose gardens at home are still not perfect (will that ever happen?); romantic in the extreme. They are also about an artist’s commitment to his own particular method, his own exploration of place, his own vision and taste, his fascination with design out of doors, and his appreciation of nature. The garden portraits here are also very clearly offered up as visual tone poems inspired by places he has come to love.